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Memories of the Algerian war, rather acts than apologies



Almost sixty years after the end of the Algerian war, it is high time for the historian Benjamin Stora to “To get out of the rumination of the past and memory wounds”. In his “report on memorial issues relating to colonization and the Algerian war”, delivered to Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday January 20, the historian proposes a pragmatic approach to “To carry out a work of memory, truth and reconciliation” (1).

Just as Jacques Chirac had recognized the responsibility of the French state in the deportation of Jews to Nazi Germany, Emmanuel Macron, born after the Algerian war, hears “Get out of denial and the unspoken and look history in the face”, says one at the Elysee. If he had qualified colonization as ” crime against humanity “, during his visit to Algiers during the presidential campaign in February 2017, Emmanuel Macron excludes any approach of repentance or apology – regularly demanded by Algiers – in favor of a work of recognition and truth.

“It goes through actions”, specifies the Élysée, adding that the president should endorse most of Benjamin Stora’s recommendations. First of all, addressed to the more than seven million citizens directly concerned on national soil by the memory of Algeria, harkis, blackfoot, Algerian immigrants or former soldiers.

History has remained a battleground, research on Algeria and the Maghreb has dried up, while a proliferation of “Literature of suffering”,deplores Benjamin Stora who asks in particular that the harkis are no longer forgotten in history, that colonization be taught in high schools and that symbolic and concrete measures be multiplied.

Most of the actions considered in France would then have a strong resonance in Algeria, like the recognition of the assassination of Maurice Audin in September 2018. Whether it is a question of transforming the four camps into places of memory. internment of Algerians during the war, in Aveyron, Gard, Ain and Marne. Or to erect a stele in the castle of Amboise where lived after his defeat the Emir Abdelkader, who led the fight against France in the XIXe century. From the entrance to the Pantheon of Gisèle Halimi, fervent opponent of the colonial system. Or finally, the official recognition of the assassination (recognized by General Paul Aussaresses) of the hero of the Algerian nationalist struggle Ali Boumendjel in 1957.

Additional sign sent to Algiers, after the restitution last July of the skulls kept at the Museum of Man, the bodies of members of Abdelkader’s family could be repatriated, and why not also, the famous Baba Merzoug cannon, says La Consulaire , seized in 1830 and still in the harbor of Brest.

If Benjamin Stora excludes any approach that would give the illusion of writing a common history, it must be possible, he wrote, to “Take steps together” for now “Open the door to citizen controversies”. Above all, it is time, according to him, to name the problems and to roll up their sleeves. The number of missing from the war “Who continue to wander like ghosts” – like the location of their remains – remains a mystery. It is also not known how many dead and wounded, until recent years, left the mines laid by France during the war. It is not yet known how many Algerians were exposed to radiation during nuclear tests and how many are still because of the radioactive waste left behind.

These subjects must be taken head-on. This could be the vocation of the “Memories and Truth” commission, which Benjamin Stora hopes will be created jointly on both sides of the Mediterranean. In addition to the memorial aspects mentioned, this commission would aim to promote research, audiovisual production, the translation of books, wider access to archives in France, as in Algeria, and the mobility of researchers from one bank to the other. other from the Mediterranean. Like a vade-mecum to go ahead and get out of the register of “Painful passions” between Paris and Algiers.

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