The German government is declassifying files on a Chilean commune that was founded by low-ranking Nazi officer Paul Schäfer, who was also a Christian minister.
During its 1960s and ’70s heyday, the secretive colony was a hotbed of pedophilia and violence; its senior members, starting with Schäfer, were in cahoots with Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet‘s secret police. The abuse at the commune, including the torture of political dissidents, took place under the noses of post-Nazi German diplomats in Chile. They knew about the events but chose to ignore them.
Victims of a pedophile sect led by a one-eyed German Nazi who oversaw daily torture and abuse of child slaves over three decades in Chile are hoping to finally see justice with a legal bid.
Colonia Dignidad was a secretive German commune founded in 1961 by convicted pedophile Paul Schäfer and a group of fellow German immigrants in Parral, south of the capital Santiago.
Residents were indoctrinated and kept as virtual slaves over three decades by the sect.
The Nazi pedophile also collaborated with the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet whose secret police used the colony as a place to torture opponents. The enclave’s history features in a [new] movie called Colonia, starring Emma Watson and Daniel Bruehl.
Germany is releasing the files in question 10 years before being required by law to do so, as a token of repentance for its diplomatic mission’s scandalous involvement in the affair.
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. A separate case is also being filed against Germany for negligently failing to help its nationals who were abused in the colony, lawyer and plaintiff Winfried Hempel said.
“The handling of Colonia Dignidad was not a glorious chapter of the history of the foreign ministry,” said Germany’s 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.
“Even later, when Colonia Dignidad was dissolved and the people were no longer subjected to the daily torture, the service lacked the determination and transparency to identify its responsibilities and to draw lessons from it,” Steinmeier said. …
In 2006, former members of the cult issued a public apology and asked for forgiveness for 40 years of sex and human rights abuses in their community, saying they were brainwashed by Schäfer, who many viewed as God.
Schäfer lived in Germany until 1959, when he and followers fled the country following charges related to the sexual abuse of two children. He resurfaced in Chile, where he founded Colonia Dignidad and ruled it with an iron fist. In 1997, he did another disappearing act,
… fleeing child sex abuse charges … filed by Chilean authorities after 26 children who went to the commune’s free clinic and school reported abuse. He was tried in Chile in his absence, and found guilty in late 2004.
After finally being captured in 2005,
Schäfer was sentenced to 20 years in jail for sexually abusing 25 children, and was ordered to pay £1million [about 1.5 million dollars] to 11 minors whose representatives established suits. He died aged 89 in a Chilean jail in 2010 while serving his sentence.
The Wikipedia entry for Schäfer (whose name, fittingly for a minister, means “shepherd” in German), says that after the end of World War II,
… he set up a children’s home and Baptist ministry. In 1959, he created the Private Social Mission, purportedly a charitable organization. That same year, he was charged with sexually abusing two children and fled West Germany with some of his followers.
Schäfer followed the teachings of American preacher William M. Branham, one of the founders of the post World War II healing revival. Branham advocated a strict adherence to the Bible, a woman’s duty to obey her husband, and apocalyptic visions, such as Los Angeles sinking beneath the ocean.
(Screenshot via YouTube)