October 17

This Day in History

General Interest

Oct 17, 1961:

Algerians massacred in Paris

Paris police massacre more than 200 Algerians marching in the city in support of peace talks to end their country's war of independence against France.

Tensions were running high in Paris at the time, with Algerian terrorists setting off bombs in the French capital and randomly killing Paris policemen. In response, Paris police chief Maurice Papon ordered a crackdown on Paris' Algerian community, explaining to his officers that they would be protected against any charges of excessive violence. Police searched the Algerian ghettos for terrorists, killing a number of innocent Algerians before turning their guns on a group of 30,000 protesters who defied a curfew and gathered near the Seine River on the night of October 17. The next day, the police released an official death toll of three dead and 67 wounded, a figure generally disregarded by witnesses who observed bodies littering the area and floating in the Seine.

In 1981, it was revealed that Maurice Papon had collaborated with the Nazis during the German occupation of France, and he was forced to resign his three-year-old position as budget minister in the cabinet. Papon, a former official in France's Vichy regime, was suspected of aiding in the deportation of hundreds of French Jews to the Nazi death camps. After avoiding a trial for 17 years, Papon was found guilty of ''complicity in crimes against humanity'' in 1998 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. During his trial, documents about the 1961 massacre in Paris surfaced, acknowledging that Papon's policemen had killed many more Algerians than previously admitted.

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