Complicity in Mass Murder

New documents confirm cooperation of West German authorities with Indonesia's military during their putsch and mass murder in 1965/66.

BERLIN/JAKARTA/WASHINGTON (Own report) - New documents confirm the West German authorities' close cooperation with Indonesia's military during the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian communists. In October 1965, generals seized power in Jakarta to halt President Sukarno's left-wing agenda. In the months that followed, they organized the slaughter of at least 500,000, possibly up to three million - de facto or suspected - members of the Communist Party. At that time, West German authorities maintained close contact with members of Indonesia's military and intelligence service. Even though they were well informed on the developments, they supported the military with equipment and finances. Previously classified documents of the West German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) reveal that the Indonesian generals needed the resources particularly for "special operations against Communist Party functionaries." Karl Carstens, State Secretary in the Foreign Ministry, at the time, was most likely involved in transacting the support. The West German government in Bonn had thus contributed to the Southeast Asian "conflict of systems" at the time.

Conflict of Systems in Southeast Asia

In its efforts to strengthen its position in the conflict of systems in Southeast Asia, the West had supported the putsch in Indonesia. At the time, the United States was fighting communism in its war in Vietnam. In accordance with its "Domino Theory," the USA had to win the war in Vietnam, under all circumstances, to prevent communism from spreading to other countries in the region, in a domino effect. Western strategists had also focused on Indonesia. After it gained independence from the Dutch colonial power, it was seeking an independent foreign policy. President Sukarno had been instrumental in founding of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1955 in Bandung, near Jakarta. At the same time, the Indonesian Communist Party ((Partai Komunis Indonesia, PKI) was growing stronger. Washington and also Bonn perceived the PKI, with its nearly three million members, to be a serious threat to western interests. Not only US American but also West German authorities maintained good relations to Indonesia's military and intelligence service. While, in the early 1960s, Indonesian military personnel were trained in West Germany, a former colonel of the SS in the Reich's Main Security Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt) in Nazi Germany, Rudolf Oebsger-Röder, was working with the BND in Jakarta. He was also serving as a correspondent for the Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. ( reported.[1])

"Slaughter of Communists"

West German authorities were standing at the ready, when the Indonesian military began to seize power in October 1965. It began when, in the night from September 30 to October 1, 1965, an attempted coup d'état rapidly collapsed, which was mainly aimed at preventing an anticipated putsch by right-wing military forces, who then counterattacked with utmost brutality. At an early stage, the West German embassy in Jakarta had been informed of the military's plans and the genocidal character of the operations that were not only aimed at arresting insurgents but above all at annihilating the PKI. Already on October 11, according to a US report, the West German embassy was informed by a "trustworthy German businessman" that the generals in Jakarta were envisaging to "overthrow" President Sukarno.[2] An internal BND report dated November 3, 1965, quoted in part by the T-Online news portal yesterday, described the operations of the Indonesian military and voluntary militias against the PKI. "In Central and East Java, a veritable slaughter of communists began," the BND report notes: "At least from the side of the military leadership ... these events were deliberately allowed to run rampant." "Of course, the numerous anti-communist operations ... had been meticulously planned by the Army leadership."[3] Indonesian officers had previously been trained in the methods of counter-insurgency - also on the basis of US field manuals.[4]

"Special Operations"

A few days later, the Indonesian generals approached the Federal Republic of Germany soliciting support. According to a document that, until now, had been kept secret by the BND, from which T-Online also quoted yesterday, the generals were asking for 1.2 million DM "in cash" "to continue with the anti-communist purge." The funds were needed "primarily ... for carrying out orchestrated demonstrations," "for special operations against PKI functionaries," as well as for the publication of "anti-communist propaganda material." According to the BND's document, should "any assistance of the kind envisaged" become publicly known, it "could have hardly foreseeable dire consequences for both the donor and the recipient," which is why, "the channels of transmission must be under strictest security."[5] In fact, the document carries the notice: "Refused [because of (editor's note)] non-interference." However, evidence points to the desired assistance having been rendered. For example, the BND President, at the time, Gerhard Wessel, reported to the Bundestag's watchdog committee on June 21, 1968 that the "links to the Indonesian strategic IS (intelligence service)" had facilitated the "assistance (advisors, equipment, finances) of the Indonesian IS and military specialized forces" by West German authorities - "by destroying the PKI (and removing Sukarno from power - orchestrating and supporting demonstrations)." ( reported.[6])

