Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Egyptian Communists in Exile and Henri Curiel

To some archives and collections, additions are regularly received. One example is the collection Egyptian Communists in Exile. The first items were received in 1992. Minor additions were received at the end of 2016 and in January 2017.

The Egyptian communist movement was founded in 1922 and revived after World War II when the Egyptian Movement for National Liberation, led by Henri Curiel, merged with a number of other groups. In 1948, and in subsequent years, many of its leaders, including a number with a Jewish background, were arrested and deported. The Egyptian communists played a role in bringing an end to Egypt’s monarchy in 1952 and initially supported the new regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser. The most striking of them was Henri Curiel, born in 1914 in Cairo to a Jewish family of Spanish and Italian origin.

Henri Curiel, BG A64/846

Under Nasser, the Egyptian communists ceased to play much of a role. Curiel began to support the Algerian cause, and especially the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN). Curiel also co-founded Solidarité, a group offering support to anti-colonial resistance movements in the Third World. The groups' archive  is also at the IISH. Curiel was murdered in Paris on 4 May 1978. He is buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery. His death gave rise to as many memorials as conspiracy theories. The Institute has a copy of the Canal Plus documentary ‘Qui a assassiné Henri Curiel?’.

The addition to the archive received in 2016, from Roger Esmiol, includes documents relating to the inquiry into the murder of Curiel and possible obstruction by the French secret service. That investigation does not go beyond concluding that the Palestinian group Abu Nidal might have been responsible for the murder. But there is an entirely different theory too.

Documents from the Préfecture de Police and the lawyer for Curiel’s heirs suggest a different possibility: an extreme right-wing European network centred on the former Organisation armée secrète, the OAS, which carried out terrorist attacks in France and Algeria in 1961-1962. A world of hazy pseudonyms, but also, and specifically, a meeting that apparently took place in Catalonia (in Lérida, 100 km from Barcelona) in March 1978 at which Curiel’s assassination was planned. Who was present? A French officer (?), a member of the Spanish secret service, and some former OAS members, it is suggested. The Delta Commando, a former OAS cell, claimed responsibility for the killing, though it is not clear how much credence should be attributed to this. What is the truth? In 2015 the memoirs of the French fascist and mercenary René Resciniti de Says (1951-2012) were published. It was he who killed the left-wing activist Pierre Goldman (Lyon, 1944), half-brother of the singer Jean-Jacques Goldman (Paris, 1951), in 1979 and possibly also killed Curiel. Curiel’s family called for the case to be reopened. It is doubtful whether we will ever really know who was responsible for Curiel’s death.
(Bouwe Hijma)

Read more about the addition 2017: Henri Curiel and Joyce Blau

21 March 2017