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The Oran massacre of 1962 was a massacre of European—mostly French—civilians in Oran, Algeria from July 5 though 7, 1962, after a cease-fire had been declared 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; and 453 disappeared.
The Algerian War had been underway 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 Algerians.
The Evian Accords intended to guarantee the rights and safety of the pieds-noirs, French, Spanish, and Jewish colonial residents, many born in Algeria, in an independent nation. But, rumors had already spread among the pieds-noirs (black feet) that their choice would be 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 began in April 1962, and by late May hundreds of thousands had emigrated from Algeria, 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". The OAS declared a "scorched earth" policy to deny French-built facilities and development to the future FLN government. The OAS engaged in a bombing campaign that killed an estimated 10 to 15 people in Oran daily in May 1962. Its scorched earth policy climaxed on June 7 1962, when the OAS Delta Commando burned Algiers Library and its 60,000 volumes, and blew up Oran's town hall, the municipal library, and four schools.
Under French rule, Oran had 250,000 inhabitants of European origin. As noted, many left in the months after the accords. 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. 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, during which the mob cut the throats of many men, women and children. The massacre was ended by the deployment of French Gendarmerie.
Estimates of the total casualties vary widely. Local newspapers 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. Other sources have claimed that as many as 453 persons "disappeared." A 2004 history estimated that 3,500 Europeans were killed. Some 153 French residents are listed at a virtual polynational memorial website on the Internet.
Neither the Algerian police nor the 18,000 French troops in the city tried to prevent the massacre. Their 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; they chose emigration to France over reconciliation with the indigenous population.
At the 1963 trial of Jean Bastien-Thiry, who attempted to assassinate President de Gaulle, defence lawyers referred to the Oran massacre. They said that Bastien-Thiry's act was justified because de Gaulle caused a genocide of Algeria's European population.
- Benjamin Stora, Algeria, 1830-2000: A Short History (Cornell University Press, 2004) p105
- Thiolay, Boris (2006-09-13). "Algérie 1962 : La vérité sur les massacres d'Oran". L'Express. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
- 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
- la fusillade de la rue d’Isly, l’exode des pieds-noirs, Oran, Human Rights League, March 2002
- Alistair Horne, page 533 A Savage War Of Peace, ISBN 0-670-61964-7
- , CHRONOLOGIE DE LA GUERRE D'ALGÉRIE, LES JOURNAUX D'ALGER
- Benjamin Stora, Algeria, 1830-2000: A Short History (Cornell University Press, 2004), p.105
- , Polynational War Memorial
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