Chapter 8, The Terrible End of War (1962)

The Franco-French War

In late 1961, the government of the Fifth Republic seemed to be running up against increasingly serious obstacles in the application of its new policy. The negotiations with the FLN ran aground over the Saharan question and had to be momentarily suspended. At the National Assembly on November 8, 1961, during the debate on the Algerian budget, several deputies in the center and on the right defended the idea of the OAS's representativeness and of the government's need to take its presence into account. The next day, during a study of the military allocations, the so-called Salan amendment received eighty votes. In certain circles of the police, the army, and the administration, it was well known that the organization benefited from multiple and sometimes significant acts of complicity. According to Police Superintendent Jacques Delarue, who was part of the struggle against the OAS, "we even know there was a mole in the Elysee Palace."

But, within Algeria itself, the OAS had to face repression conducted by law enforcement-hesitant at first, then increasingly firm-and especially, the actions of the parallel police networks (the notorious "secret agents" (barbouzes), who began to arrive in Algiers in October 1961) and the FLN networks. Often working together, they carried out a great number of individual attacks, answered terror with terror, and, in particular, resorted to abductions. The climate of violence became more acute, but, in the game of terrorism and counterterrorism, the OAS saw its very small ranks of combatants dwindle and its actions became more radical.

Lagging behind Algiers but using the same means, the OAS in Oran also got involved in terrorism, in spectacular strikes (bank or business holdups to procure funds), and in bloody expeditions against the Muslim Algerians. Thus, on January 13, 1962, six OAS men disguised as gendarmes appeared at the Oran prison where they got three FLN militants who had been sentenced to death released to them. They executed them a few moments later. The next day four other FLN prisoners escaped. The OAS gave chase, found them, and executed them. The activist organization produced pirate radio broadcasts, and, on February 6, published twenty thousand copies of a counterfeit issue of L'Echo d'Oran, condemning "de Gaulle's policy of abandonment." The OAS general staff could no longer count on the government to yield. The dream of a repetition of a "May 13"-type operation was now out of the question. Only one option remained: armed insurrection, which by maintaining a revolutionary situation might prevent the conclusion of the negotiations under way with the FLN.

In France the fresh outbreak of plastic explosive attacks in January and February 1962 may serve to illustrate that rise in violence: 40 attacks between January 15 and 21 (including 25 in the Paris region, 18 on the single night between January 17 and 18), 33 between January 22 and 28 (23 in the Paris region), and 34 between February 5 and 11 (27 in the Paris region). In Algeria, 801 attacks by the OAS, the FLN, and the anti-OAS were recorded between January 1 and 31, 1962, causing 555 deaths and 990 injuries, with 507 attacks recorded in the first two weeks of February, causing 256 deaths and 490 injuries (Kaufer 1986).
On February 5, 1962, General de Gaulle referred to these "incidents" in a speech and declared that, ''as odious as they might be," they had only a "relative" importance. Nevertheless, he stated clearly that the OAS agitators "must be cut off and punished." The metropolis was proving increasingly hostile to the OAS: did these European insurgents want a French Algeria, or a pied noir Algeria on the model of South Africa?

The attack in Andre Malraux's apartment building, which cost a four- year-old girl, Delphine Renard, her eyesight, came on the heels of an attack on Jean-Paul Sartre and incited the indignation of a French public that had lost its patience. The left denounced "the fascist danger" and, on February 8, called for a demonstration of "republican defense."

At the appeal of the unions (the CGT, the CFTC, the FEN, and the UNEF) and the parties (the PCF, the Partie Socialiste Unifie, or PSU [Unified Socialist Party], and Jeunesses Socialistes [Socialist Youth]), five processions formed, headed for the Place de la Bastille. They collided with an imposing deployment of police. That morning, the Ministry of the Interior had reminded everyone that all demonstrations were banned on public thoroughfares. As during the Algerian demonstration on October 17, 1961, Maurice Papon was the prefect of police in Paris who coordinated the actions of law enforcement. That evening, the Charonne metro station be- came part of the collective memory of the left (as the Wall of the Federates had once been). The mob, panic-stricken, rushed into the metro entrance; a half-closed gate caught up the bodies of those who stumbled. On that human pileup, which completely blocked the entrance, witnesses saw a group of helmeted policemen "set to work." These officers struck at the pile with bidu/es (long wooden billy clubs, literally "thingamajigs", and threw a cafe table and sections of cast iron tom from the fences protecting the trees. Amidst the shouts, the moans, the layers of tangled injured, eight dead bodies were pulled out. On Tuesday, February 13, the funerals of the eight victims of Charonne were attended by an impressive crowd estimated at 500,000. A general strike that day stopped trains, closed schools, and left the newspapers silent (Alleg 1981).

