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Gehlen, BND, and the Indonesian Coup of 1965

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COMMENT: In our recent dis­cus­sions with Peter Lev­en­da, we dis­cussed the pro­found Nazi pres­ence in Indone­sia, before, dur­ing and after World War II. The bloody 1965 coup against Sukarno is known to have been large­ly engi­neered by the CIA. By some accounts, the death toll reached 1,000,000, with the vic­tims includ­ing many lib­er­als, jour­nal­ists, artists, writ­ers and oth­ers viewed with dis­taste by the army. 

A recent issue of Ger­man For­eign Pol­i­cy (which feeds along the bot­tom of the front page of the web­site) dis­clos­es that the BND–the Ger­man for­eign intel­li­gence ser­vice and the final incar­na­tion of the Gehlen spy outfit–played a major role in the coup, as well.

The appar­ent BND point man for the Fed­er­al Repub­lic’s role in the coup was Rudolf Oeb­s­ger-Roder, like so many Gehlen org offi­cers, a vet­er­an of the SS. 

The slaugh­ter in Indone­sia proved alto­geth­er pleas­ing to Gehlen. ” . . . 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.” . . .”

“Bonn and the Putsch;” german-foreign-policy.com; 10/15/2015.

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.



2 comments for “Gehlen, BND, and the Indonesian Coup of 1965”

  1. I would like to know whether Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel has been told about this.

    As we know, every Indone­sian gov­ern­ment since that time has cen­sored every pub­li­ca­tion or rado/TV pro­gramme from men­tion­ing any­thing about the ter­ri­ble mas­sacres that occurred in almost all regions of the coun­try.

    I would sug­gest that one Ger­many’s lead­ing pub­li­ca­tions should pub­lish an arti­cle about this

    Posted by Carmel Budiardjo | October 24, 2015, 3:02 am
  2. It think it is very impor­tant for this infor­ma­tion to be the sub­ject of an arti­cle in one of Ger­many’s major pub­li­ca­tions ensur­ing that these facts are brought to the atten­tion of Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel and oth­er leading.German politi­cians. Hope­ful­ly, they would be in a posi­tion to con­demn the secre­cy in Indone­sia and crit­i­cize the con­tin­u­ing refusal of the gov­ern­ment there to allow any men­tion of the ter­ri­ble killings and incar­cer­a­tions to this very day..

    Posted by Carmel Budiardjo | October 24, 2015, 3:17 am

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