PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron, pursuing his attempt to resolve some of his country’s most painful colonial legacies, today asked for “forgiveness” on behalf of France for the abandonment of the hundreds of thousands of Algerian Arabs who fought on the French side in the Algerian war of independence.
At the end of the eight-year war in 1962, the more than 200,000 Algerians who had sided with the French Army were abandoned to their fate, although France had indicated that it would take care of them. Many were tortured and massacred by the Algerian authorities after a war characterized by singular brutality.
Algerian anger against the “Harkis,” as they are known in France, ran so deep that even in 2000, during a visit to Paris, the former Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, compared them to Nazi collaborators.
Viewed as traitors in their homeland, roughly 90,000 Harkis managed to flee to France — as did about 800,000 “Pieds-Noirs,” French Algerians of European descent — but they met a hostile reception. They were a reminder of a lost war. Former President Charles de Gaulle, who brought the war to an end, was dismissive of them. Unwelcome strangers, Harkis were held in camps with their families, often in appalling conditions.