Oran massacre of 1962

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The Oran massacre of 1962 was a massacre of European—mostly French—civilians in Oran, Algeria on July 5, 1962, at the end of the Algerian War (1954–62). Estimates of the death toll vary from a low of 95 to a high of 3,500;[1] and 453 disappeared.[2]

Background[edit]

The Algerian War continued since 1954. The French government of Charles de Gaulle hoped that its January 8, 1961, referendum on Algerian independence, and the consequent Evian Accords of March 18, 1962, would end the conflict. The accords, which were reached during a cease-fire between French armed forces and the Algerian nationalist organization the Front de libération nationale (FLN), began the process of transfer of power from the French to the Algerian.

The Evian Accords intended to guarantee the rights and safety of the pieds-noirs, French, Spanish, and Jewish colonial residents, in an independent Algeria. However, rumor had already spread among the pieds-noirs (black feet) that their choice was between "the suitcase or the coffin". With armed conflict apparently at an end, the French government loosened security on Algeria's border with Morocco, allowing the FLN freer movement within Algeria. The flight of French pieds-noirs and pro-French native Algerians from Algeria began in April 1962, and by late May hundreds of thousands had emigrated, chiefly to metropolitan France.

Independence had been bitterly opposed by the pieds-noirs and many members of the French military, and the anti-independence Organisation de l'armée secrète (OAS) started a campaign of open rebellion against the French government, declaring its military to be an "occupying power".[3] A "scorched earth" policy was declared by the OAS, to deny French-built development to the future FLN government. This policy climaxed June 7, 1962, as the OAS Delta Commando burned Algiers' library, with its 60,000 volumes, and blew up Oran's town hall, the municipal library, and four schools. Also, the OAS engaged in a bombing campaign that killed an estimated 10 to 15 people in Oran daily in May 1962.[4]

Event[edit]

Under French rule, Oran had 250,000 inhabitants of European origin. On the morning of July 5, 1962, the day Algeria became independent, seven katibas (companies) of FLN troops entered the city and were fired on by some Europeans.[5] An outraged native mob swept into the pied-noir neighborhoods, which had already been largely vacated, and attacked the estimated 40,000 remaining pieds-noirs. The violence lasted several hours, included the cutting of men's, women's and children's throats, and was ultimately stopped by the deployment of French Gendarmerie.[5]

Estimates of the total casualties vary widely. Local newspapers[6] declared that 1,500 were killed. Dr. Mostefa Naït, the post-independence director of the Oran hospital centre, claimed that 95 persons, including 20 Europeans, were killed (13 from stabbings) and 161 people were injured.[4] Other sources claim that as many as 453 persons disappeared.[2] 153 French residents are listed at the virtual memorial website.[7]

Neither the Algerian police nor the 18,000 French troops present in the city attempted to prevent the massacre.[5] Orders from Paris were "do not move", leaving the pieds-noirs vulnerable.

Many French residents believed that the massacre was an expression of policy by the FLN and therefore chose departure over reconciliation with the indigenous population.[5]

At the 1963 trial of Jean Bastien-Thiry, who attempted to assassinate President de Gaulle, defence lawyers referred to the Oran massacre and claimed that Bastien-Thiry's act was justified because de Gaulle caused a genocide of Algeria's European population.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Benjamin Stora, Algeria, 1830-2000: A Short History (Cornell University Press, 2004) p105
  2. ^ a b Thiolay, Boris (2006-09-13). "Algérie 1962 : La vérité sur les massacres d'Oran". L'Express. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  3. ^ See Le Figaro, March 24–25, 1962, (see la fusillade de la rue d’Isly, l’exode des pieds-noirs, Oran, Human Rights League, March 2002
  4. ^ a b la fusillade de la rue d’Isly, l’exode des pieds-noirs, Oran, Human Rights League, March 2002
  5. ^ a b c d Alistair Horne, page 533 "A Savage War Of Peace", ISBN 0-670-61964-7
  6. ^ [1], CHRONOLOGIE DE LA GUERRE D'ALGÉRIE, LES JOURNAUX D'ALGER
  7. ^ [2], Polynational War Memorial