Algiers, "capital" of Free France


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Title: Algiers, provisional capital of France.

Creation date : 1943

Date shown: 03 November 1943

Dimensions: Height 24.3 - Width 15

Technique and other indications: Silver print

Storage location: Memorial of Caen, city of history for peace (Caen) website

Contact copyright: © O.F.I.C / The Caen Memorial

Picture reference: 34236 / MEMO_PHOT_00729

Algiers, provisional capital of France.

© O.F.I.C / The Caen Memorial

Publication date: May 2014

Historical context

Opening session of the Provisional Consultative Assembly of Algiers

On November 8, 1942, Operation Torch (code name for the Allied landing in North Africa) allowed the progressive liberation of Algeria and Morocco. After a period of transition where French North Africa remains partially subject to the Vichy regime, the creation of the French Committee for National Liberation (CFLN) on June 3, 1943 confirms the merger of the two French authorities engaged on the Allied side: the French Committee. National of London led by General de Gaulle (leader of Free France) and the civilian and military command of Algiers, led by General Giraud.

A government body (led first by the two men and then de facto by de Gaulle alone from October 1943), the C.F.L.N. created by the ordinance of September 17, 1943 a Provisional Consultative Assembly. Placed under the authority of the C.F.L.N., this resistance parliament must "represent the resistance movements, the political parties and the territories engaged in the war alongside the Allies" by giving opinions on the decisions of the C.F.L.N.

Represented by “Algiers, provisional capital of France”, the inaugural session of this Assembly was held at the Palais Carnot in Algiers on November 3, 1943. Like the many images broadcast around the world of this event, both political and highly symbolic. , such a photograph has many other meanings, with heavy consequences on the consciousness and representations of the time.

Image Analysis

De Gaulle in the center

Reportage photograph intended for the news (the session is also filmed), “Algiers, provisional capital of France” shows a moment of the speech that de Gaulle, as president of the C.F.L.N., made at the beginning of this inaugural session.

Positioned among the members of the Assembly (visible from behind in the foreground) and quite close to the podium, the photographer chose to frame the general in the center of the image. Moreover, it is a vertical succession of three elements that symbolically and visually construct the photograph: the bust of Marianne which stands out against a large tricolor flag covering the entire back wall; the base on which it is placed, which bears the initials “RF” and the cross of Lorraine; de Gaulle himself, in uniform, his hands on the desk and speaking into the microphones. Following this structuring axis, two session secretaries take notes in an almost mimetic manner, which seem to continue this line and distribute it, now horizontal, in the Assembly.

Two rows emerge in front of the "deputies", while continuing on the sides. They are essentially made up of soldiers: navy, army and air force (from North Africa and Free France). The women (rather in the bottom row) and the men (above) are all here in uniform and are placed according to their weapon and their troop (grouped at the top, alternating for the women). Two members of C.F.L.N. are also seated at desks immediately behind the speaker.


The return of the Republic

"Algiers, provisional capital of France" first represents the return of the French Republic. Banned (in fact and at least partially) by the Vichy regime, which preferred other emblems to her, Marianne once again dominates the Assembly and therefore the country of her authority. Likewise, the mention "RF" (French Republic), which follows it and repeats it in vertical order.

The Lorraine cross, the emblem of free France, is also part of this symbolic and political "lineage". While this is not the Republic itself, the image nevertheless suggests a sort of continuity and constitutive link between the two entities. Of course, the first remains the main reference, but it is now combined with the second.

A cross of Lorraine which itself continues in the man who embodies free France. De Gaulle, whose head partly hides her, gives the impression of merging with her. Recently sole president of C.F.L.N. and having finally achieved unity under his command, the general then appears in the eyes of all as the one who represents and expresses France, defined by this line Marianne - RF - Croix de Lorraine - de Gaulle.

The victorious soldiers and the deputies also constitute this rediscovered, gathered and realized France. Indeed, and even if they are not elected, the members of the Assembly (which is in this provisional capacity) distinguished themselves, according to Crémieux-Brilhac "by opposing the enemy and the Vichy regime. Delegates of resistance movements and trade union centers reconstituted underground on national soil, parliamentarians from 1939 who did not subscribe on July 10, 1940 to the abdication of the Republic, representatives of the committees of Free France through the world or volunteer fighters still in the uniform of the Free French Forces ”make up this scene where resistant France and the leader she now recognizes are exposed.

  • War of 39-45
  • De Gaulle (Charles)
  • Algeria
  • Resistance
  • Liberation (war)
  • Free French Forces
  • photography
  • reportage
  • London


Jean-Pierre AZÉMA, New history of contemporary France, volume XIV “From Munich to the Liberation, 1938-1944”, Paris, Le Seuil, coll. “Points Histoire”, 1979, new. ed. 2002.

Jean-Louis CRÉMIEUX-BRILHAC, Free France, Paris, Gallimard, 1996.

Yves Maxime DANAN, Political life in Algiers from 1940 to 1944, Paris, L.G.D.J., 1963.

Charles de GAULLE, War memories, volume II "Unity: 1942-1944", Paris, Plon, 1956.

Christine LEVISSE-TOUZE, North Africa at war, 1939-1945, Paris, Albin Michel, 1998.

François MARCOT (dir.), Historical Dictionary of the Resistance. Internal resistance and free France, Paris, Robert Laffont, coll. “Books”, 2006.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "Algiers," capital "of Free France"

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