The Historical Construction of Harki Literature

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Première parution : Abderahmen Moumen, «1962-2014. The Historical Construction of Harki Literature », in Keith Moser, A practical guide to french harki literature, Lexington Book, 2014, pp. 1-15.

From the year 2000 to the present, a new literary form has emerged which is linked to the generic term ‘harki.’ This type of literature has received a considerable amount of media coverage. A few examples include the works of Fatima Besnaci-Lancou such as Fille de harki (2003) and Dalila Kerchouche’s Mon père, ce harki (2003) in addition to more recent works in which the children of former ‘supplétifs’ recount their story like Jeanette Bougrab’s Ma république, se meurt (2013) or Toumi Djaïdja’s La marche pour l’égalité (2013).

This literary movement is the result of a historical process which began in 1962 immediately following the war of Algerian independence with the construction of the social group known as ‘harkis.’ The emergence of so-called harki literature from the 1960s to the year 2000 can only be understood by contextualizing the evolution of this historical community. From the 1960s to the 1980s, most notably French-Muslims (Boualem 1962, 1963, 1964), pied-noirs and military officials (Moinet, 1989) spoke in place of the harkis, the majority of whom were illiterate, essentially in the context of material demands. Starting in the 1990s, the question of historical recognition became a leitmotif for this social group. During this time period, we see the appearance of new spokespeople. The descendants of former ‘supplétifs’ or the transitional generation in both Algeria and France, some of whom would end up becoming writers, began to make their voices heard. During this crucial tipping point from 1990 to 2000, Algerian memory work was being conducted at a blistering pace due to the end of the official amnesia on a state level. Coupled with the effects of lingering, overwhelming historical trauma, breaking this institutional silence paved the way for the emergence of this ‘mémoire blessée.’

Correspondences between history (histories) and memory (memories)

The literary movement which centers around the ‘harki question’ cannot be understood without (re-)exploring the historicity of the social construction harki. This social group began to take shape in 1962 based on the three following considerations: the role of the harkis during the Algerian War linked to the notion of abandonment in 1962, the question of retaliatory massacres, and the existence of refugee camps. These three distinct issues would play a key role in the creation of novels, essays, biographies and autobiographies dedicated to the subject of the harkis.

The term ‘harki’ strictly speaking designates a ‘Français de souche nord-africaine (FSNA)’ and/or a ‘muslim’ according to colonial terminology from this period. This designation also applies to Algerians who served as auxiliary soldiers in the French army in a harka during the conflict from 1954 to 1962. From an etymological perspective, the terms ‘harki’ (the physical person) and ‘harka’ (the auxiliary unit) are of Arabic origin. In the Arabic language, the verb ‘harak’ ‘to move’ refers to activity or a type of movement (Besnaci-Lancou, Moumen Les Harkis 13-18 ). It does not have any political connotations.

With the outbreak of the Algerian War on November 1, 1954, the major general of the French army, drawing on his experience in Indochina and counter-revolutionary war techniques learned from fighting in Vietnam, rapidly adopted the principle of creating auxiliary troops. For this reason, Jean Vaujour, a public safety director in Algeria, proposed the installation of auxiliary formations during the month of November 1954. Five categories of civilian auxiliary formations thus contributed to the “maintien de l’ordre” during what would be called for a long time “les événements” (Ageron 3-10).

The organization and the framework of auxiliary forces are relatively similar to a military structure, but the status of these units remained civilian. There was also the creation of groupes mobiles de police rurale (GMPR), the moghaznis of the Sections Administratives Spécialisées (SAS), the assas (gardiens) of the Unités territoriales (UT), the groupes d’autodéfense (GAD), and evidently the harkas. Thus, the harkas comprised of harkis were in reality only one element of these auxiliary formations initiated to stand in for the French army. This term gradually became more generic referring to all of these auxiliary forces because of the numerical significance of the harkis in comparison to other units.1

