It is a novel about what people are able to do at each other without wanting to, when a superpower in 1965 plays Russian Roulette with the Indonesian nation and its population.
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It was late morning in Jakartas harbor, Tanjung Priok, near the end of September 1965. The air was heavy, smelling of impending rain and the hot tar of the wharf. It mixed in with the lacy spicy scents from the low open warehouses. In about an hour the dark noon clouds would cover the sky almost obliterating any daylight. Within moments the tropical rain would cascade down attempting to soak everything, dead or alive.
The old tug with its much too large superstructure and plentiful colored crew issued a deep roar, blew a black cloud up through the smokestack, as if pulling itself together, and then with all its effort tugged Clementine away from the pier.
Clementine was a proud old lady from the days when ships were still riveted. The two midship structures, the tall smokestack with the company logo, the many derricks for loading and unloading, and all its ropes and lines, accentuated her dignity. She was royalty in the companys shipping-around-the-world-service. Not even the lack of paint on her hull could change that.
Kasper stood on the pier watching the efforts of the tug to get her out into the middle of the harbor basin. He already missed her. Now her bow pointed out towards the Jakarta Sea. He saw the tugs crew dropping the last hawsers. Another couple of roars from the two ships broke the noon heat. It was goodbye. Clementines 10,000 horse-power were slowly being let loose. The sound of dull thuds rose to the sky. Her propeller began turning and was soon leaving a white line of wake whipping behind her as she slowly sailed towards the open sea. Aft, a sailor hauled in the huge Danish flag, while a smaller one was being hoisted on the monkey island over the bridge. Forwards, on starboard side of the fore-mast the Indonesian flag flew. An army of seagulls flapped around screeching to then bullet-dive in a hungry fight for the fish that had been flushed up by Clementines propeller. Their screeching accompanied the very part of Kaspers life that was sailing away. Even though it wasnt the first time he had been discharged, even here in Southeast Asia, it was a strange feeling to see a ship disappear into the horizon. Just like a few years earlier in Singapore, a short message had been receivedlike the snap of a finger from the shipping companythat he was to change to another ship. So he had better get all his gear packed in a jiffy and say goodbye to what had served as his home. Here he had lived with people he probably would never see again. In some years, perhaps 15-20, the ship would be cut up and that part of his life would be gone forever. Where a torn-down house once stood, the ground beneath forever remains. Even in Hiroshima. Maybe a new house shoots up; but where a ship has sailed, the water simply closes in and not even a trace is left. Just like at the piers where she had loaded and unloaded her cargo, with the possible exception that some sailor who for fun or for the love of his ship had painted the name on the pillars one day while he was shining her up on the outside. No other traces would be left. There would be nothing for him to return to. At best there would be some records in some register, a picture in some old crews locker, maybe a model at the shipping agency. And then perhaps a good story or two. Perhaps a ships propeller or a nametag from a lifeboat, which hanging on its davits, had been crushed one violent winter night in the North Atlantic by enormous swells, where the icing from the storm attempted to force the ship into the depthmice, men and rats. Or a life buoy, which had drifted ashore on Iceland three months after the shipwreck of Hans Hedtoft at Cape Farewell. Thats how it was. That was the price you paid to experience the world. And thats what he wanted. Even so, he thought, he was allowed to miss her; he sensed his loss and felt like a bum of the sea, picked up his two pigskin suitcases and walked in the direction of the small, rather flat white administration building at the end of the pier. An employee from the shipping agent was waiting for him and busily explaining something in Indonesian to a uniformed man while pointing at Kasper. From his gestures Kasper guessed what was being said and broke out in a voice that left no doubt that he meant it:
- Im going to town!
- Thats not possible, answered the agent.
- Why not?
- You have to have a shore pass!
- Well, I have this from Clementine.... Kasper reached for his shirt pocket.
- Its not valid once the ship has sailed.
- Then Ill get a temporary one!
- No! Youll wait here until Jessie arrives, the agent commanded nodding towards the building porch.
Kasper looked there. Against the white wall was a bench of rough hewn boards. He turned to the agent who continued:
Besides, what do you want to do with those? He nodded in the direction of Kaspers suitcases. You cant get them out through the gate. His voice was firm. And if you leave them here, you know whatll happen.
- Nonsense, Kasper almost burst out, but he caught himself. He just looked at the agent and asked, - When will Jessie arrive?
- Around four!
- Around four! Kasper repeated.
