25 May 2011

Two leaders of Chile cult infamous for torture and child sex arrested, another convicted of child sex abuse wanted by Interpol

BBC News   -   May 24, 2011

Colonia Dignidad cult suspects arrested in Chile

Police in Chile have arrested two suspected members of the secretive sect, Colonia Dignidad.

Rebeca Schaefer and Peter Schmidt are accused of kidnapping, manslaughter and membership of an illicit organisation.

They handed themselves in after a judge ordered their arrest on Monday along with five others.

The judge issued a warrant for the arrest of Hartmut Hopp, the deputy leader of Colonia Dignidad who is thought to have fled to Germany.

Ms Schaefer is the adopted daughter of the former cult leader and Nazi sympathiser, Paul Schaefer, who died in prison in April 2010.

He was serving a 20-year term for sexually abusing children at Colonia Dignidad.

The Baptist preacher founded the commune in 1961 in a remote area about 390km (245 miles) south of the capital Santiago.House arrest

Ms Schaefer and her husband Peter Schmidt were detained after travelling to a police station together.

The justice ministry told the BBC that Chile had filed an international warrant via Interpol for the arrest of Hartmut Hopp.

Hopp, 66, disappeared last Friday while on bail awaiting trial.

"We are aware of press reports that he may have fled to his native Germany," justice ministry spokesman, Hector Cruzac, said.

The Chilean authorities are currently investigating how the German national managed to flee from house arrest.

Hopp, who is a medical doctor by profession, was convicted by a court last year of child sex abuse.

However, the authorities had not yet jailed him as they wanted to put him on trial on additional charges, including membership of a banned organisation.

The fugitive's daughter-in-law, Baerbel Schreiber, told a Chilean investigative website that he had arrived in Germany several days ago and was still there.

Colonia Dignidad served as a torture centre during the military rule of Gen Augusto Pinochet.

The colony was taken over by the Chilean government in 2005.

A subsequent investigation showed how it operated as a state within a state, with children forced to live separately from their parents.

This article was found at:


Chilean cult leader jailed for sexual abuse and torture of kids dies in prison, followers say what he did doesn't matter


  1. German sect victims seek escape from Chilean nightmare past

    by Stephen Brown and Oliver Ellrodt, Reuters May 9, 2012

    KREFELD, Germany - Werner Schmidtke has a recurring nightmare: he is in a room full of boys strapped to metal beds, naked and blindfolded with wax plugs in their ears, being tortured by a man with an electric prod. Any boy who screams is plunged into a tub full of freezing water and given more electric shocks.

    For Schmidtke, who is now 51, the scene is all too real. He was subjected to this treatment as a youngster in a building known as "Neukra" (short for "New Hospital" in German) in Colonia Dignidad, a secretive sect set up in central Chile in 1961 by Paul Schaefer, a German World War Two medic turned evangelical preacher.

    To this day, Schmidtke does not know why he was among the boys singled out for the torture from among Schaefer's 300 German followers, who endured decades of virtual slavery until Schaefer fled the Chilean police in 1997. Schaefer was arrested in Argentina and died in a Santiago prison in 2010 aged 88.

    Poor, badly educated, and physically and mentally traumatized, some 100 sect members drifted back to their roots in the area north of the German city of Duesseldorf where the sect was born and where state welfare offered them help.

    To their horror, Schaefer's right-hand man, Hartmut Hopp, a doctor who received a five-year jail term in Chile in 2011 for his role in the abuse, also turned up there last May.
    Hopp, 67, had skipped Chile before his final sentencing, and Chile wants him back. But the German constitution forbids the extradition of its own citizens.

    So Schmidtke and about 120 other Colonia Dignidad survivors, backed by a German rights group, are now plaintiffs in a German investigation into Hopp, for aiding and abetting the sexual abuse of 25 children between 1993 and 1997. They plan to sue the Chilean and German states for failing to protect them despite decades of warnings about what was going on inside the fortified enclave.

    Schmidtke wants official acknowledgement of what happened, as well as money to help him and his wife Katharina - another Colonia Dignidad survivor - raise their two young daughters.

    "The people of Germany have a right to know what happened too," said Schmidtke in his tidy flat, which features two canaries singing in a cage, artificial flowers and a print of an Alpine landscape.

    When Reuters tried to talk to Hopp at his home in Krefeld town centre, he called the police.

    Hopp's lawyer, Helfried Roubicek, also declined to be interviewed. But he wrote in an email that Hopp was cooperating with the court and that he might one day present the media with evidence that "the charges he is being investigated for by the prosecutors in Krefeld will, in the end, not be upheld under the German penal code and trial law". Asked to explain, he would only say his arguments would be based on "German law".

    Chile filed an extradition request for Hopp last August. The Chilean judge leading the investigations into Colonia Dignidad said he could not discuss the case.
    Germany's foreign ministry confirmed that Hopp could not be extradited but declined to comment further.


    A smiling man with spectacles, a sparse beard and lank blond hair, Schmidtke's voice falters as he recounts his childhood of hard labor clearing woods and stony fields from dawn to dusk, often on a diet of bread and water.