When on March 7, 1962, the new Evian talks began, the OAS commandos escalated their boldness and violence on Algerian soil: there were bazooka attacks on the barracks of mobile gendarmes, and booby-trapped cars caused havoc in Muslim neighborhoods. Horror followed upon horror. Algiers, and especially Oran, lived with death, as it had once lived with the Bubonic plague, as depicted in Albert Camus's novel La peste. On March 15, 1962, in Algiers, an OAS group murdered six leaders of the social education centers, including Mouloud Feraoun, a writer and friend of Camus. He had noted in his journal on February 28: "I have been locked inside my home for ten days to escape the Arab-bashing."

The Evian Accords and the "Scorched-Earth" Policy

On March 19,1962, a cease-fire was proclaimed in Algeria. It was "peace" at last! The news spread over the telephone wires and the radio waves. Krim Helkacem affixed his elaborate signature next to those ofLouisJoxe, Robert Huron, and Jean de Hroglie, the negotiators named by General de Gaulle. Four weeks earlier, in a Council of Ministers, after Louis Joxe had given an account of the conclusion of the secret negotiations with the GPRA, Prime Minister Michel Debre had declared: "We are reaching the end of a painful ordeal. Malraux spoke of victory, but it is instead a victory over ourselves. Now everything will depend on what France will become" (Stora 1991a).

In Evian, the negotiators for the GPRA made a few concessions regarding the rights of Europeans (dual nationality for three years, then the option of Algerian nationality or the status of privileged resident alien), control of the Sahara (preferential rights for French companies in the distribution of re- search and exploitation permits for six years, payment for Algerian fossil fuels in French francs), and the military bases (Mers el-Kebir was to remain French for a period of fifteen years and the installations in the Sahara for five years). In exchange, France declared itself willing to offer its economic and financial aid to independent Algeria, in particular, by continuing to carry out the Constantine plan launched in 1958, and to develop cultural cooperation. On October 3, 1958, General de Gaulle had chosen Constantine, a Muslim city for the most part, to make known the main lines of a new five-year economic and social program. He had then enumerated the provisions decided upon: the granting of sixty-two thousand acres of new land to Muslim farmers; the establishment of major metallurgical and chemical blocks; the construction of housing for a million people; regular employment for 400,000 new workers; schooling for two-thirds of children, with, in the next three years, schooling of all Algerian youth; and salaries and benefits equal to those in the metropolis.

Of the 93 pages of the Evian accords, of its 111 articles complemented by countless parts, sections, and appendices, the metropolis retained two pas- sages in particular. First: "a cease-fire is established. It will put an end to the military operations and to the armed struggle throughout Algerian territory at twelve hundred hours on March 19." The war was thus acknowledged at the moment when the treaty marking its end was signed. And second: "The French citizens of Algeria will participate in public affairs in a fair and genuine manner. ...Their property rights will be respected. No measure of dispossession will be taken against them without their being granted equitable compensation that has been fixed in advance."

But the signing of the Evian accords did not mark the end of the Algerian war (Ageron 1991; Perville 1991). In the aftermath of the negotiations between the GPRA and the French government, the OAS leaders, in a tract on March 21, 1962, proclaimed that the French forces were considered "occupation troops" in Algeria. The activist supporters of French Algeria took control of Bab-el-Oeud. They transformed the district into an enormous Fort Chabrol and attacked military trucks. The "battle of Bab-el-Oeud" produced 35 deaths and 150 injuries.

