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Algeria during WW2
22 July 1940 – 16 November 1942
Landing of Oran (November 1942)
LocationFrench Algeria

Algeria was a minor country in World War II. In the beginning of the war it was governed under the French Republic, however after the Battle of France it was taken by Vichy France,[1] then retaken by the Americans and British during Operation Torch in 1942,[2] As for the population, they mostly opposed the Vichy Regime, and supported the Allies, by helping Jews, and some sources believe that Algerian Muslims hid Jews from the Vichy Regime to keep them safe. During Operation Torch the Allies were assisted by local Jewish Algerian Resistance.[3]


In 1939, the state of French politics in Algeria proved ineffective, failing to address critical issues. Economic instability loomed large, with the specter of famine looming, while calls for equal rights from patriots went unheeded. Attempts to revoke draconian laws fell on deaf ears in the French Parliament, and even proposed reforms like the Blum Viollette proposal faltered. Consequently, tensions escalated, leading to the dissolution of the Algerian Communist Party. Furthermore, the Association of Algerian Muslim Ulema declined to support France in the war.[4][5] Moreover, the establishment of the North African Revolutionary Committee [fr] by People's Party militants exacerbated the situation. This committee, aligned with the Nazis, advocated for Algerian collaboration with the Nazis to expel France from Algeria. Consequently, a significant number of Algerian militants were swayed to join the Nazi cause against France.[6] As a result, France closed the Algerian People's Party in September 1939.[7]

Algerian Political Parties Stance on WW2

People's Party

Prior to the outbreak of World War II, the People's Party had already been shuttered, with 28 of its leaders apprehended on October 4, 1939. However, following the Vichy regime's acquisition of Algeria subsequent to the Battle of France, the party was reinstated. The People's Party was once again closed in May 1945, following a significant demonstration in Algiers involving 20,000 protestors. This proved that the People's Party was aligned with the Nazis.[7]

Association of Algerian Muslim Ulema

During the war, the Association of Muslim Ulema refused any cooperation with France.[4] However, the passing of Abdelhamid ibn Badis while under house arrest left the association in need of new leadership, leading to Bashir Al Ibrahimi's ascension. The allegiance of the association during World War II remains uncertain they may have adopted a neutral stance.[8]

Algerian Communist Party

The Algerian Communist Party, akin to the People's Party, was disbanded prior to the war on September 26, 1939, largely due to ongoing French oppression in Algeria.[4] Additionally, it harbored a rivalry with the People's Party, viewing it as a similar entity vying for political dominance. However, unlike its counterpart, the Algerian Communist Party held a favorable stance toward the Soviet Union, and played a pivotal role in expelling the Vichy regime from Algeria. Consequently, the Algerian Communist Party aligned itself with the Allies.[9]

Under Vichy

Conditions of Algeria under Vichy

On June 22, 1940, Marshall Petain signed an Armistice with Nazi Germany, Relocating to the South of France, while keeping Algeria and the rest of North Africa with Charles de Gaulle continuing the war through overseas territories[10] pushing The British Empire to Attack Mers El Kebir shortly after, that was condemened by France as a rupture between both countries.[1] According to Benjamin Stora, who had a Jewish Algerian grandfather, Jews lost the right to work, on many different aspects, press, military, even sometimes having their properties stolen, with their children losing the right to education and basic needs.[10][11] No matter how hard the Vichy Regime tried to separate the Jews and Muslims they failed to do so.[11]

By taking away the rights of Jews, you are not granting any new rights to Muslims. The equality you have achieved between Jews and Muslims is an equality in degradation

In addition to that The Economic Programming Law of July 22, 1941 with the Aryanization of Jewish Property with Many Labour Camps[11] Overall, the Algerian population held a negative view of the Vichy regime. Additionally, following the revocation of the Crémieux Decree on October 7, 1940, they provided assistance to Algerian Jews[12] Furthermore Algerian Jews held fierce resistance against Vichy France mainly in 1942 with the Takeover of Algiers, Despite the reconquest, France couldn't reinstate Jewish citizenship until 1943, considering it a minor issue in comparison to the military conflicts with the Axis powers, Jewish resistance in Algeria extended beyond military actions to include education. In 1941, a group comprising Algerian Muslims and Jews collaborated to establish a university. Unfortunately, by the end of the same year, the university was dissolved.[3]

Algerian collaborators with Germany

Saïd Mohammedi

One of the most Notable Algerian collaborators was Saïd Mohammedi who at the start served the French army, before becoming intensenly nationalistic, becoming a North African Star Activist, and joining Al Husseini to collaborate with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, before being arrested in 1944 by French authorities in Tebessa.[13] After the war, he became a FLN soldier and helped with the Liberation of Algeria.[14]

Muhammed Al-Maadi

Muhammad al-Maadi was an Algerian Gestapo member who supported and collaborated with Vichy and Germany who encouraged Muslim anti-Semitism, and was a part of the Revolutionary Social Movement. After the defeat of Germany, he hid with his wife in Germany, before getting into contact with Al Husseini who helped him flee to Egypt. He died of throat cancer in 1954 or 1957.[15]

Military operations in Algeria

On November 8, 1942, The Allies led by Eisenhower landed into West North Africa (Morocco and Algeria) with the American navy attacking two ports in Algeria, Mers El Kebir and Algiers.[16]

