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Colonia Dignidad


News Summaries from ICSA Periodicals

Germany, Chile agree to form joint commission on secretive cult

“Germany and Chile have agreed to create a commission to document crimes committed at a secretive sect founded by an ex-Nazi in the foothills of the Andes, the Chilean foreign relations ministry said on Thursday. … Colonia Dignidad was founded in 1961 by former World War II German army medic Paul Schaefer. The community, which embraced ultra-traditional values, operated as an isolated cult under Schaefer, who sexually abused and tortured dozens of youths. During the 1973 to 1990 dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, the community also served as a detention and torture site for enemies of the regime. … In 2006, former members of the cult issued a public apology and asked for forgiveness for 40 years of human rights abuses in their community, saying they were brainwashed by Schaefer, who many viewed as a God. Colonia Dignidad continues to stir controversy in Chile, as residents have rebranded the community as a rustic, Bavaria-themed retreat for Santiago residents, which victims argue is disrespectful. Schaefer died in 2010, while serving a 20-year sentence for sex abuse.” (Reuters, 07/13/17) [8.3]

Chile court extends cult leaders’ sentences

“Chile’s highest court has increased the sentences of three Germans found guilty for their leadership roles at the infamous Colonia Dignidad, a sect that oversaw child molestation and other human rights abuses. The court increased by one year the sentences set by an appeals court to five years and one day for Kurt Schnellenkamp, Gerhard Muecke, and Karl van den Berg for the formation of a criminal organisation. The court also issued similar sentences for former Chilean intelligence agents Fernando Gomez and Pedro Espinoza. Four other defendants were released. No more appeals are possible, and the judgement is binding. Located in the Andean foothills 300 kilometres south of the capital Santiago, Colonia Dignidad—’Dignity Colony’—was a German commune founded by German-born cult leader Paul Schaefer in 1961. The heavily guarded, 15,000-hectare colony was used as a secret detention and torture centre for political prisoners during the 1973–1990 dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. At its height, about 300 people lived at Colonia Dignidad under draconian conditions, sealed off from the rest of the world and subject to abuse that included the systematic sexual molestation of children. Schaefer, an ex-Nazi corporal who convinced 250 German followers to emigrate with him to Chile after authorities began investigating him, was sentenced to 33 years for child sexual abuse and other crimes and died in prison in 2010.” (NEWS.com.au, 12/31/16) [IT 8.2]


Germany opens files on Nazi pedophile sect in Chile

"Germany is declassifying its files on Colonia Dignidad, a sect in Chile run by a Nazi pedophile. . . Colonia Dignidad was a German commune founded in 1961 by convicted pedophile Paul Schaefer and a group of fellow German immigrants in a remote part of Chile, where residents were indoctrinated and kept as virtual slaves over three decades. . . . ‘The handling of Colonia Dignidad was not a glorious chapter of the history of the foreign ministry,’ said Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. For many years, from the 60s to the 80s, German diplomats looked the other way, and did too little to protect their citizens in this commune,’ he said as the ministry screened a movie about the case starring Emma Watson and Daniel Bruehl.  . . . In 1997, Schaefer faced a series of lawsuits and fled Chile. He was arrested in Argentina in 2005 and subsequently convicted in Chile for sexual abuse of children, arms possession and human rights violations. He died in a Chilean jail in 2010 while serving a 20-year sentence.” (The Local, 04/27/16) [IT 7.3 2016]