In the morning of March 26, the O.AS command declared a general strike in greater Algiers. It appealed to the Europeans to gather, on principle unarmed, on the Glieres plateau and at Laferriere Square. The objective was to then head for Bab-el-Oued to break through the encirclement around the district. Lieutenant Ouchene Oaoud led the blocking of rue d'Isly, banning access to Bab-el-Oued from the center of Algiers. The orders from Paris were clear: do not yield to the disturbance. When Ouchene Daoud and his superiors asked under what conditions they might make use of their weapons if necessary, the reply came to the headquarters of the Tenth military region: "If the demonstrators persist, open fire." At 2:45 p.m., a burst of Bren gun fire rattled toward the troop from the bal- cony of 64, rue d'Eisy. The regiment's command post gave the order to re- ply. At the corner of boulevard Pasteur and rue d'Isly, the machine gun mowed down the demonstrators. Forty-six dead and two hundred wounded (twenty of whom did not survive) were counted, almost all Algiers civilians. Mter the fusillade of rue d'Isly, the OAS began to recede. In Apri11962, the Europeans of Algeria began to leave their native land en masse, headed for the metropolis (Lacouture 1985).

While Algiers was enduring these bloody hours, Oran was in a state of shock: General Edmond Jouhaud and his assistant Camelin were under arrest.
On March 28, Abderrahmane Fares, president of the Algerian "provisional executive body" set in place after Evian, settled with his team from the "administrative complex of Rocher-Noir." On April 8, a massive referendum vote held by the Elysee Palace (90.7 percent of voters approved the referendum, with 24.4 percent of eligible voters not participating) gave the president of the Republic the legal capacity "to establish accords and take measures on the subject of Algeria, on the basis of the government declarations of March 19, 1962." Far from appeasing the OAS command, the results of that referendum pushed it toward a frenzied escalation, the "scorched-earth policy."

In Oran on the morning of April 24, the OAS attacked a clinic belonging to Doctor Jean-Marie Larribere, a Communist militant who was very well known in the city. Two women, one of whom had just given birth, managed to escape the complete destruction of the building. The attacks by plastic explosives and machine gun occurred at a deadly pace. Mobile gendarmes were assaulted, and armored vehicles counterattacked with 20 and 37 mm cannons. Strikes occurred at random against buildings inhabited by Europeans. Airplanes joined the fray with their heavy machine guns. On April 23, 1962, the Oran Bar Association published a press release denouncing "these attacks against a civilian population, which would be contrary to the The Hague convention in wartime. ...In peacetime, and among French people, they boggle the mind" (Paillat 1972).

In spite of OAS orders that prohibited the Europeans from leaving the country (the travel agencies were under surveillance), the exodus toward the metropolis began. On Apri115, Le Chanzy disembarked a first contingent of the "repatriates" coming from Oran. The organization's attacks did not end. Terrorism can even be said to have been increasing in violence, with the murder of individual Muslims, manhunts, plastic bombs going off, mortar fire.

In late April, a booby-trapped car exploded in a market that was much frequented by Algerians in that holy month of Ramadan. It was the first of its kind (on May 2, the same method was repeated: a booby-trapped car exploded in the port of Algiers, causing 62 deaths and 110 injuries, all among Muslims).

In Oran in May, ten to fifty Algerians were slaughtered by the OAS on a daily basis. Things became so ferocious that the people who were still living in European neighborhoods left them in haste. They all barricaded themselves, protected themselves as they could. Some Muslims left Oran to join their families in the villages, or in cities that did not have a large European population. Others organized themselves into a sort of autonomous group in the Muslim enclave. Political representatives of the FLN surfaced, and a means of survival was set in place (supply operations, garbage collection). But, in this deadly cycle that went on and on, with bursts of automatic weapon fire reverberating here and there, day and night, what was to be- come of the European population, especially after the proclamation of independence, when the ALN troops would penetrate the city? The FLN leaders found it increasingly difficult to hold back an exasperated Muslim population which wanted to strike back.

However, the OAS leaders who were still free knew they had lost the struggle. The French army did not swing in their favor and morale was at its lowest after the arrests of Salan, Jouhaud, and Degueldre, and the failure of an OAS underground force in the Ouarsenis. Moreover, there was nothing to be expected from abroad. Then, too, there was the continuing exodus, the hemorrhaging. Beginning in late May, eight to ten thousand people, those who would later be called pieds noirs, left Algeria, hastily taking their most precious possessions with them.