Writings about the harkis are often related to their official status during the Algerian War. A common theme is the choice of whether to enlist in the French army or not. This choice is often placed into the context of the violence perpetrated by both sides, that of the French army and the Front de libération nationale (FLN). In this vein, two former harkis would publish their autobiographies outlining the reasons for their engagement/enrollment. In 1981, the first work written by the former auxiliary soldier Saïd Ferdi appeared. Entitled un enfant dans la guerre, this account retraces the imprisonment and subsequent enrollment through coercion of a sixteen year old child who became a harki. It also revisits the violence of the Algerian War and the complex factors which motivated these men to enlist in the French army. Brahim Sadouni published his first work Français sans patrie in 1985 (republished in 2001) which recounts the context in which this violence occurred in addition to the economic conditions which compelled him to enlist as a harki.2

Beginning with the Evian Accords, announced on March 19, 1962, the events started to intensify. The reaching of an agreement which concluded the war and guaranteed that the rights of all parties involved would be respected was widely diffused. For the auxiliary formations, the question was clear for both the government and the major general of French forces in Algeria. Given that they did not have military status, they should return to civilian life and their families after being disarmed. Only a small minority of former auxiliary soldiers and certain civilians who were clearly threatened would be transferred to France.

More specifically for the Harkis, a decree from March 20, 1962 offered three solutions: enrolling in the regular military, returning to civilian life with a compensation package and finding another job, or to renew their contract for six months in order to allow them ample time to think about their next course of action. Limited diffusion and certain financial measures were designed to avoid a massive influx of undesirable immigrants to France. As an official document explains, “C’est la meilleure façon d’éviter qu’une masse importante de ces personnels ne décide de venir s’installer en France avec leurs familles, posant ainsi un problème difficile à Monsieur le secrétaire d’Etat aux Rapatriés, aussi bien qu’à mes collègues de l’Intérieur, des Affaires algériennes et même des Finances.3

Due to the exponential increase in desertions (these individuals were often armed) from the beginning of the year 1962 and especially during the months of March and April, the process of laying off the remaining auxiliaries was expedited. If some people deserted on an individual basis or in small groups to join the ALN in order to rehabilitate their image, other individuals only wanted to defend themselves from eventual reprisals having lost confidence in the protection of the French army.

In order to obey orders and avoid sedition, auxiliaries were sometimes disarmed covertly. Once members of a military unit left their base, they would have no means of protecting themselves. The harkis and their families could only be transferred within the framework of a transfer plan, which was often devised too late or was too vague. Even if harkis enlisted in the army were repatriated and allowed to join their families, as well as certain moghaznis, the government often tried hard to limit the amount of transfers to France because of pressure applied by military authorities or the SAS. Beginning in March 1962, it was demanded that the transfer dossiers should be limited to the “cas critiques exigeant une solution discrète et urgente” despite the knowledge that “de nombreux FSNA risquent, en raison de leurs sentiments pro-français déclarée ou de leur engagement aux côtés des forces de l’ordre, d’être l’objet de représailles du FLN.4

Under the pretext of recovery from former auxiliaries by the OAS-which proved to be illusory in the end-corrective measures were taken by the Army minister Pierre Messmer, the minister of the interior Roger Frey, and the minister of state in charge of Algerian affairs Louis Joxe, to prevent their installation in France by means of clandestine channels. These policies were put into place by those in charge of auxiliary formations (active personnel or those who had resigned in order to not disobey orders) who feared for the lives of their former ‘compagnons d’armes’ and their families. They used any means necessary to help them escape to France.

The state minister Louis Joxe issued the following statement to the Algerian high commissioner:

Les renseignements qui me parviennent sur les rapatriements prématurés de
supplétifs indiquent l’existence de véritables réseaux tissés sur l’Algérie et la métropole dont la partie algérienne a souvent pour origine un chef SAS […] Vous voudrez bien faire rechercher tant dans l’armée que dans l’administration les promoteurs et les complices de ces entreprises et faire prendre les sanctions appropriées. Les supplétifs débarqués en métropole en dehors du plan général de rapatriement seront en principe renvoyés en Algérie […]5

Hence, auxiliary soldiers were forbidden from embarking on Algerian ports. Indeed, some of them were even kicked out of France upon their arrival in the port of Marseille.6