    He sailed to Chile in 1962 as a two-year-old, along with his mother and nine brothers and sisters, one of whom died as a child in Colonia Dignidad. His parents were convinced to sell the family home and follow Schaefer to South America by his powerful preaching and promise of a more godly life. Schmidtke's father stayed on in Germany to look after the sect's business interests and joined them in Chile eight years later.

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    On board the ship the children were separated from their mother, whom Schmidtke remembers as a "good-hearted woman", and were then kept apart like the other families in the enclave. In their new home, Schmidtke lived in the timber "Kinderhaus", or Children's House, where Schaefer had his private apartment. It was here that he first encountered the charismatic leader.

    "One or two boys would be taken to his room every day, and one day I was called," Schmidtke told Reuters. "He sat me down on his bed and started to stroke me and ask me questions, to talk the way a father talks to his child, and I had no parents anymore.

    "I have never forgotten it, my first dealings with Schaefer," he said. "I was about seven or eight. That is when the abuse and rape started."

    Schaefer followed the teachings of American preacher William M. Branham, one of the founders of the "faith healing" movement in the 1940s and 50s. Born in a log cabin in Kentucky, Branham said he had been visited by angels and attracted tens of thousands of followers with sermons that 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.

    Former members of the sect say that Schaefer preached against "sins of the flesh." He also segregated men and women, they say, subjecting all but a few to enforced celibacy. Anyone who disobeyed was brutally punished, often by Schaefer personally.

    When accusations of abuse and torture first cropped up in the media in the 1970s, Schaefer, known to his followers as "Permanent Uncle", urged sect members to stage hunger strikes in protest. Appearing frail and confused on his arrest, he was taken in a wheelchair to court where his lawyers said he was too ill for trial. He never acknowledged his crimes publicly, though in 2006 some sect members issued an apology through the Chilean press.

    "I have to live every day with the consequences of what he did to me, to us," said Schmidtke.

    He says he tried to escape the enclave five times, but always returned. "I had nobody to go to. As a child you need your parents to go and cry to and say 'I can't take any more'. But the only answer was to run away."


    Public opinion in Germany turned against Schaefer in 1988, when two sect members who managed to escape via Canada - Georg and Lotti Packmor - gave testimony to a parliamentary hearing in the then-capital, Bonn, into whether German citizens were being forced to live in the enclave against their will.

    When Lotti testified, she not only spoke about Schaefer but implicated Hopp, whom Schaefer had sent to medical school, and allowed to marry and own a car. As well as running the sect's hospital, Hopp had contact with officials and diplomats and when Packmor's first escape bid in 1980 failed, Hopp was one of those sent to fetch her. "Another peep out of you and you'll get an injection to keep you quiet," she recalled him saying.

    In the secretive community, whose members were ruled by fear and ordered to spy on each other, it was not always easy to categorize victims and perpetrators. As a youngster, Hopp had also tried to flee, Packmor said, getting as far as Argentina.

    Hopp, who travelled to Bonn to defend the sect at the 1988 hearings, testified that the group was "one big family" which in a quarter of a century had not had a single divorce or suicide, and whose members were free to leave at any time and were not subjected to forced labor.

    "Despite that, there have always been people or groups who have slandered our society or individual members in an incredibly scandalous way by feeding misinformation to the press," Hopp said in his testimony to the Bundestag.

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    German prosecutors began to investigate Hopp after the Bundestag hearing, but it was not until Schaefer's downfall a decade later that Chilean authorities began investigating and arresting other leaders of the sect.

    After Hopp was convicted of being an accomplice in the sexual abuse of children in Chile in 2011 and sentenced to five years in prison, he fled to Argentina and then to Krefeld.

    About a dozen former sect members now attend an evangelical church in Krefeld run by Ewald Frank, who, like Schaefer before him, follows the teachings of Branham. Frank, who travels the world preaching, took legal action against local news outlets for reporting that his "Free Mission Krefeld" sheltered former sect leaders like Hopp. He said in a statement that his congregation shielded victims of the sect, not its leaders, and added in an email to Reuters: "For us, that unpleasant chapter for the time being is closed."

    After Hopp's return to Germany, the doctor and his wife were hounded out of one home by neighbors who learned of his past as the "Sektenarzt" ("sect doctor"). Local authorities placed him in a new home for his own protection.


    In Germany, crimes against children must be prosecuted within 10 years of the victims reaching 18 years of age, which is why the charges Hopp is being investigated for - aiding and abetting the sexual abuse of 25 children of German and Chilean nationality - date from 1993 to 1997. The suspicion is that Hopp knew children in his care were being abused "but did nothing about it", said the prosecutor.

    Krefeld's Chief Public Prosecutor Hans-Dieter Menden said the case will take time, not least because the legal documents between Chile and Germany require translation. He declined to speculate exactly how long.

    The former sect members involved in the civil suit against the German and Chilean states are represented by Manfred Hempel, himself born in Colonia Dignidad in 1967.

    Hempel escaped at the age of 20, when security briefly relaxed after Schaefer's flight to Argentina, and worked his way through school and university. He is now a lawyer at the Supreme Court in the Chilean capital Santiago.

