Manager Bernard Goutta, confides in his life as the son of a Harki

Were you surprised to be asked to speak about your story as a Harki’s child?

No, because I’m interested in people being interested in my story. It’s not just the manager, the rugby player, there’s the man. There’s a connection I’ve made through this story, not in gloom or anarchy. I think it’s important to talk about where I come from, my history and my culture. It’s a little-known story, or at least not much talked about because it’s not a good picture of France.

Is it a past you talk about with your players that you use in your work as a coach?

I don’t mix my story with that of the club. If players come to me afterwards, of course we talk aside. It happened to me, especially when the book “Le Cri” came out. (1).

What does the history of the Harkis mean to you in France, 60 years after the armistice of March 19, 1962?

I think it was the children who suffered the most for their parents who ended up in concentration camps, initially in tents. So I either used my parents’ story to build something strong or I fell into depression, malaise, the lack of direction that affects two sacrificed generations of Harkis and children of Harkis.

How and why did your parents come to France?

Let’s talk about my father first. He fought in two wars, Indochina and Algeria. He joined the French army to finish off Indochina and then he had to fight his country. My parents arrived in 1962 thanks to commanders who had Harkis under their orders and who defied government orders to have them massacred in Algeria.

What gun was your father in?

I don’t know what weapon he was in. Because he never talked about it. He was imprisoned in Indochina for two years and then found himself in the Algerian War. My father had many nightmares, we heard him at night, but he never talked about his wars.

Have you arrived with your children?

We are a big family with nine children, I am the last born. My older brother and sister were born in Algeria, the rest of my family in France, including three at Camp Joffre military hospital. I was born on September 28, 1972 in Perpignan hospital where many children died.

“I was young, I didn’t see all the problems, the suffering of my parents”

What was life like in the Harkis camps, particularly in Rivelsaltes (Pyrénées-Orientales) where you lived?

In the beginning it was a temporary camp of tents. In winter it was cold. Only then were the military barracks built. It was a camp through which the gypsies, Jews and Spaniards fleeing Franco had passed. Life in these camps was not easy. There was a curfew, we were surrounded by barbed wire, it was cold there, people were hungry. And most importantly, you had no contact with the residents of the surrounding villages, you really parked.

What memories do you have of your childhood?

I was carefree. I wasn’t aware of where I was, I stayed in this camp for four years. Of course I have lightning. But it’s crazy, because my flashes are the communal toilets outside, the Turkish military toilets and this red earth, a bit dry. I remember that I was sick, I had asthma, I remember that a doctor came to the camp to give me injections in the buttocks. Conditions were precarious, both in terms of hygiene and food.

Were you aware that you didn’t have a childhood like the others?

i was small Especially when I talk about it with my big brother, he tells me it was very hard. Once, to shoot pictures with “France 3”, I returned to the camp with a harki, who had the Legion of Honor and who said that the most difficult thing was not the war, but the reception in France. Well that was tough.

Was it possible to integrate despite the “Kind von Harki” label?

Upon leaving the camp we will be staying in the Cité du Réart. We parked again 3 kilometers from the village of Rivesaltes. What I really liked were the surrounding fields, which were so many playgrounds, but I was young, I didn’t see all the difficulties, my parents’ suffering. There was only one salary, that of my father who worked at the State Forest Service, the end of the month was difficult… It was difficult.

Did you blame your parents for choosing France?

No never. He made a choice, that of the French army, of France. I don’t blame him. But there are several children with whom I have exchanged views, they have regretted their parents’ choice. Me no. I knew it was for the sake of her children. You are silent for our good. But like I said, I feel good in France, I’ve settled in well.

Did you want to follow in your father’s footsteps and join the army?