The post-independence violence, reprisals, massacres, and imprisonment (Besnaci-Lancou Des harkis envoyés à la mort, 2013) of former auxiliary soldiers and other Algerians suspected of ‘collaboration with colonialism’ began in the month of July and became widespread throughout the region during the summer until September 1962 (Moumen “Violences de fin de guerre” 338-342). They started up again in October 1962 then progressively declined in 1963. The unités des forces armées françaises en Algérie (FAFA)7 welcomed more and more refugees fleeing these exactions including former soldiers, former military personnel (regular and drafted), and civilians. These individuals were accompanied or followed by their families. They were interned in relocation camps such as Tefeschoun near Alger or Bône (Annaba). Given the fear of attacks from ALN forces or sporadic tensions, they were closely monitored.

This is how Emmanuel Sabatié describes the situation in his novel Je ne vous oublie pas. This work recounts the story of a harki family immediately after Algerian independence caught up in the context of this violence. How many harkis made their way to France with the assistance of the military through the aforementioned clandestine channels or on their own? Precise estimates vary. One official estimate asserts that approximately 20,600 former auxiliaries (66,000 including their families) relocated to France between 1962 and 1968. These statistics were compiled from those who filed for French citizenship (Chabi 24-25). Another estimate, obtained from the 1968 census, stipulates that there were around 140,000 French-Muslims from Algeria living in France, divided into 80,000 auxiliaries and their families in addition to 55,000 civilians, important public figures, civil servants and military personnel.8

How many people were victims of these massacres? Estimates vary from 10,0009 to 150,000 people, relying on the rapport from the sub-prefect of Akbou who estimates around 1,000 to 2,000 victims in each arrondissement. There are 72 arrondissements in Algeria, thus 72,000 victims according to the lowest estimates and 144,000 victims according to the highest range, rounded up to 150,000 deaths.10 Between these two extreme estimates, other numbers have been proposed. Few historians risk proposing exact numbers. Benjamin Stora proposes the estimate of 10,000 to 25,000 victims (Stora 510) whereas other scholars are closer to General Maurice Faivre’s numbers, 55,000-75,000 victims (Faivre 16). The precise number of victims is difficult if not impossible to establish without historical research based on French military archival records, Algerian archives, the collection of eyewitness accounts and the publication of regional monographs.

Lastly, the camps constitute a final theme that systematically pervades literary writings about the harki question, especially for Fatima Besnaci-Lancou who describes the Rivesaltes camp and Dalila Kerchcouche who writes about the Bias camp. The relocation camps in Algeria were the first transitional step before families were transferred to France. Some people had formerly resided together in secure areas, such as the Palestro region on old abandoned farms, in order to avoid acts of retribution from the ALN. The first camps, which were similar to refugee camps, that the families of former auxiliary soldiers would encounter were in Algeria before their departure. Tefeschoun near Alger, Mers-El-Kébir, and Zéralda were the first transit areas.

The French government asked the Army minister to convert military camps into transit camps and to redirect thousands of families of former auxiliaries. In September 1962, a notice from the repatriation minister specified that “le camp doit répondre à un double but : 1) hébergement temporaire des familles en attendant leur dispersion vers d’autres lieux […] ; 2) triage des nouveaux débarqués en instance d’acheminement” (Roux 244). Public officials forecasted that this problem could be taken care of in the span of one summer with a few ‘muslim refugees’ needing to be reclassified quickly. The Larzac (Aveyron) camp opened its doors on June 15, 1962 (until October 15th). However, due to the influx of refugees, a second camp was opened at Bourg-Lastic (Puy-de Dôme, June 24-September 25). 10,000 refugees were quickly interned in these camps. On July 19, 1962, 11,486 people were residing in these two camps: 5, 894 in Larzac and 5,592 in Bourg-Lastic.11

The closing of these camps did not take place according to the initial projections of the repatriation secretary. The influx of refugees would continue, and the reclassification process was especially slow due to security issues related to former auxiliaries,12 the reticence of potential employers and certain unions, housing difficulties, and the massive influx of “rapatriés européens d’Algérie” which placed the “rapatriés musulmans” on the backburner.

