6. A WWII Victory Parade Ended With the Massacre of Tens of Thousands
During WWII, 200,000 Algerians were conscripted into the French military by their colonial overlords. When Germany surrendered, thousands of Algerian men, women, and children, held a victory parade in the town of Setif, to lay a wreath at a monument commemorating the Algerians killed. The parade angered French settlers and French police, because some marchers carried placards stating “We Want Equality“, and “End the Occupation“, while others called for the release of Algerian political prisoners. The French opened fire on the marchers, triggering widespread rioting, followed by attacks on French settlers in the surrounding countryside in which about 100 were killed.
The French responded with a campaign of collective punishment. French warships bombarded native Algerian neighborhoods in Setif, dive bombers flattened over 40 nearby villages, and soldiers carried out a ratissage, or “raking over” of Algerian rural communities suspected of involvement in the unrest, in which thousands were shot. French settlers went on a rampage in which they lynched Algerians seized from local jails, shot natives out of hand, tortured them to death, or doused them in fuel and set them on fire. The exact number of victims is unknown, but most historians put the death toll within a range of 6000 to 20,000, while some contemporary sources put the figure as high as 45,000.