From our regional correspondent
July 23, 1961. The Algerian war was also seen on French territory. In Metz, as elsewhere in Lorraine where Algerian workers are numerous, tensions are high between Algerians, at the time of French nationality, summoned to choose their camp in the remote struggle for independence, and with the forces of the ‘order. 1is regiment of parachute hunters has just arrived in this garrison town, sanctioned for having participated in the putsch of the generals, on April 21, in Algiers.
In a dance hall, like the day before, a fight degenerates between soldiers and Algerians. Two soldiers are killed. So, all night, in retaliation, 300 paratroopers crisscross the city to track down and brutalize the North African community, especially in the Pontiffroy district, where some 2,000 Algerians live in precarious conditions. Assessment of the gendarmerie: four dead (two paratroopers, the barman of the dancehall and a “French of North African descent”, it is written), 28 injured. But some sources, such as the Moselle Human Rights League, already mentioned, at the time, up to 100 wounded.
Halima (1), 66, remembers it like it was yesterday. ” I was 8 years old. Former neighbors were lynched. The next day, I read the newspaper to my illiterate parents. They were terrified. “ The Algerians, in the following months, go into hiding. “We spoke quietly, we were afraid to go out, we started to be afraid of the French and all the soldiers, while the culprits were especially the anti-de Gaulle. “ After independence, in July 1962, everyone wanted to turn the page, and the trauma was buried. “The subject has remained taboo, even I have not told my children about it, confides Halima. I am testifying today because it is important to know what really happened, including within the Algerian community. We must burst the abscesses. “
Historical knowledge of the variations of the Algerian war on Lorraine soil, tribute to the victims, recognition of all memories and projection towards the future without a spirit of revenge… This is all the work that the Collective has been carrying out for five years July 1961 . This Friday, date of the 60e anniversary of the “Night of the Paras”, he will lay wreaths on the symbolic places where the victims on both sides died. Saturday, historian Raphaëlle Branche will present her book Dad, what did you do in Algeria?
“We try to go against stereotypes, to maintain the complexity of the debates and to look to the future. There are various memories of the Algerian war, and in each of the journeys of suffering and exile. We are not trying to revive the wounds or to find a balance, which would be impossible ”, explains Sélima Saadi, at the initiative of this collective which brings together Franco-Algerians, descendants of Pieds-Noirs, activists of the A4CG association (Elders called to Algeria and their friends against the war) and ordinary citizens.
But the story of this bloody night in Metz should call out beyond. “It is still little known at the national level, comments Lucas Hardt, historian specializing in this episode. But if it is not a massacre like that of October 17, 1961 in Paris, (read the benchmarks), it should not be taken as a simple news item either. To obscure the colonial context and the Algerian war, as if it had not had variations in metropolitan France, would be a mistake. ” For four hours that night, he emphasizes, neither the police nor the gendarmerie had the slightest reaction: “It had been five years, at the time, that they had received orders to increase the pressure on the Algerians. The mayor of Metz, Raymond Mondon, enthusiastically supported French Algeria. The climate was right. “