    Hempel and lawyers at the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights say they have catalogued testimonies of physical and sexual abuse, the use of electric shocks and of drugs to dope young sect members and keep them obedient.

    On a visit to Berlin the softly-spoken lawyer said that his suit would charge "that nearly 300 German citizens were enslaved for decades and abused, and that the Chilean and German states connived with this and were collaborators with the (former Chilean dictator Augusto) Pinochet regime in this violence".

    Since Pinochet stepped down in 1990, Chile's National Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a panel on political imprisonment and torture have documented the sect's links to the dictator's DINA secret police, which used it as a secret torture centre. In January, former DINA chief Manuel Contreras received a 10-year jail sentence for the 1976 kidnap of three left-wing opponents of the Pinochet regime - one of them a pregnant woman - last seen alive in Colonia Dignidad. Condemned with him were other DINA officers and sect leaders including Hopp, who could not be sentenced as he had already fled Chile.

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    Today Colonia Dignidad, rebranded as "Villa Baviera" in the late 1980s, wants to put its macabre history behind it and promote itself as a tourist destination. After Schaefer's death the Chilean state put the property under legal administration to make provisions for the payment of compensation to Schaefer's victims. It has a hotel, and offers horse riding and weddings. Ageing survivors of the sect now relax together watching television, strictly forbidden in Schaefer's time.

    "The idea is for Villa Baviera to no longer be isolated but open to visitors all year long," said tourism manager Anna Schnellenkamp.

    For Schmidtke, there is no forgetting. He says Hopp is a coward for failing to use his position to speak out about what was happening. He also believes Hopp knows where the sect's fortunes have been stashed offshore, money he says should go to Schaefer's victims.

    "So many people have to live with the consequences of this evil regime and Dr. Hopp is one of the people most to blame," said Schmidtke.

    For now Hopp, who keeps a low profile, is free to move about Germany or even leave the country, but will probably not do so "because he would run the risk of being extradited to Chile", prosecutor Menden said. "He's relatively safe here."


  5. Cult members jailed for child abuse in Chile

    The Local - Germany's News in English January 29, 2013

    Chile's Supreme Court late on Monday sentenced four Germans and a Chilean to prison terms of between five and 11 years for abusing children at a former secretive enclave of German settlers.

    The court upheld a 2004 verdict against the five former leaders of the Colonia Dignidad, a cult-like community in southern Chile that was also used to hold political prisoners during the Pinochet dictatorship.

    The top court found the five guilty of "rape of a minor under the age of 12 and 16 crimes of sexual abuse of minors, failure to turn over a minor and child abduction."

    It sentenced German nationals Gerhard Mucke and Gunter Schaffrik to 11 years in prison, and Ger Seewald to eight years.

    Five year prison terms were handed down to Dennis Alvear, a Chilean, and Hartmut Hopp, a German who fled the country in 2011. Chile has sought Hopp's extradition, but Germany has rejected the request.

    Hopp was considered the right hand man of Paul Schäfer, who founded the strictly governed community in 1961 and died in prison in 2010 at age 88 while serving a 20 year sentence for child abuse and torture.

    Hundreds of Germans lived in the Colonia Dignidad, which supported itself through farming.


  6. Sect doctor could face jail for Chile abuse

    The Local.de Germany 9 April 9, 2013

    A German doctor whose citizenship has kept him out of jail could face prison after all for his role in a sect responsible for rampant child abuse in Chile.

    Hartmut Hopp, 68, was one of six leading members of Colonia Dignidad, a now notorious group which was so awful that human rights organization Amnesty International has been campaigning in Germany for him to be jailed.

    "Normally we call for the release of prisoners. But in this case it is the other way around," Klaus Walter from Amnesty International told The Local on Tuesday. He and others were handing out leaflets about the case in the western German city of Krefeld a couple of weeks ago.

    Hopp has been home in Germany since May 2011, when he was one of six men convicted by a Chilean court of abetting child abuse for supplying children to the paedophile sect leader Paul Schäfer. The conviction was confirmed by Chile's top court this January.

    Hopp fled Chile for Krefeld after the court's decision, and has lived there ever since with his wife, safe in the knowledge that the German constitution prevents the extradition of German citizens.

    Even an international arrest warrant issued by Interpol on the request of Chilean authorities cannot trump this.

    But the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger reported on Tuesday that German prosecutors were not only pursuing their own investigation into Hopp's actions in Chile - they were also awaiting a special request from Chile for Germany to execute the sentence of its courts.

    "We are working on two tracks," Klaus Schreiber, spokesman for the Krefeld public prosecutor told the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger.

    "For one, we are carrying out our own investigative process. As well as that, we are waiting for the Chileans to submit a request for the German Federal Republic to take over the prosecution. But this has not yet been done."

    He said the authorities were checking to see whether the foreign verdict could match German standards so that the sentence could be carried out here. "Then it could be turned into a German verdict and be carried out here as normal," Schreiber said.

    That would mean Hopp serving his five-year jail sentence in Germany.

    "Personally, and I have been following this case closely for 30 years, this charge of helping someone else to abuse children was not the real thing," said Walter.

