Algeria became a French colony in 1830. Three coastal provinces (Algiers, Constantine, Oran) were turned into Départements in 1848. The rest of the country was conquered during the following decades. When German forces overran France in 1940, the armistice signed on 22 June left the new French government in Vichy in charge of its North African territories and the French military stationed there. On 7/8 November 1942, sections of the Algerian coast became landing sites for “Operation Torch”, the allied invasion of North Africa. Vichy troops resisted for a few days, inflicting heavy casualties in some places. With Algeria under allied control, a French Committee of National Liberation was formed in Algiers on 3 June 1943 by Henri Giraud, the French High Commissioner in North Africa, and Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French. On 2 June 1944, the Committee became the Provisional Government of the French Republic, which retained its seat in Algiers until Paris was liberated two months later. Algeria has been an independent state since 1962.
By 1936, Algeria had a mostly Muslim population of 6,160,000 people. They were dominated by 946,000 French-European settlers. The strength of the Jewish community is difficult to determine: at the last separate count, in 1921, there were 73,946 “Israelites” (naturalised citizens since the Crémieux decree of 24 October 1870) among the municipal population of the coastal areas. On the eve of the Second World War, Algerian Jews made up for some 120,000 people (no more than 2 percent of the total population). While they had accepted French colonial rule more readily than the Muslim population and supplied various services to the administration, they saw their citizenship revoked by the Vichy government’s Jewish Statute of 7 October 1940. Jewish teachers were removed from office, and a numerus clausus for lawyers and doctors was introduced. Without any prompting by the Germans, the Vichy military set up a forced labour camp at Bedeau village some 200 kilometres south of Oran. It held mainly Algerian Jewish soldiers of the French army, apparently in order to prevent them from joining the Free French. While conditions were harsh, no fatalities are known. Regardless of the Jews’ prominent role in the Algiers resistance, anti-Jewish legislation adopted by the Vichy government remained in place until March 1943. Citizenship for Jews was restored in October 1943.
As Algeria was a French colony until 1962, the vast majority of the relevant archives for the war period are located in France. The most important institution is the Archives Nationales d’Outre-Mer (ANOM) in Aix-en-Provence. The National Archives of Algeria were only created in 1987. They are organised according to the administrative structures of the country: ministries, 48 provinces (wilayas) divided in 553 districts (daïras) and municipalities. There are possibly also some private archives, whose importance cannot be assessed at this time. The National Archives of Algeria have not outlined a private archives policy yet. Access to archival sources is further complicated by an ongoing dispute between Algeria and France over the ownership of the holdings regarding the colonial period.
EHRI Research (Summary)
As a general rule, access to North African archives depends on the political situation in the region as a whole. Furthermore, archival guides are not readily available. Based on expert information, EHRI was able to assert that scholars in Algeria have begun research on the history of the Jews in Algeria that is based on local sources and published in French.
While a number of archives and institutions in Algeria are likely to be relevant for Holocaust-research, the exact nature and importance of their holdings have yet to be determined by EHRI. Outside of Algeria, however, the Ben Zvi Institute (Yad Ben Zvi) in Israel holds sources relevant to Holocaust-research on all of North Africa, including Algeria.