Today, Christmas Eve, marks the 70th anniversary of an assassination in Algiers in 1942 that still is veiled in mystery, speculation, and conspiracy theories: though there has never been any dispute about who pulled the trigger. And though set in an Arab country, these conspiracy theories are not the product of Arab coffeehouse gossip at all. All the players are European or American.
Christmas Eve, 1942: only a few weeks after the Allied Operation Torch landings in French North Africa in November, the Allies have consolidated their hold on Morocco and Algeria, and are gearing up to battle the Germans for Tunisia. They had gained control of Vichy-controlled Morocco and Algeria in part by cutting deals with the local Vichy leadership and with Admiral Jean Louis Xavier François Darlan, former head of the French Navy and until the Torch landings Vice President of the Council in Vichy France, second only to Marshal Petain and Minister of Defense, Interior, and Foreign Affairs. By sheer chance Darlan had been visiting his ailing son in Algiers when the Allies landed, and he proceeded to maneuver to proclaim himself as High Commissioner of North Africa. In that capacity he won recognition from the Allied commander, General Eisenhower. Instead of becoming a prisoner of war, he found himself running the place with the Allies' blessing. This infuriated the local French resistance, it infuriated Charles de Gaulle and the Free French, and it did not sit well at all with Winston Churchill and the British,who unlike the Americans had never recognized the Vichy regime.
Admiral Darlan[view whole blog post ]