ALGIERS – The May 8th massacre was a series of widespread killings in and around Sétif, west of Constantine, in 1945, according to Wikipedia.
Colonial French police fired on local demonstrators at a protest on May 8th 1945, causing the death of about 45,000 . Both the outbreak and the indiscriminate nature of its repression are thought to have marked a turning point in Franco-Algerian relations, leading to the Algerian War of 1954–62.
The event’s outbreak occurred on the morning of May 8th 1945, after Nazi Germany was surrendered in World War II.
A parade by about 5,000 of Algerian population of Sétif to celebrate the victory, as France had promised to grant Algeria independence in case of the victory, ended in clashes between the marchers and the local French gendarmerie.
This was followed by a smaller protest in the neighboring town of Guelma.
In this aspect, the historian Alistair Horne reports that there were a number of rapes and that many of the corpses were mutilated.
After five days of chaos, the French military and police suppressed the protesters, and then carried out a series of attacks; troops, carried out summary executions and less accessible mechtas (Muslim villages) were bombed by French aircraft.
These attacks killed between 1,020 (the official French figure given in the Tubert Report shortly after the massacre) and 45,000 people (as announced by Radio Cairo at the time).
The Sétif outbreak and the repression that followed marked a turning point in the relations between France and the Algerians.
Impact on modern Algerian/French relations
In February 2005, Hubert Colin de Verdière, France’s ambassador to Algeria, formally apologized for the massacre, calling it an “inexcusable tragedy.”
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