He looked at the uniformed man and then nodded to the agent, as if it was OK that he had to wait. That he was going to make the perhaps five hours on the porch an experience even if there was very little to look at in the harbor. After Clementine had sailed there were only a few worn-down Indonesian ships left on the opposite pier and there was no activity around them. The cranes stood large and rusty in straight lines on their spindly legs, like swans bowing their heads towards the water in hope that food would come floating by. He shrugged, sat down on the bench with a knowing smile to the uniformed man, who with a couple of fingers to the bill of his cap said goodbye to the agent.
A couple of minutes after the agent had left, Kasper got up and went into the building. Two large fans turned in the ceiling. He aimed for the desk with a small sign, which said Imigrasi. Behind it sat the man the agent had instructed. His cap was on the desk. Kasper handed him his discharge book and the shore pass from Clementine. Inside the book was a dollar bill. A moment later he had a temporary shore pass.
- Can they stay here? He asked a customs agent who sat at another desk in a mixture of English and sign language pointing at his suitcases outside.
- Of course, the customs agent answered. You can put them in here. He stood up and opened the door to a small room. - Nothing will happen here, he went on. His English was perfect.
- Thanks, said Kasper a little embarrassed at having used sign language and he carried the two suitcases over to the designated spot. He shook hands with the customs agent passing another folded dollar bill. It was pure nonsense that one could not trust the Indonesians.
True, there had been a theft in Belawan Deli in northern Sumatra almost a year earlier. It was in the middle of the night after a rough night on the town, where he according to his buddies, had stripped at a bar. That was a claim, which was outside of his sphere of recollection. He had been woken by someone snooping around in his room. Without having fully woken up he jumped up landing in the drawer under the bunk, which his uninvited guests had busily been emptying, whereupon he knocked his head into the door frame as he attempted to run after them.
That might as well have happened anywhere in the world, even in Denmark, he thought. It had nothing to do with the Indonesians.
After all it was all about showing confidence.
Outside the small white building he turned left and followed the pot holed paved road that ran along the end of the harbor.
It was good to walk here. This was everything he had been dreaming of, while lost in his own world he had used the school atlas to draw sailing routes to distant continents and dreamingly had sat in the first row of the school auditorium where travelers like Jens Bjerre came back from the Himalayas with Roof of the World and Jørgen Bitsch had unpacked his gear and exuberantly told about his expeditions showing films about black ecstasy in Africa and Indians in the Amazon jungle.
Afterwards Bangsbo Creek became the Amazonas and Salamander Lake on Pikker Hill became Victoria Lake with the salamanders taking on the role of dangerous crocodiles, while Water Works Forest became the African jungle.
He remembered the old Indian, who had predicted his future the first time he was in Hong Kong in 1962. You will have a long life and live to be 93 years old, the Indian had said. How could he know? Kasper had been 17 at the time and looking at becoming 93, he felt he had eternity within his grasp. He still felt that way.
The old Indian also said that Kaspers life would be like living on an island. Kasper had been impressed until he realized that the old soothsayer had had an easy play: A ship was a kind of island. In some way his parents mania for always moving was also like living on an island.
Of the ten places he had lived before he had first signed up, there were 13 monthsit was the seventh placethat had been the absolute best. It was the on the second floor above his dads tailor workshop on Harbor Street, Frederikshavn, Denmark. He had been ten then and even with duties like carrying coal up to the tall cylindrical stove in the sitting room, and running back and forth between the tailor shop and Danielsen Bros. Ladies Store so the customers could get the exact buttons they desired for their new clothes, it had been an eldorado to live there. The courtyard was cobblestoned and had the back entrance to the Grand Café, where it was easy to sell lottery tickets. The yellow backhouse had warehousing on the ground floor and apartments above. One of his playmates lived here. The row of outhouses in the courtyard had a back wall towards the scrap dealer. Mr. Underskov would hang out in the gateway, always polishing his taxicab and always talking to any passerby. In the front house lived the fruit merchant, the eye doctor, the tobacco dealer and the journalist with whom they shared a toilet on the backstairs.