Germany seeks extradition of Nazi sect pedophile doctor

“A doctor who was convicted in Chile for complicity in child sex abuse at the Nazi-tied Colonia Dignidad commune may have to serve out his sentence in Germany. Hartmut Hopp, 76, was the right-hand man of convicted pedophile Paul Schäfer, who in 1961 founded the notorious German commune Colonia Dignidad in Chile where residents were indoctrinated and kept as virtual slaves over three decades. Schäfer also collaborated with the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, whose secret police used the colony—which lies around 350 kilometers (215 miles) south of the capital Santiago—as a place to torture opponents. Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal had also reported that infamous concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele, dubbed the ‘Angel of Death,’ had been at the colony. Hopp was convicted in 2011 for complicity in 16 cases of child sex abuse, but returned to Germany before the final court ruling was imposed two years later. But now prosecutors in western Germany’s Krefeld have demanded that Hopp serve out his five-year jail term in his country of origin, a spokesman said.  . . . Former residents of the commune are bringing a lawsuit against the Chilean state for allowing the camp to operate for years, during which they say numerous victims were abused and enslaved. The history of the commune inspired last year’s film Colonia starring Emma Watson. (The Local, 06/08/16) [IT 7.3 2016]

Victims of German pedophile sect in Chile seek justice

Winfried Hempel, 38, escaped the group Colonia Dignidad 18 years ago and now is a lawyer heading a lawsuit against the German and Chilean states for the suffering that members went through in the group. Hempel says both countries allowed the abuse to happen at the ironically named Dignity Camp, founded by Paul Schaefer, a German later convicted as a pedophile. Schaefer and a group of fellow German immigrants founded Colonia Dignidad in 1961. Hempel says that the group is “one of the worst sects that have existed in the history of humanity.” Hempel “is bringing a joint lawsuit on behalf of 120 former residents of the colony who blame the Chilean state for allowing it to operate for years, during which time they say numerous victims were abused and enslaved.” In one case, “he is seeking $1.0 million from the Chilean state in compensation for each victim. . . He is bringing a parallel case against Germany” for “negligently failing to help its nationals” whom the colony abused. Gabriel Rodriguez, who lives in a nearby village, was held in Colonia Dignidad for a week as a prisoner of the Pinochet regime. Rodriguez said that “promoting tourism in a place whose memory is one of death, torture, slavery and mutilation seems to me an aberration . . . It is an insult to the memory of those who suffered and died there.” (NDTV, 01/27/16) [IT 7.2 2016]

Two Germans sentenced in Chile for kidnappings under Pinochet dictatorship

Two German residents, Kurt Schnellenkamp and Gerhard Mucke, and a Chilean, Fernando Gomez Segovia, were each sentenced to 5 years in prison for their role in kidnapping 50 people in 1975. The Germans belonged to Colonia Dignidad, which collaborated with General Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship. The victims were interrogated under torture with electrical currents to their bodies. (Deutsche Welle, 10/20/15)

The Supreme Court of Chile in July accepted a petition from a lower court calling for the extradition from Germany of Harmut Hoppe, convicted in absentia as an accomplice to rape and sexual abuse while he was at Colonia Dignidad, then a cult-like community run by the late Paul Schaefer. Having no extradition treaty with Chile, Germany has rejected previous extradition appeals. (Global Post, 7/25/13) [IT 5.1 2014] 

The Chilean Supreme Court has authorized a judge’s request to seek the extradition from Germany of Dr. Harmut Hopp, a former official of Colonia Dignidad, who was convicted and given a 5-year sentence on charges that he was an accomplice of sect leader Paul Schäefer in the rape of four boys and the sexual abuse of 16 others. The court recommended that if Germany continued to refuse to extradite Hopp, Chile should ask that he serve his sentence in a German prison. (New York Times, 7/8/13) [IT 4.3 2013] 

German citizens previously active in the Colonia Dignidad in Chile, where opponents of the regime were tortured during the military dictatorship, have been condemned. [IT 4.3 2013] 

A Chilean judge has ordered the arrest of eight former police and army officers in connection with the 1985 kidnapping of Princeton University hiker Boris Weisfeiler. They allegedly took him to a secret police-torture center at Colonia Dignidad, the German enclave founded by an ex-Nazi nurse, the late Paul Schaefer, where, according to witnesses, Weisfeiler was tortured and executed. It is believed that his abductors thought he was working for antigovernment militants because he was wearing military garb. Schaefer’s close links to Chile’s rulers allowed his colony to operate with impunity as a “state within a state,” rife with child abuse and other crimes, according to a Chliean congressional report. (BBC News, 8/22/12) [IT 4.2 2013] 

