Algeria 1957

The Iveton Affair

Translated: for by Mitch Abidor;
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In February 1957, a failed bombing in Algiers grabbed France’s attention. The person arrested was Algerian, but not an Arab Algerian. Rather, he was of European origin, the pied-noir liberation fighter, Fernand Iveton.

Iveton was born in 1926 to a Spanish mother and a French father. His father was a member of the Algerian Communist party (PCA) and Fernand, too, joined it at an early age. His political work was carried out openly until 1956, when the PCA and the FLN signed an agreement, integrating the Communists into the FLN. Iveton passed from the armed communist group Les Combattants de la Libération to the FLN.

Iveton worked at the Algerian Gas and Electric Company, so the leadership of the FLN assigned him to plant a bomb at his workplace. He placed the bomb in his locker, and, in order to avoid killing anyone, set the timer so it would explode when the factory was empty. Because of his political record he was closely watched by his supervisors, and the bomb was discovered before it could explode.

Iveton was arrested, tortured, and, after a mockery of a trial, sentenced to death. A group of lawyers visited President René Coty in an attempt to get him to commute the sentence, pleading in extenuation the purity of Iveton’s motives and the fact that no one was killed. Due in part to the atmosphere of hatred generated by the press against Iveton, a Frenchman who had taken up arms for the “enemy,” their steps were in vain, and Fernand Iveton was guillotined on February 11, 1957, the only European to meet this fate during the war in Algeria.

He wrote the following letter while his fate still hung in the balance. It appears to be written to the Paris-based Communist lawyer, Joe Nördmann, who was part of the group that tried to secure the commutation of his sentence.

February 8, 1957

Dear Comrade:

I'm writing these few lines in response to your certified letter of February 5, 1957 and which found me in good health and an unshakeable morale knowing you were with the President of the Republic. I awaited news with impatience but without any weakening. On the contrary during these few days my discussions have moved along and I found among my guards a fair amount of understanding and even, from some of them, sympathy. Dear comrade, I know that I can have confidence in the French people; you must give them on every possible occasion my fraternal greetings with my thanks and my certain hope that I'll be able to do this myself in the not too distant future. My morale is good, for I think that according to the account you gave me in your letter of the visit with the President of the Republic that there is much hope. With all my heart and my conviction that we will see each other again as free men. Thank you and now here’s how things are for me.

Tuesday February 5 in the morning they brought me down to the civil tribunal. I don’t know why they left me alone in a cell and afterwards they brought me back up to the convoy without having asked me anything. Today at 9:00 a.m. I was confronted at the prison with Hakouf “Foukams” in the presence of Maitre Ben Mella it seems I did well, and for the affair of the 5th it’s surely for Mme Germudj (?) but she’s on a hunger strike so it’s been put off. Finally dear comrade, for me the struggle of our people and the disinterested support of the people of France are the guarantee of our liberation. Our detention being considered as prisoners of war would be more consistent with justice. For the UN has disappointed many people here. Finally, in the hope of reading you very soon and to know if possible the results of the steps you took. Receive, dear comrade, along with all my pals condemned to death, my fraternal greetings.

Fernand Iveton