For this reason, unable to support the thousands of families during the harsh winter in Auvergne or Aveyron, the Larzac and Bourg-Lastic camps closed their doors in September 1962. The refugees and their families were transferred to Rivesaltes (Western Pyrenees, September 1962-December 31, 1964) and Saint-Maurice l’Ardoise (Gard, October 29, 1962-December 1, 1963) (Moumen “Camp de Rivesaltes” 105-109).13 The non-auxiliary civilians were sent to the Rye-Le Vigeant camp in the Vienne department. Finally, in 1963, the Bias camp (Lot-et-Garonne, January 1963-1964) opened its doors to welcome unmarried former auxiliary soldiers with a professional background then those who were difficult to reclassify.

Consequently, the status of harkis during the Algerian war of independence, the question of abandonment, post-independence violence in addition to the camps are the historical periods that are omnipresent in harki literary works. In fact, the camps almost exclusively concretize the identity of the harki social group after 1962. If harki literature can only be understood in its historical context, the conditions in which the second generation emerged also undeniably constitutes an additional key for understanding this literary production.

Emergence of the Second Generation14 and Literature as a Public Voice

The emergence of Harki literature is also linked to the appearance of a new generation. This new generation does not constitute a homogeneous statistical and demographic group. Nonetheless, the focus on spokespeople who endeavored to give a voice to the harkis, the leaders of revolt movements in 1975, 1991, and 1997, and the activities of various associations which were especially created from 1980-1990 have contributed to the diffusion of the image of the “enfant de harki” which has become nearly synonymous with a person born in Algeria in the 1960s and who lived in a camp. Amongst this generation, there are many fundamental differences. For these children born between the end of the 1940s and the 1980s, there is often a sizeable generational gap (some children were born after others were already retired) between those who were born in Algeria and those who were born in France, those who lived in other community spaces, or those who were more integrated into mainstream society […]

The first visible media coverage of children of the harkis occurred in 1975 during the rebellions at the Saint-Maurice l’Ardoise and Bias camps. This revolt by those who would come to be known as the ‘forgotten people of history’ began in May 1975 at the Bias camp. A series of protests were organized by la Confédération des Français musulmans rapatriés d’Algérie et leurs amis (CFMRAA) and its charismatic leader M’hamed Laradji including strikes and occupation. The Saint-Maurice L’Ardoise camp would soon experience the same type of unrest. The camp was occupied until June. The young people who followed Laradji entrenched themselves in the Saint-Maurice L’Ardoise camp. The taking of hostages intensified in order to attract attention from authorities and to influence public opinion related to their situation. On June 19, 1975, four young men who were armed kidnapped the mayor of Saint-Laurent des Arbres in addition to two secretaries and the director of the Saint-Maurice l’Ardoise camp. This hostage crisis ended the following day. This first major revolt led to the complete dismantling of the Saint-Maurice l’Ardoise camp, the partial ending of the Bias camp, increased rights for workers, and the first true measures for this population and their children.
Nevertheless, challenges related to socio-professional integration had not been resolved at all, especially in the larger context of an economic crisis and a rise in unemployment on a national level. Many families of former auxiliaries were hit hard by the crisis. In her investigation of harki children related to education, Catherine Wihtol de Wenden confirms this dire situation. As de Wenden notes, “80% de jeunes entre 18 et 25 ans sont sans emploi, leur niveau est très divers, leur formation professionnelle (quand elle existe) souvent effectuée à l’ancienne, et ils mettent en évidence un rejet des employeurs (ou du personnel de l’entreprise lors de l’entrée dans la vie professionnelle)” (52). The 1980s were punctuated by protests intended to increase awareness related to the living conditions of former auxiliaries and their families.