Following the demise of Colonia Dignidad in 1997, more than one hundred of the cult’s survivors, repatriated from Chile to their ancestral roots near Duesseldorf, are now pressing for a German investigation into the activities of Dr. Hartmut Haupt, who they say sexually abused 25 children in the cult before he fled to Krefeld, Germany. They plan to sue the Chilean and German states for failing to protect them despite decades of warnings about life in Colonia Dignidad, detailed here in the testimony of former residents who suffered under the authoritarian and sadistic rule of the late Paul Schaeffer. Today, Colonia Dignidad, renamed Villa Baviera, is a tourist destination administered by the Chilean government, which provides compensation to the cult’s victims. Aging survivors who still reside there now relax and watch television, which was forbidden in Schaeffer’s time. (Reuters, 5/9/12) [IT 3.2 2012] 

Paul Schaefer, the authoritarian former head of the Colonia Dignidad (now Vila Baviera) community, in Chile, died of heart failure at the age of 89, in April, while serving a 20-year prison term for sexually abusing children in the cult. [IT 1.2 2010]

Eighty-seven-year-old Paul Schaefer, already serving a 20-year prison term for child abuse at his Colonia Dignidad settlement, in Chile, was sentenced in November to seven years in prison for a murder committed during the Pinochet dictatorship (1973–1990), with which he allegedly conspired to detain, torture, and execute political dissidents. [csr 8.1, 2009) 

Colonia Dignidad 
The recently discovered recording of a 1985 phone conversation among leaders of Colonia Dignidad suggests that the group conspired with the Pinochet dictatorship in the detention and death of Penn State professor Boris Weisfeiler, a Russian-born U.S. citizen who disappeared while hiking in Chile. Weisfeiler’s sister, who has spent two decades trying to find out what happened to her brother, has been assisted lately by her Congressman, Barney Frank, of Massachusetts. The last lead in the case dates to 1987 when a Chilean military informant told U.S. embassy officials that he was part of a patrol that arrested a foreign hiker and decided he was a Russian spy. . . Chile’s Supreme Court has rejected a judge’s request that five former Colonia Dignidad officials be extradited from Argentina, whence they fled [with the fall of leader Paul Schaefer]. [csr 5.3 2006] 

At least 22 dissidents who disappeared during the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile were killed at the Colonia Dignidad commune run by Paul Schaefer, according to Gerhard Mucke, a former commune leader testifying before a judge investigating human rights abuses. The colony has been accused for many years of allowing the Pinochet security service to use it for detention, torture, and execution of dissidents. [csr 5.3 2006] 

Former Colonia Dignidad leader Paul Schaefer, 84, extradited from Argentina, where he had fled with the fall of his cultic commune, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison in Chile for sexually abusing minors. He still faces charges of human rights abuses, including allegations he allowed the dictator Pinochet’s secret police to torture and kill prisoners at the remote Colonia Dignidad. [csr 5.3 2006] 

The population of Colonia Dignidad is dropping, down to 198 residents from a high of some 1,000 — mostly German immigrants — at its height, with 116 adults, 64 retirees, and 18 small children remaining. A spokesman said many have left for fear they’ll be prosecuted for the crimes committed by now-jailed leader Paul Schaefer. The spokesman added, “The residents of Villa Bavaria have to integrate themselves more with Chileans and stop being so racist.” Colony residents earlier this year sent a letter to the Chilean president detailing the crimes that took place over the years and how Schaefer maintained his control using brainwashing, electric shock, tranquilizers, and isolation. [csr 5.3 2006] 

