Massacre of Sétif: the other 8 May 45

Massacre of Sétif: the other 8 May 45

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The Sétif massacre, which heralds the terrible Algerian War, comes as the deadliest war in Berlin ends with the surrender of Nazi Germany. while the mood is high in Europe, it is different in French Algeria. Nationalist riots broke out in Sétif, on the occasion of the demonstrations of May 8, which quickly degenerated and caused the death of a hundred Europeans and spread throughout Constantine, in particular in Bône and Guelma. The repression of the French army will be bloody and disproportionate.

The context of the Sétif massacre

It was the Allied landing in North Africa in November 1942 that caused a real shock in Algeria, then under the yoke of an even more brutal colonial order since Pétain came to power in France. It is at the same time American anti-colonialism, the strong presence of Muslims in the French army in Africa, and the importance of the Resistance as a "myth", already, which give a boost to the national liberation movement. Algerian.

De Gaulle then decides to give, in his ordinance of March 7, 1944, French nationality to all the “natives” decorated militarily or benefiting from various diplomas, giving them access to all civil and military jobs and better representativeness in local assemblies. . They are more than 60,000 to benefit from it in 1945, which makes cringe some teeth in the colonial circles…

However, this decision disappoints and the context is also marked by a great famine, for finally a gradual rise in tensions. In addition, rumors are circulating about the support of Algerian nationalists for the fascists and the Nazis (an idea that has been widespread since the start of the war, when Messali Hadj, one of the nationalist leaders, had supported the Popular Front), which provokes a great mistrust among the colonists and the European population there. Demonstrations began in April, pacifist, even if they gave rise to some clashes. On April 23, Messali Hadj was deported to Brazzaville, once again angering Algerian Muslims. 1er May, there are deaths during a demonstration in Algiers ...

What happened on May 8?

In general, we place the massacres of Sétif (which also took place elsewhere in the country) on May 8, 1945, an obviously symbolic date. It’s a bit more complex. On this day, a demonstration is authorized by the authorities; it demands equality for all, the end of colonialism, but also the liberation of Hajj, and the slogans are becoming more and more nationalist. More than 10,000 people demonstrate, singing the nationalist anthem Min Djibalina, American or English flags are waved, and soon signs for a free and independent Algeria.

It was then that the young leader of the Muslim scouts, Aïssa Cheraga, waved an Algerian flag; this provoked a reaction from the settlers present, a scuffle and the young Bouzid Saal was killed by a police officer while he in turn tried to wave the flag. There is panic, police shoot and angry protesters take revenge on Europeans, killing more than 20 in a matter of hours. The situation calmed down on the spot when the sharpshooters arrived, but unrest broke out in the countryside and finally around a hundred Europeans, mostly farmers, were killed during the day. Unrest also erupted in Guelma where the army fired on the crowd, killing one. The situation is therefore on the verge of a general uprising at the end of May 8, 1945.

It is panic among the Europeans, who take refuge where they can. General de Gaulle then instructed General Duval to restore order. He relies on the aviation and the navy, several thousand men (including Senegalese, Moroccan and Algerian skirmishers), for a repression of incredible and disproportionate violence: planes and naval guns bombard the region From Sétif, the armored vehicles devastated the villages,… Colonial militias mounted, and we then witnessed summary executions and scenes of collective humiliation. The whole thing lasts several days, and the repression ends around May 20.

The results and consequences of the Sétif massacre

It is very difficult to get a clear idea of ​​the real toll, because of the symbol that these days have become, manipulated by the "two camps", and until today. In independent Algeria, more than 40,000 deaths are mentioned, while the French official at the time is counting on around 1,500 ... The "truth" is probably between the two, we can say without committing too much that there is had a hundred "European" deaths for several thousand "Muslim" deaths.

The official investigation of the time was botched, but it was still used to imprison several Algerian nationalist leaders, such as Ferhat Abbas. Above all, we do not understand the impact these days of massacres will have on Muslim Algerians.

On the nationalist side, on the contrary, it is a shock. The massacres of May 1945 are even for the Algerian collective memory the glue which will lead to the uprising less than ten years later.


- Chronicles of a massacre. May 8, 1945: Setif, Guelma, Kherrata de Boucif Mekhaled. Syros, 1995.

- Sétif 1945, chronicle of a forgotten massacre, by Jean-Louis Planche. Perrin, 2010.

Video: فقرة حول مجازر 8 ماي 1945 - BAC 2020 Production écrite sur les Massacres du 8 Mai 1945