    "He should be behind bars for murder or intending to murder, and the abuse of pharmaceuticals. He was drugging the prisoners and the inhabitants of the place for years. That's what he should be in prison for."

    But he said it was difficult for the German authorities to look into those claims as they did not speak Spanish or have access to official Chilean documents, he added.

    The German investigation into Hopp concerns his actions as the only doctor at Colonia Dignidad. He is accused of abusing medicines, giving high doses of psycho-active drugs to people without any medical need.

    Hopp's lawyer Helfried Roubicek said he was prepared to fully cooperate with the German authorities, but that he had worked in Chile in accordance to the laws of the land.

    Amnesty said that Hopp had moved to Chile in 1962 and helped to create the Colonia Dignidad, becoming one of the sect's leaders during the 1970s, and acting as the leader Schäfer's "right hand man".

    "As the only doctor of the sect Hopp led the hospital in which children were tortured with electric shocks and people were systematically sedated with psycho pharmaceuticals," Amnesty said in its journal from December 2011.

    "At the request of Schäfer he maintained close contacts to the military junta... Hopp probably played a central role in the cooperation between the regime and the Colonia Dignidad. For example when it was about torturing members of the Chilean opposition to death in the German enclave and making them 'disappear'."


  7. Chilean courts seek extradition of former cult leader

    BY CHARLOTTE KARRLSSON-WILLIS, Santiago Times Chile JULY 09, 2013

    Chile’s supreme court approves request for Germany to extradite Dr. Harmut Hopp, convicted of serious child abuse at the infamous Colonia Dignidad.

    Despite having fled to back to Germany, the crimes Dr. Harmut Hopp committed in Chile have not been forgotten. On Monday the Supreme Court proceeded with its appeal for extradition of the convicted child abuser, who served as second in command to ex-nazi Paul Schäfer Schneider at the infamous cult, Colonia Dignidad.

    The colony, now renamed Villa Baviera, was established as an agricultural commune for a community of Germans in southern Chile. It became notorious as witnesses came forward and investigations unearthed its many sinister secrets. Cult leaders kept people against their will, kidnapped both adults and children, and the colony was a haven for terrible abuses including child molestation, medical testing without consent and torture. During Chile’s military dictatorship led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Colonia Dignidad’s leaders worked with Pinochet’s secret police to run a torture center on the premises.

    Hopp, along with five other former leaders at Colonia Dignidad, was convicted in January of 16 counts of child molestation and as an accomplice to four counts of molestation of a minor under 12-years-old. He was sentenced to five years and a day by the Chilean courts. However, Hopp had fled to Krefeld, Germany, the year before.

    Although the crimes of Dr. Hopp are now well-known, with many victims sharing their stories of kidnapping, torture and abuse at Colonia Dignidad, it is unlikely Germany will send him back to face his prison time in Chile. Germany has no extradition agreement with Chile.

    Furthermore, its constitution, known as the Basic Law for the Republic of Germany, forbids this kind of extradition. It reads: “No German may be extradited to a foreign country. The law may provide otherwise for extraditions to a member state of the European Union or to an international court, provided that the rule of law is observed.”

    Acknowledging this major hurdle to the extradition process, the Chilean Supreme Court has asked that if extradition is not possible, that Hopp serve out his sentence in a German prison.

    “In the situation that the present request for extradition is received and the Federal Republic of Germany eventually denies it, [the Judicial prosecution] requests that [Germany] impose penalties on the convicted Hopp Miottel, to be fulfilled in that country,” the official ruling said.

    The victims of Dr. Hopp and of Schäfer’s Colonia Dignidad have continued to seek justice. The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights took up the cause of several individuals and groups, filing a formal criminal complaint against Dr. Hopp in August, 2011. Among those represented were a couple who were misprescribed psychotropic drugs and Andrés Rekas, whose sister Elizabeth was kidnapped and disappeared at the hands of the cult in 1976. Dr. Hopp took the stand in his own defense in February, 2012.

    Other victims and families are still looking for answers, like Olga Weisfeiler. Her brother Boris, the only American on the list of the disappeared during the Chilean dictatorship, is believed to have been held and likely killed at Colonia Dignidad. He has never been found, and Olga has never given up her search, recently taking her pleas to the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.


  8. An undignified colony

    Lucia Newman, Al Jazeera November 6, 2013

    Al Jazeera's Lucia Newman unravels a tale of torture and child abuse in a secretive German sect in Chile.

    Every once in a while there is a real life tale that is so extraordinary and so horrifying it seems more like the plot of a fictional Hollywood movie. The story of Colonia Dignidad is one of these.
    Chile was still under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet when I first heard about the mysterious German sect living in an enclave in the country’s rural south.

    Located just a couple of hours’ drive from the city of Talca, where my mother was born and I often vacationed as a child, Colonia Dignidad or Dignity Colony had been established in 1962 as a charity. A hospital located near the entrance to the enormous estate offered care to poor locals, but not even the local police could enter any deeper into what was widely described as a ‘state within a state’.

    The Colony, with its forests, rivers and mountains, was a fortress surrounded by electrified barbed wire fences and look-out towers manned by armed guards. Trees and rocks hid hearing devises and cameras.