June 7, 1962, was one of the culminating points of "the scorched-earth policy." The "Delta commandos" of the OAS burned the Algiers library, and set its sixty thousand volumes ablaze. In Oran, the city hall, the municipal library, and four schools were destroyed by explosives. More than ever, the city, where total anarchy reigned, was split in two: not a single Algerian moved around the European city any longer. The decision by Paris to open the border to ALN fighters stationed in Morocco caused even more panic among Europeans. In a state of fantastic disorder, Algeria was emptied of its managers and technicians. Worried about the general paralysis threatening the country, A. Fares decided to negotiate with the OAS through the intermediary of Jacques Chevallier, former vice-mayor of Algiers.

The accord with the FLN, signed in Algiers on June 18 by Jean-Jacques Susini in the name of the OAS, was rejected in Oran. On June 25 and 26, in a city covered with smoke from fires, OAS commandos attacked and robbed six banks. Following the announcement of Colonel Dufour (former leader of the First Foreign Regiment of Paratroopers and head of the Oranie OAS) that the OAS should lay down its weapons, it was making preparations to flee. On trawlers loaded down with weapons (and money), the last OAS commandos went into exile. During this time, the Europeans leaving Oran reached the scope of a tide of humanity. Thousands of distraught, bewildered people waited for the boats in a state of total destitution. Now that Algeria had been transformed into a hell, they had to flee as quickly as possible a country to which they would remain attached with every fiber of their being.

The Abandonment of the Harkis

In the June 1962 state of emergency, the embarkation of the pieds noirs took on the appearance of a stampede. But the ones who were truly for- gotten, truly absent from that hasty exodus, were the pro-French Muslims, who would be designated by the general term harki. The first harka (an Arab word meaning "movement") had been formed in the Aures in November 1954.

Before March 19, 1962, SAS officers had been preoccupied with transferring those who were threatened to the metropolis. But a telegram (no. 125/IGAA) of May 16, 1962, ordered them to stop: "The minister of state-Louis Joxe-calls on the high commissioner to remember that all individual initiatives tending to settle the Muslim French in the metropolis are strictly prohibited." Another directive from the same state minister, dated July 15, 1962, stated: "The auxiliary troops landing in the metropolis in deviance from the general plan will be sent back to Algeria." These officers later said: "We lost our honor with the end of that Algerian war" (Le Mire 1982).

How many of these "auxiliaries" to the French army were there? On March 13, 1962, a report transmitted to the UN assessed the number of pro-French Muslims at 263,000 men: 20,000 career soldiers; 40,000 soldiers of the contingent; 58,000 harkis, auxiliary units formed from the civilian self-defense groups, sometimes promoted to "hunt commandos," units that, provided at a ratio of one per military sector, were constituted in Kabylia, in the Aures, and in the Ouarsenis; 20,000 moghaznis, police units constituted at the local level and placed under the orders of the SAS leaders; 15,000 members of the groupes mobiles de protection rurale, or GMPR (mobile groups of rural protection), later called mobile security groups and assimilated to the state security police (CRS); 60,000 members of civilian self-defense groups; and 50,000 elected officials, veterans, and functionaries.

The geographical area of recruitment, enlistment, and participation in the activities and operations of the French anny by the auxiliary Muslim units was not confined to a single French department of Algeria, but ex- tended into every region, constituting a heterogeneous space. Were these Algerians "manipulated" by French officers? Did they mobilize themselves spontaneously for the defense of French civilization in Algeria? Was that in- volvement only an aspect of the "wars" families waged among themselves, within a single village (one relative in the guerrilla forces, another in the hnrkas)? No doubt there was a bit of all that (Roux 1991).

