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JAKARTA/BONN/PULLACH (Own report) – Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) has been heavily involved in the 1965 murderous putsch in Indonesia – the guest nation of this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. This was confirmed in secret documents from the Bundestag, the German Parliament. According to BND President at the time, Gerhard Wessel’s manuscript for a talk he delivered to a session of the Bundestag’s “Confidential Committee” in June 1968, the BND did more than merely support the Indonesian military in their blood-soaked “liquidation of the CPI” (Communist Party of Indonesia) – resulting in the murder of hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions – with advisors, equipment and finances. Suharto, who subsequently took power, had even attributed a “large part … of the success” of the operation to the BND. Up to now, mainly the US-American assistance to the putsch has been known. The putsch, and the more than 30 year-long dictatorship that followed – which also had been reliably promoted by West Germany – are important themes being presented by Indonesian writers at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. To this day, the German government has refused to allow an investigation of the BND’s support for the putsch and the Indonesian military’s excessive brutality.

Hundreds of Thousands Dead

The Indonesian putsch, bringing Maj. Gen. Haji Mohamed Suharto to power in Jakarta, began in October 1965 as a reaction to an attempted coup d’état, killing several officers on September 30. Suharto’s dictatorial reign lasted until 1998. The attempted coup was falsely attributed to the Communist Party of Indonesia (CPI). Subsequently, the military launched excessively brutal operations against all genuine and suspected members and sympathizers of the communist party. Hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions, were murdered; millions were imprisoned. The exact number is still unknown. The crimes committed at the time by the military have never really been brought to light.

50 to 100 Victims Each Night

One of the things never brought to light is what support western powers had given to the Suharto putsch. US complicity, having had the best relations to the Indonesian armed forces, has, to some extent, already been exposed. According to experts, for example, by 1965, around 4,000 Indonesian officers had been trained in US military installations as well as high-ranking officers having been trained in counter-insurgency on the basis of US field manuals at Indonesia’s elite military institutes.[1] December 2, 1965, the US ambassador gave his consent to providing financial support to the “Kap-Gestapu” movement, a movement – as he put it – “inspired by the army, even though comprised of civilian action groups,” which “shouldered the task of the ongoing repressive measures against Indonesia’s Communist Party.”[2] The ambassador must have known what this would mean. November 13, his employees had passed on information from the Indonesian police indicating, “between 50 and 100 members of the CPI in Eastern and Central Java were being killed each night.” April 15, the embassy had admitted, “it did not know if the actual number” of murdered CPI activists “was not closer to 100,000 or 1,000,000.” In spite of the mass murder, the US ambassador in Jakarta reported back to Washington (August 10, 1966) that the authorities in Jakarta had been provided a list of the leading CPI members.[3]
“Reliable Friend of Germany”
Agencies of the West German government had also been involved in the putsch. The BND had supported “Indonesia’s military intelligence service’s 1965 defeat of a left-wing putsch in Jakarta, with submachine guns, shortwave radios and money (with a total value of 300,000 DM),” reported “Der Spiegel” in March 1971.[4] Twelve weeks later, the magazine added that “a commando of BND men” had “trained military intelligence service operatives in Indonesia” and “relieved their CIA colleagues, who were under the heavy pressure of anti-American propaganda.”[5] By “supplying Soviet rifles and Finnish ammunition, the BND instructors” were even actually intervening in that “civil war.” If one can believe the BND’s founder, Reinhard Gehlen, Bonn, at the time, had the best contacts to leading military officers. In his “Memoirs,” published in 1971, Gehlen wrote, “two of Germany’s reliable friends” were among the Indonesian officers, murdered September 30, including “the longtime and highly revered military attaché in Bonn, Brig. Gen. Pandjaitan.” During the putsch, the BND was “in the fortunate position of being able to provide the West German government with timely and detailed reports – from excellent sources – … on the progress of those days, which had been so crucial for Indonesia.”[6]