    Its leader, Paul Schaefer, was a former Nazi army nurse.

    Like many of the region’s powerful politicians and landowners, Schaefer was opposed to Salvador Allende, the socialist president who came to power in 1970. But his opposition took on a distinctly practical dimension when he allowed the Colony to be used as a secret training ground for right-wing paramilitary groups.

    After Allende was overthrown in a military coup in 1973, Schaefer forged a sinister alliance with the Chilean army, the details of which are still being unravelled today.

    A quasi-concentration camp

    Many years later, as Chile was returning to democracy after 17 years of dictatorship, I learned that the Colony had been used as an experimental torture centre, and that with the help of his henchmen, Schaefer was ‘mistreating’ the 300 or so German colonists, whom locals claimed sometimes acted like zombies.

    A few had managed to escape and return to Germany, where they revealed terrible stories of exploitation, punishment and forced drug use designed to keep them under control, in what they described as a quasi-concentration camp.

    In 1990, I tried to enter the Colony to film a television report, but, like other colleagues, was chased away at gunpoint. Journalists who tried to uncover what was taking place there were fired at from long distance.

    While the new, democratic president subsequently ordered that the Colony’s status as a charity be revoked, it was not shut down.

    Then, in 1996, a lawyer named Hernan Fernandez dared to take on Schaefer, amid allegations that he had sexually abused scores of young boys, both German and Chilean.

    By then I was no longer living in Chile and did not pick up the story again until 2006, shortly after Schaefer was finally captured and imprisoned for the sexual abuse of minors.

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  9. With the doors of the Colony finally opened to the outside world – or so it seemed – a shocking picture emerged. The bodies of dozens of Chilean political prisoners were buried in the grounds and a cache of weapons – submachine guns, grenades and rocket launchers - was discovered.

    A window into darkness

    By now the Colony had been renamed Vila Baviera, and a bid to reform its image began.

    I was allowed to visit with my cameraman, but the residents, most of whom only spoke German, were reluctant to talk to journalists. It was hard to shake the sense that many were afraid. And with former accomplices of Schaefer still living there, it was not difficult to understand why.

    But, while our official host was distracted, I did manage to speak to 50-year-old Helmut Schaak, who worked in the Colony’s flour mill. With a thick German accent, Helmut, who had come to Chile as a child, offered a disturbing glimpse into the lives of the residents. Until recently, he explained, the men and women of the Colony had not been allowed to mix and while he had eventually been permitted to marry “in order to produce more children”, he was now concerned that he would not know how to raise a “normal” family. Helmut, who said he had not been aware of the torture and killings that had taken place there, was afraid to leave the enclave to venture into an unknown world beyond its gates.

    It was clear that there was much I still did not know about the workings of the Colony. But, thanks to a German friend, Volker Petzoldt, a former high-ranking UN official in Chile who has spent decades investigating Colonia Dignidad, a new window into its dark secrets was about to be opened.

    Volker, who was key in producing our documentary, introduced me to Winfried Hempel, a young man who was born in the Colony and whose story revealed horrors the extent of which I could not have imagined. He and others we spoke to described, among other things, children being separated from their parents at birth, perverse sexual experiments and forced drug use and sterilisation.

    With the help of Volker and Winfried, I discovered that all of this had transpired for decades under the noses of successive Chilean and German governments. In fact, it was not until early this year, 2013, that many - though not all - of Schaefer’s top henchmen were finally imprisoned.

    Biological weapons?

    During our investigation Hernan Fernandez, the lawyer who first brought charges against Schaefer, revealed that the sect leader had tried to murder him with a chemical weapon. “After Schaefer was imprisoned, the man who had been sent to kill me confessed, in tears, that he spent days trying to spike my car with sarin gas, but was unsuccessful because I didn’t own a car,” he explained.

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  10. There are strong allegations that biological as well as conventional weapons were produced in the Colony during the Pinochet years. In the 1980s, Chile and its larger neighbour Argentina came to within days of going to war and the theory is that Chile’s dictator was prepared to use chemical weapons in case of an attack. There is already credible evidence that biological weapons were used to eliminate domestic opponents.

    So, why is it that an investigation into the production and use of these weapons has only just began? And what other secrets contained in the thousands of files discovered inside Colonia Dignidad are now being kept from the public by a Chilean judge for reasons of ‘national security’? Why was Schaefer allowed to get away with murder, rape and kidnapping for so long – before, during and after the military dictatorship? Just how deep into the Chilean establishment did his protection network extend? Why didn’t his victims rebel? And what has happened to them since?

    These were the questions I wanted answered when we began filming The Colony: Chile’s dark past uncovered. I revisited Vila Baviera and spoke to many of the key protagonists in both Chile and Germany, where this saga began.

    Today, the former Colony of horrors has been turned into a German-style tourist resort with its own hotel and restaurant.

    Some, like Winfried – whose parents remain there – are outraged. But others feel they have a right to try to make a new life and living in the place where many of them sacrificed their youth, health and sanity.