Finally, a new revolt was launched in 1991 triggered by the following factors: the social challenges faced by this population, especially young people, the discrediting of associations that supposedly represented them, the permanence of ghettos, a direct consequence of being relegated to segregated spaces, in addition to a plethora of local issues. Beginning in la cité des Oliviers in the city of Narbonne, this unrest eventually spread to many cities in Northern France like in la cité de la Briquetterie in Amiens or in Roubaix. However, these protests reached even greater heights in Southern France given the large concentration of families of former auxiliary soldiers in this area in places like Saint-Laurent des Arbres (Gard), Carcassonne (Aude), Bias (Lot-et-Garonne), Avignon (Vaucluse), in addition to former forestry hamlets such as Jouques or Fuveau in the Bouches-du-Rhône region.

Even if their demands were essentially the same, this revolt was different than that of 1975 in many different ways. In comparison to the initial rebellions during which young people born in Algeria were the most active, young people born in France arrived on the scene in 1991. Many of these youth had never experienced the drama of the Algerian War first-hand, dealt with repatriation issues, been interned in camps, or had ever seen Algeria. Additionally, these clashes and mobilization efforts not only concerned the sons of former auxiliaries, but they also involved harki daughters. In previous decades, an ‘enfant de harki’ was synonymous with a ‘fils de harkis.’ These female descendants of former auxiliaries not only took part in these actions, but they sometimes even led them as is the case with Ouardia Hebab in Narbonne. They became more and more invested in various associations. Beginning at the end of the first decade of the new millennium, they started to focus on their mother’s suffering and the fact that their journey was just as chaotic as that of their male counterparts. Through the voices of harki daughters, the social demands of this population evolved, specifically with respect to the appearance of harki women as beneficiaries of new indemnity measures (Moumen “De l’absence aux nouveaux porte-parole” 164). It was no longer solely about the father’s need for recognition or children struggling with employment issues, but it was also about mothers.

A crushing weight had finally been lifted related to the situation of harki wives and their invisibility through so-called “harki literature” which included novels and autobiographical narratives. As early as 1989, Mehdi Charef, author of the novel Le harki de Meriem, had already evoked the saga of a harki family through the literary figure Meriem (the wife). Nonetheless, during the 1990s and especially in the 2000s, this literature was dominated by “filles de harkis” like Djami (C’est la vie), Fatima Besnaci-Lancou (fille de harki), Dalila Kerchouche (mon père, ce harki), Hadjila Kemoum (Mohand le harki), Zahia Rahmani (Moze), and Malika Meddah (Une famille de harkis). This type of Harki literature also gave a voice to women (Zineb 194).

Several personal testimonies were also part of this movement including Fatima Besnaci-Lancou’s Nos mères, paroles blessées: une autre histoire de harkis and Dalila Kerchouche’s Destins de harkis, co-authored by Stéphan Gladieu.

Memories. The stakes of Algerian Memories and Harki Literature

 The emergence of this second generation and this harki literary movement are part of the intensification of Algerian memory work from the end of the twentieth century to the beginning of the twenty-first century. This phenomenon cannot be separated from this “moment-mémoire,” an expression coined by the historian Pierre Nora, which concerns all of the parties involved in the Algerian War. Thus, beginning in the 1990s, the spokespeople changed their objectives and developed new strategies. As opposed to forms of engagement that focused on material demands (indemnities, employment problems, housing issues […]), harki associations concentrated their efforts on obtaining official recognition for their history (abandonment, massacres, internment in camps) (Moumen “De l’absence aux nouveaux porte-parole” 165-166). A re-appropriation of the first spaces where harki families lived immediately upon their arrival in the host country began to take place including the transit camps and/or cités d’accueil such as Bourg-Lastic, Le Larzac, Rivesaltes, Saint-Maurice l’Ardoise, and Bias. Memorial stones or plaques were erected in these sites which became the object of “pèlerinages de mémoire.”

