Describe the Indonesian Massacre of 1965 in terms of who, what, where, when, why and how.  

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mrkirschner eNotes educator| Certified Educator


The past year (2015) marked the fiftieth anniversary of one of the greatest political purges of the Twentieth Century. In Indonesia, beginning in October of 1965, an attempt to eradicate the communist party in Indonesia was instigated.

What--The Indonesian Massacre was a political purge that resulted in an estimated 500,000 deaths due to mass killings. Over one million "suspects" were imprisoned during the purge.

Where-- The killings started in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta and spread to Central and East Java. Eventually, the purge would spread to Bali.

When--The destruction commenced in October of 1965 after a failed coup attempt and peaked in November and December before slowing in the early part of 1966.

Who--the primary target of the killings were communists (Indonesian Communist Party (PKI),) ethnic Chinese and alleged leftists. The instigators of the purge were the Indonesian government and the military leadership. It has been alleged that the United States Central Intelligence Agency was complicit in the slaughter.

Why--The Indonesian massacre was prompted in order to prevent a communist takeover of the government. Racism and religious prejudice also played a role. The purge occurred during the height of the Cold War and was seen as a victory by many Western democracies.

How--Thousands of local vigilantes and army units killed actual and alleged PKI members. Few details of the killings have emerged because the Indonesian government did not change for thirty years after the massacre and attempted to hide their crimes.

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