    Many of those who decided to leave, like Helmut Schaak - who in 2008 finally tried to start a new life far from the Colony - are now struggling to make enough money to survive. Now, in an unprecedented lawsuit, Winfried and more than 100 others from the Colony are suing the Chilean and German states for damages and moral reparation. They argue that both states were negligent and at times even complicit in allowing the suffering of the colonists for four decades. In the case of Germany, the constitution obliges the state to defend the rights of its citizens even on foreign soil. Up until the mid-1980s, however, many colonists who escaped and went to the German embassy for help were actually sent back to Schaefer.

    In the process of making this film, I did find many of the answers I was looking for. But the more I learn about Colonia Dignidad, the more I realise how little I know and just how many layers of this story are still waiting to be exposed.


  11. Colonia

    Film broaches atrocities of German-run sect in Chile

    Deutsche Welle, Germany September 14, 2015

    Florian Gallenberger's film "Colonia," premiering at the Toronto Film Festival, revisits the dark history of the Colonia Dignidad, a secretive German-founded colony in Chile. The enclave's legacy remains controversial.

    Although Paul Schäfer was the founder of Colonia Dignidad, an isolated settlement in Chile 400 kilometers south of Santiago, he wasn't the only one who made its creation possible.

    Established in 1961 by German emigrants with strong Nazi ties, the enclave, which became known for its widespread cases of torture and child abuse, had several supporters in Germany and Chile.

    In his book "Colonia Dignidad" (1998), the journalist Gero Gemballa wrote that the media's portrayal of the settlement remained surprisingly factual - practically no exaggerations or creepy legends were added to the descriptions.

    "Reality was probably hard to beat," he noted.

    Through his research, Gemballa uncovered a network of German, Chilean and international secret services and economic interests. He claims that the settlement was involved in the torture and murder of opponents of the Pinochet regime. This complicity protected Colonia Dignidad (which translates as "dignity colony") from the Chilean state.

    Now film director Florian Gallenberger has created a movie based on this dark chapter of history. The German film "Colonia" premieres at the 40th Toronto International Film Festival (held from September 10-20).

    German politicians visited Colonia Dignidad

    Paul Schäfer and his colleagues had political support in Germany, too. The conservative German party CSU was particularly impressed by the way the colony transposed Bavarian traditions in the distant Andes.

    The local politician Wolfgang Vogelsgesang spent time in Colonia Dignidad between 1978 and 1982 and the former Bavarian Prime Minister Franz-Josef Strauss also went on a state visit to the settlement.

    After the end of the military dictatorship in 1990, the government tried to dismantle the settlement. Former president Patricio Aylwin, who initiated the transition to democracy, said the 300-square- kilometer (115-square-mile) isolated settlement was a "state within the state."

    In 1991, the government withdrew the colony's nonprofit status, through which it lost its tax privileges, and this formally put an end to the colony.

    But in practice, the settlement still exists, even without its founders. Even after the arrest and conviction of Paul Schäfer, Gerhard Mücke, Kurt Schnellenkamp, and Gerd Seewald, there are still over 100 people living on the huge property.

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  12. Late repentance from camp founders

    In 2006, the remaining residents issued a public apology for their complicity in the atrocities committed there. Their letter, published in April 2006 in the Chilean press, declared: "We are to blame, as we did not taken action against the despotic leader of our settlement. We are to blame as people were detained illegally on our property, some of which were reportedly killed and their bodies disappeared."

    Now the colony has opened its doors and even advertises to tourists. Now called "Villa Baviera," (Bavarian village), the residents are trying to start a new life. They aim to attract not only local visitors but also tourists from all over Latin America through their Alpine folklore and Bavarian traditions.

    Creepy tourism scheme
    "The idea is to turn the Villa Baviera into a small German-Chilean village open to everyone," said Anna Schnellenkamp in a radio interview recently. The daughter of the arrested co-founder Kurt Schnellenkamp hopes to further develop the settlement through tourism and openness: "The Villa Baviera shall never be closed again, the way it used to be."

    The Hotel Baviera opened in 2012. In the small town of Bulnes, the colony also operates a German restaurant. Anna Schnellenkamp plans to open a museum which would uncover the dark past of the Villa Baviera, but this project is still controversial among the residents.

    Victims and their relatives are opposed to this form of tourism, saying that a visit to the former torture chamber of the Pinochet regime sugarcoated with Bavarian folklore ridicules their suffering.

    Among the victims, the German- Chilean lawyer Winfried Hempel, who grew up in the colony and fled in 1997, particularly criticizes the tourism strategy promoted by Anna Schnellenkamp. He is filing a lawsuit against the Chilean and German governments.


  13. Two Germans sentenced in Chile for kidnappings under Pinochet dictatorship

    Deutsche Welle, October 20, 2015

    A court has sentenced two residents of a cagey German community in south Chile for their role in kidnapping 50 people in 1975. The 'Colonia Dignidad' community is known to have collaborated with Pinochet's regime.

    The three defendants in the case, Germans Kurt Schnellenkamp and Gerhard Mücke and Chilean national Fernando Gomez Segovia, were each given five years in prison for their respective roles in the 1975 spring kidnappings, which were coordinated with General Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship.