But even as Harbor Street itself was an eldorado with a wealth of shops and businesses and the Saturday pig auction in the Wine Cellar stables, his emerging paradise was in the sunrise toward the East:
It was the harbor with its pound net dinghies, the well-boxes with their enormous crabs just under Mortensens wooden ship yard, and the rafts where the glass eels from the Sargasso Sea flittered in and out between the fine green hair on the seaweed waving alongside the rafts; and they were impossible to catch by hand. It was the large ferries, the white Princess Margaretha in the morning from Gothenburg, Sweden, and the black Peter Wessel from Larvik, Norway, that every other night delighted a great amount of people by opening its huge jaw and slamming its tongue onto the pier so the cars could get off the ship. It was the beautiful Vistula and the old steamer Frederikshavn, a remnant from the turn of the century with a straight stem sailing to Copenhagen. It was the small post boat going to Hirsholmene Islands and the schooner Kongsoere that did packet service. It was the red fish auction by the ice factory, the red fishermans houses, the sailing club with its mast at the northern jetty, the coal wharf with its cranes, the ship yard with the floating dock, where the triplets Ras, Robert and Roemoe Maersk came into this world along with a host of other ships, such as the Greenland ship Hans Hedtoft, which couldnt sink, and the tanker Charlotte Maersk that every Spring was in dock with its propeller chopped to bits by the winter ice. There was the park with the bomb box, the fishermen on their pedestal in memory of those who had died at sea, and the manna tree and the man in the black uniform who bicycled out at dusk to light every single streetlight on Old Harbor, and the early summer mornings where the pound net fishers took Kasper and his brother out to empty the nets of small summer mackerels.
It was a complete universe.
Three moves after the paradise years by the harbor and a well developed interest in girls, which wasnt reciprocated, he had turned fifteen and dad, mom and he were back on the opposite side of Harbor Street, now on the second floor above dads new shop in number 10. Here he had a view from his room over Old Harbor. It had not lost its magic.
One afternoon, when he had organized a giant crab race on a raft, he saw as so many times before the training ship Manja Dan pull into harbor. He interrupted the crab race, they didnt want to run in the same direction anyway, threw the combatants back in the well-box and walked up to Pilot Street with all its drinking joints, knocked and somewhat carefully walked in through the door with a sign he had looked at a few times. It was the Sailors Association. They received him well. Unfortunately they couldnt help him. Somewhat perplexed hed been told that he needed a sailors discharge book to get hired. And you have to be hired in order to get a discharge book, they had added.
After that they told him what to do.
His was first hired as assistant steward on a tanker. The title covered a combination of cabin and mess boy, ten hours a day, seven days a week.
One day in June 1962 (he had just turned 16 in March) he got hired on his first ship, a tanker, in the roads of Elsinore. Because it was a brand new tanker it had loaded freshwater in Amsterdam for Curacao in the Caribbean. On his way across the Atlantic he had been seasick for days. But he gritted his teeth and endured. Having unloaded the fresh water in Curacao they sailed to Venezuela to load oil. Here, sitting under a palm tree that day in August on the shores of Lake Maracaibo, he sent his classmates a friendly thought as they started back to high school after summer vacation. After South America followed the Middle East and all the while he was listening to the tales of the crew on the blessings of life in the general cargo tradein particular the way it played out in the Far East.
He liked the changing life. It was better than moving around in Denmark. How many people could step into a new country when they opened their door?
His thoughts were interrupted by a military truck rattling by. On the load behind the drivers cabin was a bunch of soldiers. Kasper pretended not to see them and concentrated on a row of tall palm trees on the other side of the road. Behind them were a lawn and some low bushes. They surrounded the old building where the white gentlemen of the harbor: stevedores, shippers, receivers and ships officers used to meet while native servants supplied them with cool drinks. He had been inside once. That was the very first time he was here. He had believed it was one of the many sailors clubs the English had spread as bastions across their empire. It had appeared as a museum, a monument to a bygone time, the time when changing colonial powers had exploited Indonesiaas they still did in many places around the world.
Its strange, he thought. How come there were no white waiters serving the Indonesians? The white were the foreigners. Just like the Yugoslavian foreign workers who came to Denmark.
Having traveled around the world a couple of times there was one thing he kept wondered about: So much wealth in some places and at the same time so much poverty in other, only because some countries wanted to rob others of their valuables and gain power over people. Was it anything but simple theft and coercion? Just like the time the redhead Jan on Flad Beach forced Kasper to supply him with candy in order to avoid getting beaten up on his way home from school, while everyone else turned their backs. True, it was not the thoughts he had had when he learned about the glorious British Empire. The empire where the sun never sets. But a few moments one night in a Singapore movie theater had changed all that. At first he had found it beautiful when the movie ended and everybody got up singing God Save the Queen to a picture of Queen Elizabeth that had appeared on the screen accompanied by the national anthem. Impressed he had looked around at the audience. The moment was beautiful, but he soon sensed that something was lacking: There was no pride in the voices, like when the Danes sang There is a Beautiful Country on the bleachers of the Sports Parkor the Midsummer Song at the summer solstice bonfires. Their faces lacked a glow; as if they were singing under duress rather than by desire. They looked like well-disciplined school kids just waiting for recess from a sadistic teacher. That view shook his teachings about the gloriousness of Englands purported assistance to the countries over which they had assumed power.