Colonia Dignidad 
Paul Schaefer, the former authoritarian leader of Colonia Dignidad (now called Villa Baviera), the Chilean cult made up mostly of post-World War II German immigrants, has been found guilty of sexually abusing 25 children and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was also ordered to pay $1.4 million to his victims. The rabidly anti-communist and anti-Semitic Schaefer still faces human rights charges in connection with his aid to the Pinochet regime. Followers who still live in Colonia Dignidad, many of whom are said to have psychological problems due to isolation from the outside world, want charges against them dropped, saying that the control Schaefer exercised absolves them of responsibility. [csr 5.2 2006 2006] 

Colonia Dignidad 
A Chilean judge is investigating the discovery of an unmarked grave, thought to contain dozens of bodies, on the property of the former Colonia Dignidad settlement. Human rights groups say the colony’s leaders helped repress left-wing activists during the era of military rule. [csr 5.1 2006] 

Former members of the Colonia Dignidad cult have published a full-page letter in a leading Chilean newspaper apologizing and asking forgiveness for 40 years of child sex and human rights abuses. They say Paul Schafer, who founded the commune in southern Chile and settled it with 300 German immigrants, dominated their minds and bodies and molested children. “We have come to understand that our community lived its religious faith as a hermetic sect which accepted the transformation of personalities of its members and made them incapable of making decisions contrary to his wishes as sole leader,” they wrote. [csr 5.1 2006] 

Schaefer Indicted in Disappearance 
Colonia Dignidad founder Paul Schaefer has been indicted in Chile for alleged involvement in the disappearance of a leftwing political dissident during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet [with which Schaefer was allegedly associated]. The 83-year-old Schaefer, extradited earlier this year from Argentina, has already been indicted on charges of sexually abusing children in the cult-like commune. (Expatica, Internet, 3/18/05) [csr 4.2 2005] 

Five Members Indicted 
A judge in Chile has indicted, in absentia, five members of Colonia Dignidad for protecting leader Paul Schaffer after he fled to Argentina in 1977 following charges of sex abuse and collusion with the Pinochet dictatorship to torture and kill political prisoners. (Expatica, Internet, 4/1/05) [csr 4.2 2005] 

Book Details Crimes 
A forthcoming book by two Chilean journalists, detailing the sexual abuse and other crimes of Paul Schaeffer’s paramilitary religious commune, Colonia Dignidad, indicates that the number of young victims may number in the thousands, including the children of the German immigrants who settled there as well as the children of local Chilean farming families who attended the settlement’s agricultural school. The book will also say that every branch of the Chilean state is “guilty of omission” in preventing Schaeffer’s arrest for four decades. Human rights groups say that the commune served as a secret torture and detention center during the Pinochet dictatorship. The book is to be published this fall by Random House Mondadori.[csr 4.2 2005] 

Author Claudio Salinas says commune members “were under a spell cast by a leader who is neither a psychopath nor brutish, but a charismatic man, and also a homosexual who only likes boys.” Co-author Hans Stange says Schaeffer “did not allow the commune members to have a private life or freely associate among themselves, and they had to work between 12 and 14 hours a day without speaking with anyone.[csr 4.2 2005] 

The authors say the youngest members of the commune can’t go to school because most don’t speak Spanish, and won’t be able to find jobs since the only thing they’ve ever done is work on the farm. “They should be protected . . . [but] they don’t fit into our society or into modern-day German society.” (Maria Cecelia Espinosa, Inter Press Service News Agency, Internet, 5/3/05) [csr 4.2 2005] 

Closed Cult Now Opening Up 
The bucolic Colonia Dignidad settlement, now called Bavarian Villa, has become a more open society since leader Paul Schafer left. Residents now live as families rather than in separate groupings in dormitories. The new leaders are men in their 30’s and 40’s, most of whom were sexually molested by Schafer. But they don’t want to talk about that, or about how the organization now distributes living quarters, land for cultivation, or shares in the profitable businesses Schafer controlled. When asked about reports that a Jewish American math professor, hiking in the area in 1985, was executed on Schafer’s orders, members reportedly said, “We were very young, we don’t know, we can’t be sure.” (Larry Rohter, New York Times, Internet, 5/16/05) [csr 4.2 2005] 