In fact, the history of the harkis is inseparable from the fate suffered by the Algerian peasantry during the Algerian War. The work of Abdelmalek Sayad and Pierre Bourdieu (1963) has revealed the profound upheavals that marked traditional rural society during these years of war: the massive displacement of populations (more than 2 million rural people), the impoverishment, the marked disaffection with the peasant condition, the shift from a barter economy to a market economy, the withering of the peasant spirit, the high value given to nonagricultural jobs. The new psychological fragility born of social poverty and rootlessness made the concern to pre- serve one's patrimony, one's land, all the more keen. That dimension ex- plains in great part the enlistment in the harkis and the rise in the ALN guerrilla forces: one's land had to be protected or recovered. At first sight what was at issue was not positive loyalty to a flag (French or Algerian). Violence, murder, the "settling of accounts" (sometimes within peasant families themselves), in short, the dynamic of war, hardened behavior and commitments. Then people got caught up in a chain of events. The Algerian nationalists needed to denounce the existence of "collaborators" to legitimate their conception of the unanimous nation; French officers needed harkis to show the loyalty of the now "pacified" native populations. In either case, the Algerian peasants found themselves transformed against their will into "faithful servants of France" or "absolute traitors" to the Algerian homeland. Several tens of thousands of them were massacred after Algerian independence, while others encountered enormous difficulties in becoming integrated into French society, living as outcasts.

The Algerian Victory, and the Divisions

The Evian accords marked a new stage in Algerian history. Independence was won, victory imminent. Yet, paradoxically, the period that followed the cease- fire of March 19, 1962, showed the weakness of the ALN- FLN within the country. The FLN leaders in the territory did not manage to control financial dealings, and a considerable volume of lands and buildings changed hands in the mass exodus of the European minority. Within a few weeks, the number of Algerian artisans and small tradespeople rose sharply, from 130,000 to 180,000. A few initiatives here and there attempted to check the speculative process, particularly via the creation of "management committees" on the lands left vacant by the colons. But, above all, the wi/ayas of the interior, which had no more than a few thousand "djounouds" before the Evian accords, subsequently "swelled" in record time.

The crisis within the FLN erupted publicly at the Tripoli Congress, held between May 25 and June 7, 1962. Nevertheless, a program was adopted unanimously there, almost without discussion, by the "Parliament" of the victorious nationalist movement, the CNRA (Harbi 1980).

In its principal points, the program subscribed to the populist ideology already expressed at the Soummam Congress in August 1956:

The creative effort of the people has manifested itself largely through the organs and instruments it has forged for itself under the leadership of the FLN, for the general conduct of the war of liberation and the future construction of Algeria. The unity of the people, national resurrection, the prospect of a radical transformation of society, such are the primary results that have been obtained as a result of seven and a half years of armed struggle.

On the political level, the primacy of the FLN was reaffirmed against the GPRA, "which, with its birth, became confused with the FLN leader- ship, and contributed to weakening both the notion of the 'state' and that of the 'party.' The amalgam of state institutions and of FLN authorities has reduced the latter to nothing more than an administrative apparatus." This was a barely veiled attack against the GPRA, which had negotiated the Evian accords: "The Evian accords constitute a neocolonialist plat- form that France is preparing to use to establish and harness its new form of domination."

Thus, one current, formed around Ben Bella, and especially, around the general staff of the ALN, headed by Houari Boumedienne, stood opposed to the leaders of the GPRA: it proposed to transform the FLN into a party, and to create a political bureau. For their part, Ben Khedda and his friends wanted to preserve the GPRA until things were set up in Algiers. At night, between June 5 and June 7, 1962, Benkhedda left the CNRA without warning. The other participants dispersed in the confusion. On June 30, on the eve of the referendum, the GPRA met in Tunis, minus Ben Bella, who had hastily gone abroad. The GPRA then decided to dissolve the general staff, to officially dismiss Colonel Boumedienne and his two assistants, Ali Mendjli and Kald Ahmed. It ordered the wilayas "to tolerate no infringement on its authority by irresponsible elements whose activities can only culminate in fratricidal struggles."

Each faction had armed forces, militant troops on which it could rely. The war against the colonial power was followed by the war between factions of the FLN. Safe within its stronghold of Ghardimaou, on the border of Tunisia and Algeria, the general staff called the GPRA's decision "illegal" and "null and void." On June 28, 1962, Colonel Houari Boumedienne ordered his men-21,OOO in Tunisia, 15,000 in Morocc0--"to prepare to enter Algeria, in units formed within the region designated by the general staff." The first men and their heavy equipment would penetrate the country in the days that followed. The alliance between Houari Boumedienne and Ahmed Ben Bella managed to take root in the acquisition of power. Boumedienne finally thrust aside Ben Bella in a military putsch on June 19, 1965.