Special Funds

There is no evidence of how the "assistance," confirmed by Wessel, had been agreed upon and transacted. It has, at times, been pointed out that two-and-a-half weeks after receipt of the call for assistance, November 26, 1965, the Indonesian Brig. Gen. Achmed Sukendro had been received in Bonn - by State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the time, Karl Carstens, who later became President of Germany. Sukendro, Director of Indonesia's Army Intelligence Service, was considered the main liaison between the Indonesian generals and the CIA and other western intelligence services. German officials also thought very highly of him. According to Bonn's ambassador in Jakarta, at the time, he was seen as "one of the most competent and energetic anti-communists." The ambassador informed Carstens prior to his meeting with Sukendro, that "months ago" the general had reported that "the army was only awaiting an excuse to annihilate the communists."[7] In the T-Online article, one reads that documents give the impression that, during the talks with Sukendro, Carstens may have agreed to furnish flexible "special funds" to the Indonesian generals.[8] That Carstens, with the participation of the BND, was involved in clandestine arms deals, at the time has been proven.[9]

"With Friendly Considerations"

Bonn had continued its support for the Indonesian generals - in spite of the mass murders that Indonesia's military and diverse militias were committing at the time. December 14, Bonn's ambassador in Jakarta informed the West German capital in writing that in the course of operations carried out by the armed forces as well as by armed gangs, at least 128,000 people had been killed in the meantime, and several hundreds of thousands arrested. In fact, as of October 1965, at least 500, 000 people belonging to - or suspected to have been members of or to have harbored sympathies for - the Communist Party had been killed by the military and the militias. Some estimates even reach three million victims. Knowledge of the mass murders did not hinder the Federal Republic of Germany in continuing its systematic support for the putsch. According to German foreign ministry documents, a high-ranking official of Indonesia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs visited Bonn's embassy in Jakarta, in December 1965, to ask, in the name of the generals, for economic assistance, "to promote the people's anti-communist momentum." According to T-Online, Bonn's ambassador promised the Indonesian official that "the Indonesian wishes would be given friendly consideration."[10]

Blood-stained Status Promotion

In fact, the Federal Republic of Germany had supported Indonesia under the rule of General Suharto, who, during the putsch, had been heaved into power and reigned as the country's dictator. The support had been multi-faceted, including with economic aid, weapons deliveries and intelligence service cooperation.[11] West German complicity in the mass murder during the years 1965 to 1966 set the course for a significant western status promotion in the Southeast Asian conflict of systems.


[1] See also Bonn and the Putsch.

[2] Jonas Mueller-Töwe: Deutschland deckte blutigen Putsch. 27.10.2017.

[3] Jonas Mueller-Töwe: Der Genozid und Deutschlands heimliche Hilfe. 13.07.2020.

[4] Rainer Werning: Putsch nach "Pütschchen". junge Welt 01.10.2015.

[5] Jonas Mueller-Töwe: Der Genozid und Deutschlands heimliche Hilfe. 13.07.2020.

[6] See also Bonn and the Putsch.

[7], [8] Jonas Mueller-Töwe: Der Genozid und Deutschlands heimliche Hilfe. 13.07.2020.

[9] Peter Hammerschmidt: Deckname Adler. Klaus Barbie und die westlichen Geheimdienste. Frankfurt am Main 2014.

[10] Jonas Mueller-Töwe: Der Genozid und Deutschlands heimliche Hilfe. 13.07.2020.

[11] Rainer Werning: Der Archipel Suharto. In: Konflikte auf Dauer? Osnabrücker Jahrbuch Frieden und Wissenschaft. Osnabrück 2008. S. 183-199.