I joined the army when I was 17 at the military school in Issoire. I liked it very much. I was in an environment of belonging, with a framework, with a discipline, with a dual military and academic project. This is where I really learned, worked at school level and came out with a BEP-CAP as an Auto Technician. Meanwhile, dad had died of pancreatic cancer, I was 17-18 years old, he had just retired. At the end of my engagement I had to choose a gun, but my mother didn’t want me to. And since my mother’s word counts, I have not re-enlisted, but have returned to Rivesaltes with her.

Do you annoy France about the reception it has given its soldiers?

I think that the Presidents of the Republic will never be able to fix history. I think they’re doing it wrong. You want to pay a ridiculous compensation and then we don’t talk about it anymore? I dont want that. I have a good situation, but there are so many who are in need. What I would like is that we acknowledge our history, put the history of the Harkis in the school curriculum, try to support this second generation, try to give back a little respect and dignity to our parents even if they are no longer around.

Bernard Goutta and his brother returned to Rivesaltes camp accompanied by a Harki, a veteran.

Bernard Goutta and his brother returned to Rivesaltes camp accompanied by a Harki, a veteran.

Personal archive

One of the first times you publicly recalled your past was when you responded in 2013 to Georges Frêche, the former mayor of Montpellier, who called the Harkis “subhumans”…

It was a mistake, you can’t mix sport and politics. I wasn’t asked my story there. I don’t know why I published it at the time and I didn’t understand why Georges Frêche said that either, because he still had a good social policy. It poured fuel on the fire, thirty years later you are told what you are, how you were treated. Maybe it touched me there…

Do you see yourself as spokesman for the cause?

I am interested in making history known, but not in being the spokesman for a cause. It is too late. But let it be known in the school curriculum, in history, like all wars. I’ve been approached by associations, but right now I’m in a position that doesn’t allow me to be a spokesperson for a cause. But telling my story, that of my parents, I can do that, that’s important. Unless all federation presidents agree, it will be very difficult to claim our needs, our desires, our reparations. What I regret is the behavior of the French government at the time. And even worse with the genocide that took place. But we don’t talk about it because it happened under the era of an important figure in history, General de Gaulle.

Your family is from Boghari, did you go to Algeria?

No never. Maybe later, but right now I don’t want to. It’s not so much the country, of course I want to see where my parents grew up. But then there’s politics, we’re not that welcome. The scars are not closed. And then I don’t like the politics of the country at all.

How do you tell your children about your origins?

I transfer. I have two small children, but my eldest knows this story, mine, her grandparents’. I’m sorry she didn’t know her, but I’ll talk to her about it. It’s important, the legacy, the transmission. She can understand how I built myself up, maybe she can draw strength from it, it encourages her to be strong because life isn’t easy.

The family photo with from left to right: Rama, Michel, Jacques, Jeanette (above);  Kouider and Saada (the parents), cadre;  Chremed, Delilah, Marie and Bernard.

The family photo with from left to right: Rama, Michel, Jacques, Jeanette (above); Kouider and Saada (the parents), cadre; Chremed, Delilah, Marie and Bernard.

Personal archive

intimate story

In the brother’s name. “There is a suicide in every Harki family. Also among the Gouttas. Everything is covered with a screed of lead. Much has been smothered. “At the time of the publication of his biographical book, The Scream, journalist Vincent Couture was modestly describing the drama that shook the Catalan’s family. The trials that Bernard Goutta has endured not only reflect the big story, there are also more intimate ones that the Catalan confides in a bit. If his father is the hero of a son who wanted to look like him, the Goutta siblings, of whom he is the last, have experienced grief. Like the story of one of his big brothers, Chremed, who took his own life. “Those who have suffered most from this war are the Harkis and their children. There are some who have fallen into depression, alcoholism, drugs, etc. Like any community that has lost its way, we see it almost everywhere, as with the American Indians. There have been a lot of second generation suicides, I also have a brother who ended his life. It’s like that…” That was how the man, like the rugby player, was built. “Always be a fighter, don’t complain, never give up, I am in life as I was on the field. »

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