The Head of State, opting for a sober ceremony, presided over a parade in the courtyard of the Invalides and decorated 15 veterans, including 11 conscripts, without speaking.
“France expresses its deep gratitude” to all the fighters who have kept “their republican conscience”, declared the Elysée in a statement, as opposed to the supporters of “French Algeria” who seditioned to try to prevent the independence when it became inevitable.
Between 1954 and 1962, nearly a million and a half conscripts, recruits and auxiliaries (“harkis”) were mobilized in this war which for a long time was only described as an “operation” or “events”.
From 1961, in addition to the failed putsch in Algiers, soldiers joined the Secret Army Organization (OAS) which multiplied attacks and attacks in an attempt to reverse the course of history.
The “vast majority” of the army “refused to violate the principles of the French Republic”, when a “minority” spread “terror”, even engaging in “terrorism”, underlined the French presidency.
This minority also “perpetrated torture, against and against all the values” of the Republic, also recalled the Elysée.
In total, 23,196 soldiers were killed in this war, including more than 15,000 in combat and attacks, and 60,000 wounded.
After independence, the French found themselves confronted with revelations of torture committed by the French army in an attempt to neutralize the rebellion of the National Liberation Front (FLN).
Many of them – 6% of the men in total were mobilized – had also sacrificed two to three years of their youth in this war and preferred to turn the page as quickly as possible.
“During decades of embarrassment and silence, tempted by oblivion and denial, these men and women have borne alone the weight of our bad conscience in the face of this war”, noted the Elysée.
– “Peaceful memory” –
Tuesday morning’s ceremony was part of the series of events organized since Emmanuel Macron came to power in 2017 to try to “build a peaceful and common memory” around the Algerian war.
This continues to divide part of the country, up to the Assembly, between supporters of Algerian independence, particularly on the left, Algerian immigrants and repatriated people – a million French people left Algeria suddenly in 1962 – relayed in part by the extreme right.
The president thus acknowledged that the communist mathematician Maurice Audin had died under torture by the French army and that the nationalist lawyer Ali Boumendjel had been “tortured and murdered” by soldiers.
In September 2021, he also asked “forgiveness” to the harkis, Muslim fighters engaged with the French army then “abandoned” by France. A “repair” bill was passed in early 2022.
The president marked Monday the 61st anniversary of the massacre of dozens, even hundreds of peaceful Algerian demonstrators by the police in Paris on October 17, 1961, by again denouncing “inexcusable crimes for the Republic”. “Truth is the only way to a shared future,” he reiterated.
In January, by another strong gesture, he had expressed “the gratitude” of France towards the returnees.
He had then also urged to “look in the face” the “massacre of Oran of July 5, 1962” – the day of the proclamation of the independence of Algeria – which affected “hundreds of Europeans, mainly French”.
The work of memory remains more complicated with Algeria, in particular on the disappeared, and regularly interspersed with tensions.
Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Abdelmadjid Tebboune, anxious to give new impetus to the Franco-Algerian relationship, however announced in August the creation of a joint commission of historians to work on the entire colonial period since 1830.