Public officials who were worried about new tensions concerning memories of the Algerian War and diplomatic tensions related to colonial relations between France and Algeria undertook an entire series of symbolic measures designed to assist families of former auxiliary soldiers. The harkis had now become an important electoral group to be swayed. This is how the hommage aux harkis on September 25, 2001 became an annual event starting in 2003. The law that passed on February 23, 2005 which recognized the contributions of repatriated French citizens including former auxiliaries should also be understood in this context. But, this law paradoxically reignited the ‘memory wars’ through article 5 which stipulated that educational programs had to recognize the positive aspects of France’s colonial presence in divergent regions of the world especially in North Africa.
At last, in both Algeria and France, the ‘harkis’ were a subject of public debate. In France, the terms of this debate focused on recognition by public authorities of the trauma experienced by this social group. Jacques Chirac gave a speech on September 25, 2001 at Les Invalides during the Journée d’hommage aux harkis in which he recognized France’s debt to these men. During the presidential campaigns of 2007 and 2012, the candidates Ségolène Royal, Nicolas Sarkozy,15 and François Hollande officially recognized the “abandon des harkis” by the French state.16 In Algeria as well, the harki question was once again at the forefront, as evidenced by media attention and political discourse. The media published several articles about the harkis which gave a voice to the second generation. However, the harkis were the subject of both vehement attacks and reconciliatory rhetoric during election campaigns in Algeria.
Like other players in the Algerian War, the present fate of these former auxiliary soldiers of the French army was linked to larger issues surrounding contemporary memory. This social group which was formed as the result of exile in 1962, violence, and the memory of the camps is characterized by deep divisions which prevent it from being a homogeneous entity. Even if the ‘harki question’ still remains a sensitive subject which is at the center of both the national debate surrounding Algerian memories and Franco-Algerian relations, it has become a legitimate empirical subject of study to quote Abdelmalek Sayad. Given the fact that this issue has been remarkably ignored in the official master narrative, present empirical studies have allowed us to abandon ideological discourses and other official narratives which have polarized the former auxiliaries by underscoring the complexity of their history. Literary works about the harkis and expositions have made the general public more sensitive about this often misunderstood and misrepresented group. History professors today wonder how to broach the subject of the harkis in class. Well-known public figures have advocated in favor of a better understanding of a stolen history including Jean Daniel, Jean Lacouture, and Germaine Tillion. The famous ethnographer, who joined the French resistance in 1940 and was deported to the Ravensbrük camp, affirmed in 2003: “Les harkis ont longtemps été condamnés au silence, assommés par des injures absurdes et il est temps de tourner la page de la guerre, mais auparavant tout doit être dit. Car lorsque la vérité est dite, on est plus riche pour effacer un passé douloureux” (“Harkis et résistants vont bien ensemble)
It is also in the context of this intensification of Algerian memory, especially as it relates to the harki social group, that works written by children of former harkis evoke this page of French national history. La marche pour l’égalité et contre le racisme from October to December 1983 is interesting to highlight in this context. This March finally constituted a point of convergence between different Algerian memories in the larger context of racist crimes perpetrated at the beginning of the 1980s which essentially targeted Algerian immigrants and the harki social group. An encounter which finally transcended the stereotypical representation of harkis and their children as traîtres or fils de traîtres began to take place. On the other hand, the prevailing discourse about the harki social group could be summarized as follows: “The immigrants followed us and took our place.”

Several works dedicated to the theme of the commemorations surrounding the march were reprinted at the end of 2013. Two of these texts were written by former marchers who are also descendants of former harkis: Bouzid Kara and Toumi Djaïdja. Toumi Djaïdja was the leader of the march in 1983. After receiving a bullet to the head from an officer, his friends and numerous associations supported his mission to travel across France from Marseille to Paris in order to denounce racist violence. In his interview with the sociologist Adil Jazouli, Toumi Djaïdja discussed his family’s saga and especially his father who became a harki during the Algerian War when it was still referred to as ‘évènements’ ou les ‘opérations de maintien de l’ordre.’ Born on October 25, 1962, a few months after independence was proclaimed, Toumi would not meet his father, who was imprisoned in Algeria, until he was five years old in October 1967. After he was liberated, he successfully fled Algeria with the help of the Red Cross like other former auxiliaries. From the port of Alger, he traveled by boat to Marseille before arriving at the transit camp the Château Lascours near the Saint-Maurice l’Ardoise camp in the Gard region. This place welcomed families of former auxiliary soldiers coming from Algeria who were often former prisoners freed by the Red Cross. Then, the Djaïdja family made their way to a transitory site in Ruoms in the Ardèche region before temporarily living in le foyer Notre-Dame des Sans Abris near Lyon before arriving in Vénissieux in the la cité des Minguettes in the Monmousseau quarter. Even if Algerian families, harkis, or other immigrants were living together, a considerable amount of friction remained at the beginning of the 1980s. For Toumi, this story remained ‘painful.’ As he explains, “C’est l’histoire de toute cette violence que l’on subit enfant, qu’on a du mal à supporter et à extérioriser, ou alors il faut avoir un caractère en acier trempé pour l’assumer, et ça n’a pas toujours été ni facile ni possible” (Djaïdja 20).