He had gotten him the exact same sensation as when he rode in the New York subway, well aware that the USA still had serious racial discrimination in the South, and he could feel the lynching atmosphere when he offered his seat to a tired old black woman. Both times, in Singapore and in New York, he had thought, there is something seriously wrong here. Its unfair to treat other people this way, chiseled itself into his consciousness. What the devil is wrong with the white race? He had thought. What kind of malady are they suffering from? Why is power so important? Why is it so important to rob others of their country and land? These questions had engaged him a lot. The light of clarity struck him a few days later after they sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge on their way from San Francisco to the Philippines. For days he had looked across the Pacific and one night three weeks later he felt proud when sitting at the bar at Rickys on Carnavon Road in Hong Kong as he confided his new-found wisdom to one of Africas sons on the barstool next to him, It is unfair not to like a man because of his skin color. But it is fair not to like him because of his behavior. Completely in agreement they cheered and touched glasses, whereupon the others head slammed down on the counter deep in sleep and Kasper had to look around for another listener.
A decrepit truck coughed by with far too big a load. On top of the load sat a couple of guys. Kasper looked at them. Almost unknowingly he smiled and nodded to a man pushing a bicycle. The tires were flat. The luggage carrier had been padded for an extra seat. The man returned the smile.
The colonial building on the other side of the road, the few worn-out ships in the harbor, the inactive cranes, the tall palm trees, the sparse slow traffic on the road and the pressing heat just ahead of the noon rain gave him the feeling that time was standing still. That the western world, which rushed around at full steam in Northern Europe and the USA had left Indonesia in a time pocket after it for centuries in turn had been exploited by Portugal, Holland and England without itself gaining anything. As if Indonesia was a finished woman, used and thrown away like a worn-down whore in Shanghai. Couldnt they see that she possessed a beauty and calm far removed from their rushing and rushed society filled with smoking industrial chimneys? He reminisced of the day in March when he turned 18 on the west coast of Sumatra. On that day under the equatorial sun in the white lagoon south of Padang, he had felt himself on the edge of a new paradise.
As if Indonesia was still a flower bud; a bud that one day would unfold anew in unfathomable beauty to the delight of the Indonesian people. With Sukarno as President, the freedom hero that had released them from the oppression of the colonial masters, it had to be this way even with shadows, like the Indonesian military.
He reached the main gate that separated the harbor area from Tanjung Priok. The soldiers were there with their usual attitude, one arm resting on the submachine gun hanging in its strap over the shoulder, its barrel pointing down. However, a couple of them were always on the alert. They stood feet lightly apart with a firm grip on their weapons, ready to shoot if necessary.
Kasper handed over his temporary shore pass. A soldier looked at it, handed it to his senior, who studied it closely.
Kasper attempted to appear neutral. On a good day they would expect a payoff and let him pass. On a bad day they would body search him and he did not like that. On a really bad day they would keep everything he had in his pockets. On the worst day they would refuse to let him ashore.
- Do you have any cigarettes? the soldier he had handed the pass to asked, while the other still simulated studying it.
Kasper did not smoke but he had long since learned the rules of the game. He stuck his hand in his pocket and fished out an unopened 20 pack of American Salem and handed it to the soldier, who took it and handed it to his colleague, who pocketed it. Thereupon Kaspers shore pass traveled the same way back. He knew that the cigarettes would not be split between the soldiers at the gate. They would be sold a few days later on the black market. The officer would keep the money.
Kasper stuffed the shore pass in his shirt pocket. Outside the gate he once again turned left as he had at the small administrative building at the end of the pier.
A couple of boys, who he estimated to be between seven and ten years old, quickly swarmed around him, their hands stretched out and eyes begging. They were dressed in worn T-shirts with just as worn shorts and no shoes on. The gravel on the road whirled around their brown feet. Their straight-cut black hair bobbed up and down.
- Like nice girl? they asked eagerly in unison.
Kasper did not answer them. They too were a part of life out here.
- Mister, I find nice girl for you, one of them continued unaffected. - Sir! he added so as to heighten Kaspers status.
