Correspondent in Paris
Emmanuel Macron has decided to simplify or open the files judicial of the war of independence of Algeria (1954-1962): a political minefield where the traces and bloody ghosts of various civil wars, between French, between French and Algerians, between Algerian and French ultra-nationalist terrorisms are confused. According to Louis Joxe, historian, politician, resistant, a national legend, the war of liberation in Algeria, unleashed by the National Liberation Front (FLN), took 19,166 dead in eight short years, about 500 deaths per year, more than one death per day: 2,788 Europeans, 16,378 Algerians. Another 21,151 men, women and children were injured: 7,541 Europeans and 13,610 Algerians. Another 13,296 Algerians and 371 Europeans disappeared without a known trace.
That heinous trail of blood had many ‘sources’ of murderous hatred.
There was an Algerian nationalist terrorism, unleashed essentially by the FLN. Historians have called it “asymmetric warfare.” More than 200 attacks, in Algeria, in April 1955, and another thousand in December of the same year.
There were French nationalist attacks, led by the Organization of the Resistance for a French Algeria (ORAF), which included Algerians and French hostile to the independence of Algeria. There were attacks by the Secret Armed Organization (OAS), a small group of soldiers in favor of militarily defending a French Algeria, who even organized a terrorist attack with which they tried to assassinate the general. De Gaulle, on August 22, 1962, in the small town of Clamart (53,000 inhabitants), west of Paris. De Gaulle responded by organizing armed groups in his service, dedicated to the “physical neutralization” of the military who had planned to assassinate the head of state. There were attacks by La Mano Roja (ultra-nationalist targets), creators of “death squads” ready to assassinate Tunisian, Algerian and Moroccan independence fighters.
There were attacks by the Foreign Documentation Service and Counterintelligence in close collaboration with the military hierarchy loyal to de Gaulle. To these civil, terrorist wars, it is necessary to add the military pacification operations against the “resistance” and terrorism of the FLN, in Algeria.
There is a colossal bibliography on that tragedy, French, Algerian and Franco-Algerian. But the most direct and crucial testimony, to some extent, is that of Albert Camus (Mondovi, Algeria, 1913; Villeblevin, France, 1960), Nobel Prize winner, one of the great masters of French literature of the second half of the 20th century, who wrote this very pure sentence: «At this moment, bombs are being dropped from Algiers trams. My mother may be on one of those streetcars. If that is justice, I prefer my mother. That legendary phrase by Albert Camus pitted him against the communists.
Announcing the opening of the judicial archives of the Algerian war of independence (1954-1962), Emmanuel Macron says he is at the service of historians who wish to clarify and study the immense tragedy and parallel civil wars that occurred in France and Algeria.
Respectable task, from an institutional point of view. Sensitive diplomatic task: Macron wishes to definitively “normalize” relations between France and Algeria. Flammable task, likewise: no one will emerge unscathed from the possible rewriting of bloody pages of national history.
The Algerian power will not be able to forget or “deny” the bloody trace of its conquest of power. The communist left will not be able to forget its historical responsibility in the defense and practice of “political terrorism.” The French Army will not be able to ignore its responsibility in the most implacable martial repression. The small groups of the extreme right will not be able to ignore their political and cultural matrix: being the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who tried to assassinate the head of state.
It may not be reasonable to expect spectacular revelations. However, both may unearth fierce chapters of collective history. Emmanuel Macron recognized, personally, part of the national and State guilt in the immense Algerian tragedy. The national archives will allow to clarify the tragedy: many Algerians and French of different sensibilities, from the communist left to the nationalist ultra-right, carried out the most atrocious civil war terrorism.