Arms Cache Discovered 
Chilean officials have discovered a cache of machine guns and rocket-launchers on the property of Colonia Dignidad, the cult formerly led by Paul Schafer that is now opening up to the wider society, freed of his totalitarian control. The arms are evidence that Colonia Dignidad had paramilitary functions [during the Pinochet regime], according to Interior Minister Jorge Correa. (Reuters in New Zealand Herald, Internet, 6/16/05) [csr 4.2 2005] 

So strong was Schäfer’s control over residents — defectors years ago reported that he separated children from parents at birth and banned normal contact among family members — that they defended Colonia Dignidad and kept it going long after he was gone, in the teeth of government inquiries. Older members, now in their 80s, at a loss as to what to do now, are seeking to regain pensions cut off by the German government when it learned the money went to Schaefer, while younger ones regret sacrificing their child-bearing years to Schaefer’s vision. (Fiona Ortiz, Reuters in the Washington Post, Internet, 11/8/04) [csr 4.1 2005] 

Following an eight-year investigation, a Chilean judge in November found Shäfer and 22 Chilean and German members of Colonia Dignidad guilty of sexually abusing 26 children and sentenced them [Shäfer in absentia] to up to five years each in prison. (Reuters in the New York Times, Internet, 11/17/04) [csr 4.1 2005] 

The paramilitary Colonia Dignidad continues to flourish in Chile’s Andean foothills despite being, in the words of a recent Chilean congressional report, a heavily armed “state within a state.”[csr 2.1 2003] 

The founder and leader is German-born Paul Schäfer, who rules over a fortress settlement—protected by barricades, barbed wire, roadblocks, searchlights, and hidden cameras and microphones—that is home to about 300 people, mostly German citizens. Schäfer and his lieutenants have been accused of sexually abusing scores of young boys, torturing political prisoners, kidnapping, forced labor, and tax evasion. Schäfer preaches an apocalyptic creed that has strong anti-Semitic and anti-Communist elements.[csr 2.1 2003] 

The German ambassador says that he does not understand how Colonia Dignidad can “defy a free and sovereign state [Chile],” but Chilean investigators say that this can be explained in part by the protection of sympathetic military and police officials that was cultivated by Colonia leaders during the Pinochet dictatorship.[csr 2.1 2003] 

In addition, the transformation of Colonia Dignidad from a charitable organization into a diversified business group has financed a “guerilla war” in the courts that has protected the organization. Some Chilean legislators suspect that fear of a mass suicide in Colonia, something that the group has hinted might occur if it is pushed too far, has inhibited authorities.[csr 2.1 2003] 

Schäfer, a former Luftwaffe [German air force] nurse now in his 80’s, arrived with a few followers 1961, fleeing sexual abuse charges from an orphanage he worked at. He developed close relationships not only with the German community in Chile, but with the head of Chilean intelligence; Chilean political prisoners were hidden in Colonia Dignidad cells, and tortured, according to testimony of those who survived. Even with the end of the dictatorship and suspension of Colonia’s charitable status, it thrived until 1996, when numerous boys at the Colonia boarding school charged Schäfer with sexual molestation, and detailed their experiences.[csr 2.1 2003] 

Accounts from the boys, and others, say that Schäfer closely controls his followers’ lives. He tells them whom to marry and when they can have children (who live in a common house, separated from their parents).[csr 2.1 2003] 

Attempts to arrest Schäfer have met with physical resistance, or claimed ignorance of his whereabouts. A judge has shelved the charges against Schäfer on the ground that he can’t be found. The group files legal writs by the dozen to avoid prosecution, knowing that the state does not have the resources to keep up with them, according to a Chilean senator. And the police won’t act, they say, because they don’t have enough men on duty; or they sit on orders for months. Court records disappear. Investigators say that Colonia dossiers on prominent Chilean’s might be used for blackmail to prevent moves against the group. (Larry Rohter, New York Times, Internet, 12/30/02) [csr 2.1 2003]

Colonia Dignidad - Supplemental News