Algeria: The Final Showdown 1960-1962
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(Aug 09, 2011)
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Episode 4: To the Barricades
French colonialists in Algiers staged an
insurrection, known as La Semaine des
Barricades (the week of the barricades).
The future of the Fifth Republic hung in
the balance as the French army in Algeria
considered joining the revolt.
Episode 5: The Suitcase or the Coffin
On July 3, 1962 de Gaulle declared Algeria
an independent country. The Algerian War
had ended, the flight of a million French
Algerians to France, however, had just begun.
Top customer reviews
De Gaulle road the backs of the French of Algeria and the army into power a few years before. But in the aftermath, he told the crowds famously "I understand you" which is one of those famous subtile statements of historical irony. De Gaulle did understand them and had no intention of being controlled or overthrown by them. He stood up to them and drove France right to the edge of a military coup if not a civil war. But he defeated them. He broke their political power and the military power that backed them. Its really epic history told in documentary form.
Its only fault is that its explaination of why the coup collapsed is less than complete. It glosses over many events and tells less than the full story. Its but its excellent. I only wish they had completed the overall story by following events out to their natural conclusion in 1968.
The documentary was originally released only 10 years after the end of the war when the conflict was still fresh on the minds of both the French and the Algerians as well as other participants. According to the IMBd, "cobblestones were thrown at the façade of the Saint-Séverin Cinema as a screening of "La guerre d'Algérie" took place in Paris on 22nd October 1971". The war still has a bitter impact on both countries to this day. It was not until 1999 that the Algerian War was allowed to be taught in French public schools.
This whole tragedy might possibly had been averted as late as only five years before the war had France recognized the Algerians as French citizens and bestowed all the rights of citizenship. However, many French politicians feared that French culture would be deluded and become Moslem oriented, and would result in a shift of political power. They were supported by the Pied Noir, the French citizens of Algeria, for whom the status quo gave them political and economical advantage over the native Algerians. The end result was tragic.
An observation I may want to add is that we Americans view this sad episode as just another hopeless colonial war. However, for the French, Algeria was France and was considered another department of Metropolitan France no different than one of the 50 States of our Union. Therefore, a majority of the French people viewed it as a war no different as if Texas or California decided it wanted to secede from the U.S. and become independent. The French tried to convince NATO to enter the war claiming that Metropolitan France was being attacked by an insurgency supported by an external threat - Nasser's Egypt and the Soviets. The Eisenhower Administration refused to buy that line of thinking and voted against it. This added just another reason for resentment and mistrust by the soon to be elected President Charles de Gaulle and would have significant ramifications on American-French relations within the decade following the war.