Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Harry Salem

“They Tortured me till Dawn” April 18, 2009


The French Midnight Editions published in 1958 “The Question” by Henri Alleg. The real name is Harry Salem

Henri was the director of the daily “The Republican Algeria” and he was a militant communist. When the French government in 1955 gave the French army in Algeria wide authorities to squelch the Algerian revolution for independence then the daily “L’Algier Republicain” was shut down. 

Henri went into hiding but was captured in 1957 along with Maurice Audin, an assistant in mathematics at the Algeria University.  Maurice died during interrogation and succumbed to torture. Henri managed to survive and a copy of his manuscript was whisked to Paris. 

The French government banned the book for hurting army morale, incitement to disobedience and defamation of the police force.  Laurent Heynemann made a movie of “The question” in 1977.


“A young parachutist covered me with a blanket saying: “Why do you refuse to betray your friends? You must be very courageous to resist that long to torture” He offered me water but I barely felt like drinking.  It was Friday evening and they had started torturing me on Wednesday.  In the corridor I could hear orders being shouted and then terrible cries of a woman in pains were heard in the cell across of mine. 

They tortured till dawn and I could hear howling, beatings, and curses.  I realized that this was not an exceptional night; it was a routine night and the parachutists were getting used to their daily tasks.  I cried my eye out for hate and humiliation as I heard for the first time the howling and pains of the agonizing detainees.

            I was half conscious and slept only in the morning and was wakened up in the evening.  I was offered a bowl of hot soup; my first meal in three days. I had difficulty eating because my tongue, palate, and lips were hurting from the electrical wires they inserted in my mouth to torture me. Many places in my body were burned and they were infected.  My right arm and shoulder seemed paralyzed.

            A nurse checked my pulse and declared to the physician “He is fine, just a little nervous. We can go ahead” They were experimenting with a “truth serum” injected in my vein drop by drop. That was the scientific method that I overheard during the torture sessions. I remembered from what read on the subject that if we had strong will then they would fail in their attempt and I tried to calm my nerves.  I inserted my useless left arm in the pocket of my trousers and pressed on my thigh to refresh my spirit that this was not a dream. The physician ordered me: “Count slowly. Go


            The Russian author Vassili Grossman (1905-1964) wrote “Life and Destiny“. He was a reporter for the Bolshevik daily “The Red Star” during the Second World War and witnessed the horrors of the war and detention centers. Vassili took precautions to leaving two microfilms of his manuscript with Andrei Sakharov and Vladimir Dimitrijevic. 

The KGB had confiscated the manuscript, the carbon copy, and the typewriter ribbons.  “Life and Destiny” was published in 1980; it is in the genre of “War and Peace” of 800 pages that uncovers the resemblance of totalitarianism, the rejection of to all kinds of submissions, and the communication with “little people”.  It demonstrates the tyranny of the “Good” and how it can become an epidemic worst than “Evil”


Karl Jasper wrote in his book “The German Culpability“: 

“The one who remained passive knows that he is morally guilty every time he failed to respond to an action for protecting the threatened citizens, for reducing injustice, and for resisting infamy”


Note: Midnight Editions (Editions de Minuit) also published “For Djamila Bouhired” by Georges Arnauld and Jacques Verges.




June 2023

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