    According to court documents, the abductees were taken to the German-speaking enclave of Colonia Dignidad in southern Chile in a joint operation that involved intelligence agents and residents of the settlement.

    "The victims were interrogated under torture that consisted mainly of applying electrical current to different sensitive parts of the body," the court said.

    It also granted a settlement package of 20 million Chilean pesos (26,000 euros) to survivors and their immediate relatives.

    Enclave of torture

    The village of Colonia Dignidad was founded in 1961 by Paul Schäfer, a former medic in the Third Reich, who had fled the Federal Republic of Germany in 1959 after facing child abuse charges. Schäfer, who died in 2010 at the age of 88 while serving his prison term, was accused of running a sadistic cult in the heavily fortified German "colony." He had been sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually abusing and torturing children at the site.

    More than 200 Germans lived in Colonia Dignidad, whose name translates as "colony of dignity," at the height of Schäfer's influence. Many of the original settlers were believed to have escaped Germany in order avoid charges for Nazi crimes.

    The village has since been renamed "Villa Baviera" and currently has more than 100 inhabitants, many of whom are descendants of Schäfer's original cult members.

    continued below

  14. Collaboration with Pinochet

    Schäfer was accused of letting Pinochet's agents torture political prisoners in a maze of stone-walled tunnels dug beneath Colonia Dignidad, which the Chilean state seized in 2005. Evidence suggests that some of them died there as well.

    Londres 38, a prominent Chilean rights group, published leaked documents earlier this month to prove a close relationship between leaders of the German enclave and high-ranking figures in Pinochet dictatorship.

    According to government officials, more than 3,200 people died under Pinochet's 1973-1990 military dictatorship. Unofficial numbers suggest that at least 5,000 people died.

    Coming to terms with the past

    Chileans are still trying to find closure in regards to crimes committed by the Pinochet regime, having celebrated 25 years of democracy last year. Under Pinochet, dissidents were routinely tortured and killed. Recent leaked documents showed how 150 people, many of them weighed down by sections of railroad track, were executed by being thrown from helicopters into the ocean and lakes.

    Many Chileans followed the Colonia Dignidad trial, after the recent leaking of documents and a Hollywood blockbuster called "Colonia" released this year drew renewed attention to some of the darker chapters of the country's history. While many expressed relief at the latest verdict, some criticized that it wasn't firm enough.

    Fernando Gomez Segovia is housed in a special prison designed for human rights abusers during the dictatorship of Pinochet. He was a former operative of Chile's feared National Intelligence Directorate (DINA).

    The Germans, Gerhard Mücke and Kurt Schnellenkamp, meanwhile are kept in a regular prison for sex crimes committed in Colonia Dignidad. In 2007, Schnellenkamp's son published a book about his experience after having fled the enclave.

    After the latest trial there may still be further Colonia Dignidad members to face legal consequences. Paul Schäfer's deputy in the colony, 71-year-old Harmut Hopp, may be awaiting extradition to Chile after fleeing to Germany in 2011, when a Chilean court sentenced him to five years in prison for aiding in sexual abuse.


  15. Emma Watson Infiltrates Paul Schafers Cult Torture Camp in Colonia

    BY MOZE HALPERIN Flavor Wire JANUARY 11, 2016

    Cults — especially cults in movies — always seem to be fighting for the title of most horrific, as the just-released second trailer for the Emma Watson-and-Daniel Brühl starring thriller, Colonia, exhibits. Movies have often mined cult mentalities and hierarchies to chilling ends, and this doesn’t look particularly different — though what does set it apart is that it takes place within a real-life cult. (And that, as early reviews suggest, it may exploit its real-life horrors for Hollywood entertainment.)

    The film, written by Florian Gallenberger, follows Watson as Lena, a flight attendant for Lufthansa whose boyfriend Daniel (played by Brühl) works for Chilean president Salvador Allende. While Lena’s visiting Daniel, however, Allende is ousted from office by Augusto Pinochet’s forces, and Allende’s supporters, Daniel included, are rounded up. Per the official description, Daniel is taken captive and sent to Colonia Dignidad, “a secret agricultural commune and crypto-fascist sect led by sinister minister Paul Schäfer” (not to be confused with David Letterman’s musical director) where Daniel is “interrogated and tortured”; Lena infiltrates the torturous community to try to free him.

    Schäfer, a former Nazi medic played in the movie by Michael Nyqvist, fled Germany to avoid charges for the sexual assault of two children (at a home he’d set up for war orphans following WWII). Outside of the torture practiced under the Pinochet regime at the colony, Schäfer also seemed to have used his land to further exercise his sexual abuse: he went on the run in the late 90s from the Chilean government, after he was accused of child molestation by 26 other members of the colony. He was captured in Argentina in 2005, and died in prison in 2010.

    The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, where it was met by pretty condemnatory criticism, with Variety calling it “a ludicrous exercise in lower-end genre cliches that just might work as a glossy thrill ride for viewers oblivious to the actual events it haplessly trivializes,” and The Playlist’s Kevin Jagernauth saying, “The cast deserves better, as does the audience, and more importantly, so do the actual victims of Colonia Dignidad.” So… with all that in mind… here’s, er…the new trailer:



  16. Victims Of German Paedophile Sect In Chile Seek Justice

    NDTV | Agence France-Presse | January 27, 2016

    VILLA BAVIERA, CHILE: It is 18 years since Winfried Hempel finally escaped from an abusive sect run by a paedophile ex-Nazi officer in Chile. He still has nightmares.