Naval Operations

Main article: Operation Torch


Main article: Operation Reservist

The Center Task Force faced challenges during the landings on three beaches near Oran. Delays occurred at the westernmost beach due to a French convoy interrupting mine-clearing efforts. Unexpected shallowness and sandbars caused confusion and damage to landing ships, as reconnaissance of maritime conditions had not been conducted beforehand. This highlighted the importance of pre-invasion reconnaissance for future operations, like Operation Overlord, The U.S. 1st Ranger Battalion landed east of Oran, capturing the shore battery at Arzew swiftly. An attempt to directly land U.S. infantry at the harbor to prevent destruction failed, with the French vessels destroying two Allied sloops. The Vichy French naval fleet left the harbor and attacked the Allied fleet, resulting in the sinking or grounding of all its ships.[2]


Main article: Operation Terminal

On November 8, 1942, the invasion of Algiers began with landings on three beaches—two west and one east. Major-General Charles W. Ryder commanded the landing forces, which included the British 78th Infantry Division's 11th Brigade Group and the US 34th Infantry Division's 168th and 39th Regimental Combat Teams. British 78th Infantry Division's 36th Brigade Group remained in reserve.[17] Despite some landings going astray, the lack of French opposition rendered this inconsequential. Coastal batteries had been neutralized by the French Resistance, and one French commander switched allegiance to the Allies. The only conflict occurred in the port of Algiers during Operation Terminal, where two British destroyers aimed to prevent the French from destroying port facilities and ships. Heavy artillery fire hindered one destroyer, but the other managed to land 250 Rangers before being forced back to sea.[2]

Post-operation Torch

The French government relocated to Algiers in 1943 and remained there until Liberation. The French North Africa provided a logistical "springboard" for the Allies in operations against the Axis in Tunisia, Sicily, Italy in 1943, and Provence in 1944.[18][19]

In the vast expanses of Africa, France could indeed rebuild its army and sovereignty while awaiting the entry of new allies, alongside the old ones, to tip the balance of power. However, Africa within reach of the Italian, Balkan, and Spanish peninsulas would provide an excellent springboard back into Europe, which would happen to be French.

— Charles De Gaulle, Memoires of De Gaulle Charles, [18]

May 8, 1945

On May 8, 1945, Algerians marked Germany's surrender by proudly waving their newly adopted nationalist flags. In Setif, around 5,000 people joined in the celebration. However, the French gendarmerie reacted negatively, harassing Algerians and attempting to seize their nationalist flags.[20] Following the initial confrontation, violence escalated as shots were fired, though it remains unclear who instigated the gunfire. Both police and protesters were injured or killed in the ensuing chaos. In Guelma, similar protests were met with violent suppression. In an act of retaliation, some individuals from Setif ventured into the countryside, where they targeted and killed 102 Harkis (Pied-Noirs), presumably as a form of revenge.[21] the massacre resulted in the death of either 45,000 [22][23] or 30,000 Algerian Muslims.[24]


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  2. ^ a b c "Frederick Thornton Peters - The Canadian Virtual War Memorial - Veterans Affairs Canada". 2019-02-20. Retrieved 2024-03-01.
  3. ^ a b "The Jews of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia". Retrieved 2024-03-03.
  4. ^ a b c "Algeria during the Second World War".
  5. ^ للإطلاع أكثر في كتاب: نشاط جمعية العلماء المسلمين الجزائريين في فرنسا 1936-1954 ، بورنان سعيد ، دار هومه ، الجزائر، 2012.
  6. ^ M'Hamed Tazir Hamida, "Commémoration du valeureux militant Taleb Mohamed", Association du 11 décembre 1960, Ministère des Moudjahidines, Alger 2007.
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  10. ^ a b Benjamin Stora, Les trois exils, Juifs d'Algérie. p. 81.
  11. ^ a b c d "" L'Algérie sous Vichy ", sur Arte, revient sur la stratégie pétainiste pour diviser les juifs et les musulmans d'Algérie". Le (in French). 2022-01-18. Retrieved 2024-03-01.
  12. ^ Stovall, Tyler; Van den Abbeele, Georges, eds. (2003). French civilization and its discontents: nationalism, colonialism, race. After the Empire: the francophone world and postcolonial France. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0-7391-0646-4.
  13. ^ Wimmer-Lamquet, Franz (2005). Balkenkreuz und Halbmond: als Abwehroffizier in Afrika und im Vorderen Orient (in German). Ares. ISBN 978-3-902475-18-3.
  14. ^ Lee, Martin A. (1997). The beast reawakens (1 ed.). Boston: Little, Brown and Co. ISBN 978-0-316-51959-5.
  15. ^ Cole, Joshua (2019). Lethal Provocation: The Constantine Murders and the Politics of French Algeria. Cornell University Press. ISBN 9781501739439. LCCN 2018053804.
  16. ^ "Débarquement en Afrique du Nord de 1942 : la mémoire trouble de l'opération « Torch »". Le (in French). 2022-11-07. Retrieved 2024-03-01.
  17. ^ Playfair, Ian Stanley Ord; Molony, C. J. C. (2004). The destruction of the Axis Forces in Africa. The Mediterranean and Middle East. F. C. Flynn, T. P. Gleave. Uckfield, East Sussex: The Naval & Military Press. ISBN 978-1-84574-068-9.
  18. ^ a b "De Gaulle Charles, Mémoires". Vingtième Siècle. Revue d'histoire. 68 (4): 160–161. 2000-10-01. doi:10.3917/ving.p2000.68n1.0160. ISSN 0294-1759. S2CID 266654806.
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  20. ^ Ted Morgan (2005). My battle of Algiers. Internet Archive. Smithsonian Books/Collins. ISBN 978-0-06-085224-5.
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  22. ^ Bouaricha, Nadjia (7 May 2015). "70 ans de déni". El Watan.
  23. ^ "Massacres of 8 May 1945: Crimes against humanity, not recognized by France 75 years later".
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