Bouzid Kara, an activist from the Aix-en-Provence region, published his work in 1984 after the aforementioned march. He decided to reprint it for the first time in 2013 in the context of the commemorations surrounding the march. In stark contrast to Djaïdja’s text, the chapter dedicated to the story of his father and family did not appear in Kara’s work until page thirty-two. This chapter entitled “Les Sioux de la France” is a direct reference to the expression “réserves indiennes” which designated the harki camp. Moreover, the first subtitle “Mon père était harki” identifies the situation of his family right away. His father fought in both Indochina and in the Algerian War. During his childhood, Bouzid would often reproach his father for his ‘choice.’ In 1977, he returned to Algeria for the first time. Although he felt as if he were home (possessing the same ‘racial features’ as the local population), he also felt out of place like an immigrant considered to be a ‘fils de française.’ At the time of the march, he was living in Aix-en-Provence (Bouches-du-Rhône) where he would reside until he was twenty-five years of age. Captivated by this initiative, he asked to be a part of it. He joined the group at Pierrelatte (Drôme). After the march, he decided to write a book and he was a principal architect of the constitution of the ‘Dignité’ association. A child named Tahar, another child of a former auxiliary from the Aix-en-Provence region, would join Kara in the march.

In his work, he also mentions tense moments related to the harki/Algerian immigrant question which often divided descendants into these two different social groups. As Kara underscores, “dans la région aixoise, les discussions se terminaient souvent en bataille rangée entre jeunes français musulmans et ceux qui avaient conservé leur nationalité d’origine. Les effets de la guerre d’Algérie n’avait pas fini de se faire sentir, d’un côté comme de l’autre” (Kara 42).

On a final note, it is impossible to understand the literary movement around the harki social group, whose story is still a pressing issue today in France, without (re)-exploring the following identity markers of these Algerian refugees: the Algerian war and the notion of abandonment, violence, camps, the historical conditions for the emergence of the second generation, and the intensification of Algerian memories at the end of the twentieth century. Harki literature is emblematic of the stakes of memory wars that enshroud the history of the Algerian War and its past and present consequences. The main focus of this literary production is the story of the harkis which has also become a literary theme in Algeria with the publication of Yasmina Khadra’s La Part du mort in 2005. The plot of Khadra’s work begins by examining issues related to violence perpetrated against harki families in 1962. Harki literature is a literary theme which lies at the heart of the stakes of Franco-Algerian memory.


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1 Consequently, the term harki began to be applied to all of the auxiliary forces of the French army in addition to all Algerians who aligned themselves with the French army or French government. Whether they were part of the normal military, individuals who were drafted into service during this period, administrative auxiliaries who represented a vestige of colonial order (bachaga, agha, caïd), or civil servants or elected officials, many of them were called Harkis. Several figures allow us to understand the complexity of these situations more fully. In February 1961, the number of people in the FSNA has been estimated at approximately 250,000 people divided up into 217,000 people in the regular army (65,000 draftees and enlisted) or auxiliaries (57,000 harkis, 9, 100 GMS, 19,450 moghaznis, 65,850 gardes d’autodéfense of which only 29, 270 were armed divided into 2,107 groups). It should be noted that approximately 250,000 men, perhaps more, would have been at one moment or another auxiliary soldiers during the war. 33,000 others were also registered politicians or administrators (46 deputies out of a total number of 67 for Algeria, 350 departmental councilors out of a total of 452, 11,550 municipal councilors out of a total of 14,000 and 20,000 civil servants including a minister, a prefect, and several sub-prefects). Statistics obtained from the Service historique de la Défense (SHD) 1 H 2538.