Kasper shook his head. It didnt mean anything to them that they had acted out the same scene for him the day before and many other times before this, and that they would do this again and again to him and others. It was hard not to smile at their persistence, or to give them a little money. But he knew all about how stupid that would be. Then he would really be in trouble. Then they would consider him their bapakthe one who took care of them.
- You like small boys? the other boy asked, taking over the marketing.
Kasper again shook his head in denial. He had reached the road leading to London Bar.
- You like Billy-boys! the boys continued in harmony pointing demonstratively at the tall blonde Dane and doubled over laughing.
The Forgotten Massacre is a personal tale of dreams and friendships, love, affection and jealousy, strong mental relations, about naivety, guardian angels and faith in being able to cope with the impossible.
It is a novel, with parallels to our time. Is the present different from the past?
The action takes place in a combination of CIA activities and five young people trying to save each other from the massacre.
The Story: In the shadow of Paradise
In the summer of 1965 unrest simmers as so often in Indonesia. In the days after 30 September an action that should prevent a group of generals to take power develops into a merciless civil war between communists, Muslims and the army.
In the Ragnarok five young women and men, in the gap between teenagers and adults, are abruptly pulled out of their plans and dreams for the future.
Despite their widely different ethnic backgrounds, culture, political beliefs, morality, religion, and the lack of same, the five young people rely on each other to survive the massacre.
But can they trust each other in a civil war where many years of neighbors and friends are ready not only to inform against each other, but also to participate in the killing?
In the hope to survive.
The Germ: The truth not to be told
When the author, 19 years old, became involved in the events which the historians later dubbed “The Forgotten Massacre” he had no idea that the U.S. could have contributed to the mass killings … not until many years later when he read the following:
I have probably a lot of blood on my hands. But it is not that bad!
– Robert Martens, employed at the U.S.Embassy in Jakarta in 1965
The phrase was in an article written by Kathy Kadane printed in the New York Times. The article denied the U.S. involvement. “Robert Martens worked entirely on his own, without permission of any kind, it was clearly stated by officials.
… maybe. I don’t remember. Maybe we did it. I have forgotten.
– William Colby, director CIA, Far East Divison i the 1960’s
The truth that should be concealed is the germ of this novel.
The background: A liberator fails
The Indonesian president Sukarno, freedom hero from the uprising against the Dutch has lost his grip on the coalition of Muslims, communists and the military, whose internal strife he has used to keep himself in power.
This brings the nation into a coup and a counter coup. Six generals are murdered within a few hours. Without participating the Communist Party is blamed.
The army responds with a brutal slaughter of communists
U.S. welcomes the vengeance. Nobody knows that CIA stands behind and that an employee in the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta has provided the army with lists, right down to village level, of Communists and their sympathizers.
Soon the milestones Java are decorated with decapitated heads,
For the United States it isn’t merely an attack on communism. It is also their second major attack on the Muslim world.
Published in Danish, Isotia, October 2007
Published in Bahasa Indonesia, Mizan, June 2009
Available in English, amazon kindle e-book February 2012
Publishing rights for U.S.A. and more still available. Please mail us at email@example.com.
Reviews (excerpt translated into English)
Nordjyske – Marianne Cornett
07.01.2008 … breathtaking and dazzling good telling style… With “The Forgotten Massacre” Peer Holm Jørgensen has committed an excellent novel of suspense that is very difficult to put away before the last page has been turned.
Read the review in full (in Danish)
Politiken - Bo Tao Michaëlis
… an appaling human document … but also sensitive as a novel of a young mans developement…
Read the review in full (in Danish)
JyskeVestkysten – Steen Rasmussen
23.12.2007 … Peer Holm Jørgensens “´The Forgotten Massacre” is brilliant – exciting, well-written and captivating …”
* * * * *
With approximately 250 million inhabitants sharing more than 17.000 islands spanning over three time zones Indonesia is the fourth biggest nation on Earth.
Arriving with the Arabian traders around 8th century and by the 15th century spread to most of the islands Indonesia today is the biggest Muslim society in the world; however not the only religion as 5 more are officially recognized by the governemt. Hereto there are about 245 non-official religions.
Until 1522 when the Portuguese built their first fort Indonesia had been a dynamic organization of countless kingdoms and sultanates.
In 1596 the Dutch arrived and colonization initiated. 350 years later in 1945, based on the Pancasila, Indonesia liberated itself from the colonial powers. 20 years later in 1965 one of the darkest periods in the Indonesian history changed the standards of governing.
Modern Indonesia has recently started its journey towards its deserved positon in the world community.