An Excellent Resident

Other indications have emerged from the research published by the expert of intelligence services, Erich Schmidt-Eenboom and the political scientist, Matthias Ritzi. Their findings confirmed that there was close coordination between the BND and CIA. In April 1961, BND headquarters in Pullach had informed the US Central Intelligence Agency that it had “an excellent Chief of Station” in Jakarta, writes Schmidt-Eenboom. The CIA thought the BND was referring to Rudolf Oebsger-Röder, a former colonel of the SS working in the Reich Security Central Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt) in Nazi Germany, who joined West Germany’s Organization Gehlen in 1948 and was later on post in Indonesia, as a correspondent for the Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.[7] The BND had maintained Oebsger-Röder on its staff until the mid-’60s. In mid-January 1964, a high-ranking CIA representative paid Gehlen a visit and asked him how the West Germans were handling the developments in Indonesia, explain Schmidt-Eenboom and Ritzi. Gehlen told him that he is keeping Bonn up-to-date, but does not yet know how the chancellery intends to proceed.

“A Large Part BND”

The manuscript for a talk BND President Gerhard Wessel presented June 21 1968 to the Bundestag’s Confidential Committee provides more details. In the form of notes, Wessel gave “details of BND activities” in support of its Indonesian partner service, explained Schmidt-Eenboom and Ritzi. Explicitly the manuscript explains that “the close ties already in place to the Indonesian strategic ND (intelligence service) by October 1965, had facilitated support (advisors, equipment, money) to Indonesia’s ND and its special military organs during the elimination of the CPI (and Sukarno’s disempowerment – control and support of demonstrations).”[8] The “CPI’s elimination” included the assassination of hundreds of thousands of genuine and suspected members and sympathizers of the Indonesian CP. According to the manuscript, BND President Wessel continued his speech to the Confidential Committee, “in the opinion of Indonesian politicians and military officers ((Suharto, Nasution, Sultan) a large part thanks to the BND.”
Praise from Pullach
Reflecting back, BND founder Gehlen was praising these crimes almost effusively. “The significance of the Indonesian army’s success, which … pursued the elimination of the entire Communist Party with all consequences and severity, cannot – in my opinion – be appraised highly enough,” Gehlen wrote in his 1971 “Memoirs.”[9]

Berlin’s Priorities

The German government is still refusing to shed light on Germany’s participation in these crimes. In a parliamentary interpellation, the government was asked if it has knowledge of “foreign governments, intelligence services or other organizations’ direct or indirect support of the massacres.” In Mai 2014, it responded, “after a thorough assessment, the government concludes that it cannot give an open answer.” It is “imperative” to keep the “requested information” secret. The “protection of sources” is a “principle of primary importance to the work of intelligence services.”[10] For the German government, the Indonesian civil society’s need to have information on foreign support for the immense mass murder is of less importance than its “protection of sources.”

[1] Rainer Werning: Putsch nach “Pütschchen”. junge Welt 01.10.2015.
[2], [3] Rainer Werning: Der Archipel Suharto. In: Konflikte auf Dauer? Osnabrücker Jahrbuch Frieden und Wissenschaft, herausgegeben vom Oberbürgermeister der Stadt Osnabrück und dem Präsidenten der Universität Osnabrück. Osnabrück 2008, S. 183-199.
[4] Hermann Zolling, Heinz Höhne: Pullach intern. Der Spiegel 11/1971.
[5] Hermann Zolling, Heinz Höhne: Pullach intern. Der Spiegel 23/1971.
[6] Reinhard Gehlen: Der Dienst. Erinnerungen 1942-1971. Mainz/Wiesbaden 1971.
[7], [8] Matthias Ritzi, Erich Schmidt-Eenboom: Im Schatten des Dritten Reiches. Der BND und sein Agent Richard Christmann. Berlin 2011. See Review: Im Schatten des Dritten Reiches.
[9] Reinhard Gehlen: Der Dienst. Erinnerungen 1942-1971. Mainz/Wiesbaden 1971.
[10] Antwort der Bundesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Andrej Hunko, Jan van Aken, Sevim Dağdelen, weiterer Abgeordneter und der Fraktion DIE LINKE. Deutscher Bundestag Drucksache 18/1554, 27.05.2014.

Bonn and the Putsch

Find this story at 15 October 2015
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