"Do you want Algeria to become an independent state cooperating with France under the conditions defined by the declaration of March 19, 1962?" On Sunday, July 1, 1962, in Algeria, 6 million voters answered yes to that question; a mere 16,534 said no.

The results, made public on July 3, showed a yes vote from 91.23 percent of registered voters, 99.72 percent of those actually participating in the poll. General de Gaulle drew the lesson of that predictable result. During a brief ceremony on July 3, at the administrative complex of Rocher-Noir, near Algiers, Christian Fouchet, high commissioner of France, handed over to Abderrahmane Fares, president of the "provisional executive body" formed after the Evian accords, the general's letter, which recognized Algeria's independence:

France has taken due note of the results of the July 1, 1962, poll on self- determination and the application of the declarations of March 19, 1962. It has recognized the independence of Algeria. As a result, and in accordance with section 5 of the general declaration of March 19,1962, the powers relating to the sovereignty over the territories of the former French departments of Algeria are, beginning this day, transferred to the provisional executive body of the Algerian state. In this solemn circum- stance, Mr. President, I want to express to you in all sincerity the good wishes that I, along with France as a whole, have for Algeria.

"Seven years are enough!" That slogan, true for the majority of Algerians, spread through the cities and the countryside. They demanded an end to the bad times. The excesses, the bloody purges, the fighters-to-the-end, and the rumors of differences at the top were troubling. But nothing could spoil the return of peace and freedom. After the war, after the suffering and humiliation, victory entitled them to be joyful, and hence to forget.

Oran, the Final Tragedies

With the official end to the war, did the blood finally stop flowing? On July 5, 1962, there was a tragic event in Oran. A mob from the Muslim neighborhoods invaded the European city at about eleven o'clock a.m. The first shots were fired. No one knew the causes of the gunfire. According to the reporters from Paris-Match present on the scene, "there is talk of an OAS provocation, of course, but that seems unlikely. There are no commandos left, or almost none, among the Europeans who stayed in Oran after July 1, which, in fact, is considered a date at least as fateful as 1940." In the suddenly empty streets, the hunt for Europeans was on.

On boulevard du Front de Mer, there were several dead bodies. Near boulevard de l'Industrie, shots were fired at motorists, one of whom was hit and collapsed at the wheel as his car crashed into a wall. One European woman who had come out onto her balcony on boulevard Joseph-Andrieu was killed. At about three o'clock p.m., the gunfire increased in intensity. Near the "Rex" cinema, one of the victims of that massacre could be seen hanging from a meat hook. The French, panic-stricken, sought refuge where they could, in the offices of L 'Echo d'Oran, or fled to the Mers el- Kebir base, held by the French army.
During that time, General Katz, commander of the military installation in Oran, was having his lunch at the La Sebia air base. Alerted of the events, according to the historian Claude Paillat, he replied to an officer: "Let's wait until five o'clock to decide what to do." The French troops stood by, weapons at their feet, since the Ministry of Armies had prohibited them from leaving their quarters. At precisely five o'clock, the gunfire quieted down. In the days that followed, the FLN regained control of the situation and proceeded to arrest and execute rioters.

The toll from July 5 was high. According to the figures given by Doctor Mostefa Nalt, director of the hospital complex in Oran, 95 people, including 20 Europeans, were killed (13 were stabbed to death). In addition, 161 were wounded. The Europeans told of scenes of torture, pillaging, and, above all, abduction. On May 8, 1963, the secretary for Algerian affairs declared at the National Assembly that 3,080 people had been listed as abducted or missing: 18 were found, 868 freed, and 257 killed {throughout Algeria, but especially in Oranie).

So ended the French presence in that "jewel of the empire," French Algeria. On July 12, 1962, Ahrned Ben Bella moved into Oran. Another battle began-the battle for power in Algeria.

On the other side of the Mediterranean, those who were henceforth to be called pieds noirs were preoccupied with finding their place in French society and with seeking out the sites of the lost memory of French Algeria. The "patroness" of Oran, Our Lady of Santa-Cruz, accepted the hospitality of the humble church of Courbessac, near Nimes.