2 Sadouni, Brahim. Destin de harkis. Le témoignage d’un jeune enrôlé dans l’armée française à l’âge de 17 ans. Paris: Cosmopole, 2001. Sadouni also published another work in 1990 entitled Le drapeau. Ecrit d’un harki. Paris: L’Harmattan, 1990.

3 SHD 1 R 336/4. Official communiqué from the Army minister about the predicted disposal of the FSNA serving under the French uniform from the beginning of 1962.

4 SHD 1 H 3932/2. Courrier n°782/RT/CAC/3/PH from March 22, 1962. General of the Ducournau division, commanding the RT and the CA Constantine.

5 SHD 1 H 1260-2. This telegram followed up on other individual initiatives and the arrival of ninety people (former auxiliaries and their families) to Marseille at the beginning of May on the ‘Ville de Bordeaux’ liner.

6 See Le Figaro from May 25, 1962. The journalist talks about a group of sixty harkis whose documents were not in order. For this reason, they were turned away from Marseille and a second group of fifty-five harkis and their families coming from Palestro were denied entry as well. A disclaimer was then published.

7 FAFA military units were present until the end of the year 1964. They were also at the Mers-el-kébir naval base as stipulated in the Evian Accords.

8 These numbers were established from the 1968 census which had the category ‘Français-musulmans’ and the office of naturalization which registered the number of demands for French nationality from 1962 to 1968, a procedure which applied to all repatriated French-Muslims of legal status in accordance with the precise criteria which determined French nationality.

9 See Jean Lacouture’s article from Le Monde published on November 13, 1962. His article was followed up by another piece published by Le Monde written by Pierre-Vidal Naquet which also denounced the massacres and the inaction of French public officials. Based on military sources, this estimate is cited in a file from the secretary of state of Algerian affairs from November 20, 1962. It is also cited in a note from the minister Louis Joxe dated November 27, 1962. This note is mentioned by Maurice Faivre. See Faivre, Maurice. Les Archives inédites de la politique algérienne. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2001.

10 A second version proposes the estimate of approximately 1,000 to 1,500 deaths in each arrondissement, a spread ranging from 72,000 to 108,000 deaths.

11 SHD 1 H 1260-2. Courier from the minister of the army to the state minister in charge of Algerian affairs from July 19, 1962.

12 Until December 1962, many former auxiliaries were threatened by members of the FLN in areas that had a high concentration of Algerian migrants. This made it impossible to send harki families to certain departments.

13 It should be noted that many of these camps like Rivesaltes had already been used as internment camps for Jewish holocaust victims in World War II, Spanish refugees during the Spanish Civil War, and Tzigane (Hungarian Gypsies) refugees. During the Algerian War and before the installation of families of former auxiliary soldiers, certain camps were comprised of nationalist militants from the FLN in the penitential center of Rivesaltes (the beginning of 1962) or in camps d’assignation à résidence surveillés (CARS) like Larzac or Saint-Maurice l’Ardoise from 1958 to 1962.

14 Numerous studies from various disciplines have examined the question of the second generation, the so-called ‘children of the harkis.” See Abdellatif Saliha, Mohamed Kara, Laurent Muller, Catherine Wihtol de Wenden, Stéphanie Abrial, and Rosella Spina.

15 The presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy recognized la responsabilité de la France dans l’abandon des harkis” on April 14, 2012 at the Rivesaltes camp.

16 In a letter released on April 5, 2012 addressed to harki associations, the candidate François Hollande promised to “reconnaître publiquement les responsabilités des gouvernements français dans l’abandon des harkis, le massacre de ceux restés en Algérie et les conditions d’accueil des familles transférées dans des camps en France.