The 1945 French Massacre in Setif & Guelma Algeria
TW: Savagery, brutality, violence, horrific images.
Despite the fact that most of the fighting against the Axis forces and Vichy France in North Africa had been conducted with honour and dispatch by Algerian troops the French decided to celebrate the victory of the Allies (a small part of whom were French) by committing an act of barbarism and genocide that echoes to this day. In one weekend of violence they murdered 45,000 Algerians.
Peaceful demonstrations had been taking place across Algeria for some months against the unfair treatment of indigenous Algerians (an oft-mentioned example was the reservation of bread for Europeans, the others only having the right to barley) and 15,000 people had protested in the streets of Mostaganem earlier without any incidents.
On May 8, 1945, a day chosen by the allies to celebrate their victory over Nazi Germany, thousands of Algerians gathered near the Abou Dher El-Ghafari mosque in Setif for a peaceful march - for which the sous-prefet had given permission. It was a market day.
At 9am, led by a young scout Saal Bouzid, whose name had been drawn for the honor of carrying the national flag, the demonstrators set off. A few minutes later the crowd, chanting ‘vive l’independance’ and other nationalist slogans, came under fire from troops commanded by General Duval and brought in from Constantine.
Saal Bouzid fell dead, becoming a national martyr. The scene soon turned into a massacre - the streets and houses being littered with dead bodies. Witnesses claim terrible scenes, that legionnaires seized babies by their feet and dashed their heads against rocks, that pregnant mothers were disemboweled, that soldiers dropped grenades down chimneys to kill the occupants of homes, that mourners were machine gunned while taking the dead to the cemetery.
A public record states that the European inhabitants were so frightened by the events that they asked that all those responsible for the protest movement should be shot. The carnage spread and, during the days that followed, some 45,000 Algerians were killed. Villages were shelled by artillery and remote hamlets were bombed with aircraft.
A Colonel in charge of burials being criticized for slowness told another officer ‘You are killing them faster than I can bury them.’ These incidents led to the upsurge of the PPA and ultimately, 17 years later to the country’s independence. In the retaliatory violence that immediately followed 104 Europeans were assassinated, but by the end several thousands were to die.
These incidents were particularly hard for Algerians who had fought the Nazis alongside the French forces, some of whom came home to find that their families had been decimated by the troops of General de Gaulle.
Led by the FLN (the national liberation front) the independence struggle caused France to draft in thousands of troops. In spite of opposition by Europeans living in the country a cease-fire was agreed to in March 1962. An extremist wing of the Army, the OAS, expanded its campaign of murder, torture and destruction, carrying on despite the cease-fire.
Survivors say that to this day France as a colonial power ‘has not had the courage to recognized its crimes. carried out in its former colonies and that it pretends to be a champion of human rights’.
Ending the liberation war, the Evian Agreement declared that extremist French soldiers (both regular, OAS and pieds noir irregulars, would not be prosecuted for crimes carried out in Algeria.
Both Chirac and Le Pen served in Algeria in the French Army.