    Now he is a lawyer and is heading a lawsuit against the German and Chilean states for what he and other youngsters suffered in Colonia Dignidad, a commune founded by German immigrants in the 1960s.

    Meanwhile the victims are dismayed that the remote colony is now making money from tourism.

    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 collaborated with the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, whose secret police used the colony as a place to torture opponents.

    Hempel calls it "one of the worst sects that have existed in the history of humanity," a hive of "stupid, fanatical Christianity."

    Now he 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 which he accuses of negligently failing to help its nationals who were abused in the colony.

    'Smell Of Suffering'

    Colonia Dignidad was founded by Schaefer and a group of fellow German immigrants in 1961.

    It lies among hills and fields some 350 kilometers (215 miles) south of the capital Santiago.

    Now the remote site -- which still looks more like a German village than one in central Chile -- has been opened up to tourists, renamed Villa Baviera, or "Bavarian Village."

    That has angered victims, who want it to be preserved as a memorial to abuse victims.

    "I can smell the suffering of people in the place," Hempel, 38, told AFP.

    He personally remembers Schaefer, who dressed in black and imposed strict rules and punishments.

    Schaefer founded the village supposedly as an idyllic charitable farming community.

    But later investigations revealed that residents were indoctrinated, abused and kept as slaves for three decades.

    continued below

  17. From birth, children were raised with almost no contact with their parents, which made them easy prey for Schaefer, Hempel said.

    Hempel himself did not know his own surname nor the identity of his mother and father until he was 10.

    "There was a God called Schaefer," said Hempel, describing the indoctrination practiced in the colony.

    "We were born as if in a laboratory. There was absolutely no chance of becoming aware of who you were."

    In 1997, seven years after the end of the Pinochet regime and the return of democracy, Schaefer faced a series of lawsuits.

    He fled and was arrested in Argentina in 2005.

    Schaefer was 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.

    It was only after Schaefer fled that Hempel, then 20, escaped the colony.

    February sees the release of "Colonia," a film about the dictatorship and the colony, starring Emma Watson and Daniel Bruhl.

    'Divine Justice'

    Some 160 mostly elderly people still live in Villa Baviera, proud of their Bavarian heritage.

    They keep bees and chickens that produce thousands of eggs.

    The German flag flies at the center of the complex, where there is a hotel and a restaurant for visitors.

    Locals avoid condemning Schaefer. One inhabitant who spoke to AFP said that god must be his judge.

    "He did good things too," said the man, who described himself as a "second-generation colonist."

    "There is earthly justice, which has been done. And in the end there is divine justice."

    But the victims feel hurt to see the colony moving on as though nothing had happened.

    Gabriel Rodriguez, who lives in a nearby village, was held in Colonia Dignidad for a week as a prisoner of the Pinochet regime.

    "Promoting tourism in a place whose memory is one of death, torture, slavery and mutilation seems to me an aberration," he said.

    "It is an insult to the memory of those who suffered and died there."


  18. Germany opens files on Nazi paedophile sect in Chile

    The Local.de April 27, 2016

    Germany is declassifying its files on Colonia Dignidad, a sect in Chile run by a Nazi paedophile, Germany's foreign minister said Tuesday, admitting the diplomatic service's failure to stop the abuses.

    Colonia Dignidad was a German commune founded in 1961 by convicted paedophile 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.

    Schaefer also collaborated with the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, whose secret police used the colony -- which lies some 350 kilometres south of the capital Santiago -- as a place to torture opponents.

    "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.

    "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.

    Although Germany's foreign ministry is not to blame for the "havoc wrecked by Paul Schaefer... in part along with the [Chilean] military and dictator", it had a duty to provide "advice and assistance" to German citizens, Steinmeier added.

    "It could have sought earlier to use diplomatic pressure to curtail the scope of Colonia's leadership and to push for legal action," he said, adding that the embassy failed to reach out to residents of the commune.

    In a bid to draw lessons from the affair, Steinmeier said diplomats were declassifying files that would have otherwise remained under wraps for another 10 years.

    "We are making documents dating from between 1986 and 1996 available to researchers and the media," he said, adding that older files were already in the public domain.

    The scale of the atrocities at the commune came to light only after the end of Pinochet's regime.

    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.
    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 told AFP.


  19. Germany seeks extradition of Nazi sect paedophile doctor

    The Local.de, June 8, 2016

    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 paedophile 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 kilometres (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.

    Germany in April said it was declassifying its files on the sect, and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier admitted the diplomatic service had failed to stop the abuses.

    German diplomats "looked the other way and did too little to protect their citizens in this commune," said Steinmeier.

    The scale of the atrocities came to light only after the end of Pinochet's regime.

    In 1997, Schäfer 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 at the age of 88 while serving a 20-year sentence.

    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.