1873: the trip to Algeria

The story of Arsène Flühr, four-great-grandfather of Laurent, founder of the brand, is that of many Alsatians thrown on the path of exodus following the Franco-Prussian conflict. Thanks to the annexation of the two departments of Alsace and that of Moselle in 1871, the Alsatians became German citizens. The option clause included in the Treaty of Frankfurt nevertheless allows them to retain French nationality if they leave Alsace-Lorraine, leaving all their property behind.

If some choose to stay in the neighboring French regions, notably in the Vosges), many choose to start a new life, in Paris or Normandy for example where some work to become brewers or weavers, others opt for more distant territories, such as Algeria, which had already welcomed several generations of Alsatians since 1830.

Nearly 120,000 Alsatians took the road to Algeria after 1870.

Arsène passport

extract from Arsène Flühr's passport for Constantine

Before leaving

A commission in Belfort is responsible for processing the requests and verifying the conformity of the settlers' papers. We found Arsène Flühr's file in the departmental archives of Belfort: it consists of a duplicate of his passport, a certificate of good conduct, a declaration of French nationality, birth certificates of the members of the family as well as Arsène's marriage. Arsène leaves with his wife Véronique and their two sons, Alphonse, aged 11, and Joseph, aged 9.

The trip

Once accredited by the Commission in Belfort, Arsène began his journey on January 15, 1873, at 4:45 p.m. with the Compagnie de l'Est train bound for Lyon. Arrival the next morning at 5:55 a.m. and after changing company, the family arrived in Marseille in the evening at 6:30 p.m. From there, after contacting the office of the Alsaciens-Lorrains Assistance Society, Arsène's family was accommodated at an address that accommodated emigrants for a night at 1.50 Francs. The next day, they boarded a boat from the Valéry company bound for Algiers. After 42 hours of navigation, the little family docked in Stora, where they took an omnibus to Philippeville. Arsène and his family are one of eight families who arrived at the same time, and no reception is planned for them. They are finally directed towards Constantine where a member of the committee of the Algerian association in favor of Alsatian immigrants from Lorraine finally takes them to their destination. Many detours, fatigue and expenses for emigrants practically without resources.

Passport of Monsieur Arsène

Extract from the Arsène Flühr concession file - Archives Nationales d’Outre Mer in Aix en Provence


Due to the specific nature of the circumstances of their departure, the Alsatians-Lorraines benefited from 1871 from the "patriotic tenderness" of a government which wanted them to find in compensation, a little of their lost land where they would make a new start, entirely assisted by the administration and helped by the support committees. The sequester of land, particularly in Kabylia, follows the installation of families, particularly in areas at risk of insurgencies.

Arsène and his family settled in La Robertsau on the outskirts of Jemmapes, with 19 other Alsatian families. The newly created center is located in a valley crossed by the Fendeck wadi. Arsène is allocated a space where a gourbi will be built next to a small garden. More than thirty hectares of agricultural land made up of olive, fig and tobacco plantations are allocated to it for exploitation.

Landscape in Algeria

Vallon du Fendeck where the village of La Robertsau is located in Algeria (today Azzaba)

Difficult operation

Clearing constitutes the first stage of exploitation, but only a quarter of the land allocated to La Robertsau is of good quality. The remoteness of certain lots condemns him to an early morning departure and a day in the fields, in persistent heat, to make his exploitation profitable. Part of its exploitation is certainly rented to the Arabs, against half or a fifth of their harvest, depending on the agreement made. The equipment (plough, harrow), planned by the administration, arrives late and often has to be shared. The livestock granted are, moreover, not always very healthy, and often fall ill in the first year. And often the settlers are victims of theft and pilferage on the part of the natives, which further reduces their resources.

The son of Monsieur Arsène With his wife

Photo of Alphonse Flühr, son of Arsène, 1905 - Family collection

Return to Alsace

A cholera epidemic, and frequent insurrections in the village of La Robertsau will get the better of Arsène. His return took place in 1878, exactly five years after his emigration, by the same land, sea and river routes. He died in January 1879 in his village where he was born. His descendants will evolve in the same valley, and his story is passed down from generation to generation, even inspiring the founder of the brand.