For years, the French historian Benjamin Stora played a pioneering role in bringing about a rapprochement between Algeria and France. He was always the first reference for French leaders regarding the file of the French colonization of Algeria.
French President Emmanuel Macron chose the historian Benjamin Stora to oversee the thorny memory file between Algeria and France. He presented his report to the president on extricating the relationship between the two countries from the paralysis caused by the pending memory issues. Who is Stora, the “expert of Algeria”?
The French historian Benjamin Stora was born in Constantine, Algeria, in 1950 AD, from a Jewish sect rooted in Algeria, and his childhood coincided with the explosion of the Algerian revolution. He moved with his family to France, where he settled there.
According to Euro News, Stora was the historian who whispered in the ears of French presidents since the 1980s to confront the issue of “France’s recognition of its colonial past,” especially in Algeria.
Mohamed Harbi, historian and former Algerian leader, says that “Stora does a lot for the rapprochement between Algeria and France,” explaining that he talks with the greats of this world and remains conservative.
Mitterrand’s term (1981-1995)
During François Mitterrand’s presidency, Stora was still a member of the International Communist Organization until 1984, until Mitterrand convinced him to join the Socialist Party.
Historian Stora met Mitterrand more than once, and they discussed the role the former French president played in Algeria. “In fact, Mitterrand had a specific idea in mind. He knew that I knew a lot about the Algeria war, and I think, looking back, he wanted me.” To write about him and Algeria, as he did with Pierre Bain about Vichy. ”
At that time, the young historian was convinced of the extent of Mitterrand’s responsibility for carrying out death sentences against many Algerian activists, who refused to pardon them. At the same time, he was Minister of Justice between 1956 and 1957.
In a book he wrote in 2010 with journalist Francois Pyle, Stora said that Mitterrand accompanied and implemented a general movement to accept the colonial system and its repressive methods.
Jacques Chirac (1995-2007)
Stora views with appreciation the role played by former French President Jacques Chirac, who was credited with lifting the cover on the Feldiff Report in 1995 that recognizes the French state’s responsibility in the displacement of Jews during the July 16, 1942 period.
Chirac also pushed for Algerian reconciliation by declaring an Algerian year in France in 2003 and led a successful visit to Algeria. He met his counterpart, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, as that visit opened the way to the French-Algerian friendship treaty.
In the absence of a direct relationship between Stora and Chirac, the French historian met with the French ambassador to Algeria, Hubert Colin de Verdier, who gave a speech in Setif condemning the police suppression of the violent demonstrations that broke out in the city in May 1945.
Stora also spoke with Bernard Bargolet, the ambassador who succeeded Hubert Colin de Verdière, who was later appointed Director-General of External Security, and said at the time, “Barjouli told me that he wanted to follow Setif’s speech and this is what he did in 2008 during his visit to Guelma.”
Sarkozy’s presidency (2007-2012)
Sarkozy was the first French president to directly hint at an apology for the French crimes in Algeria. He also gave a speech in which he acknowledged the colonial system’s oppression but refused to differentiate between victims or give them a priority.
“It was an interesting speech, but it was only one time,” says Stora, who met Henri Gino, an advisor to Nicolas Sarkozy. Despite this, Stora’s relations with Sarkozy have seen little momentum.
Holland period (2012-2017)
The French historian Stora was very close to President François Hollande, even before his official arrival in office, and the historian organized the event of Hollande’s attendance at the Clichy Bridge to deliver a rose in honor of the Algerians who were dumped by the police in the Seine on October 17, 1961.
Stora and Holland met in 2006 when the Socialist Party leader wanted to pay an official visit to Algeria and be accompanied by Benjamin Stora, to start a long relationship between the two men even after Holland arrives in the Elysee.
Stora confirmed that he did not have a position or office next to Holland. He was described as the “historian of the president,” explaining that his contacts with the president were informal conversations. Face-to-face meetings with him or with Paul Jean Ortiz, his diplomatic advisor, raise issues of history or international politics.
During his election campaign in 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Algeria, describing colonialism as “a crime against humanity … we must face it and also apologize.”
“I did not advise Macron to say this,” Stora commented, and Macron has met the French historian several times since he came to power.
“There should be a reconciliation between memories, but not at any price,” says Stora. “It must be said that the colonial system was reprehensible … and this is one of the strongest ideas.”
Last July, Macron commissioned the French historian to prepare the report to find a way out of the memory issues that are still stuck in the minds of millions of families in France between returnees and Algerian activists who fought alongside the French army, as well as conscripts and immigrants.
Stora prepared the report on the colonial period and the Algerian war (1954-1962). He proposed returning Saif al-Amir Abdelkader, the leader of the resistance against French colonialism in the nineteenth century, to Algeria.
In his report, the historian suggested that France acknowledge the assassination of a lawyer and political activist Ali Boumengel during Algiers’ Battle in 1957. The French officer Paul Aussares acknowledged in his memoirs.
After Macron received the report, the French presidency said it intends to take “symbolic steps” to address the Algerian war file, but it will not offer “apologies.”