Chile’s Secret Nazi Past

The Colony: Chile’s Dark Past Uncovered

Al Jazeera (2013)

Film Review

This documentary concerns a secretive post-World II German colony in Chile. Named Colonia Dignidad, the colony was run as a cult by ex-Nazi pedophile and Baptist minister Paul Schaefer. Roughly 300 of Schaefer’s followers emigrated from Germanye in 1961, after he persuaded him the Soviets were about to invade. In Chile, Schaefer and his close circle of supporters were in close contact with Mengele, Rauff and other Nazi war criminals who escaped to South America.

On Schaefer’s orders, the cult removed babies from their parents’ custody at birth and raised them communally. Parents who tried to establish close relationships with their offspring were publicly punished humiliated and sometimes beaten. Cult members who escaped and sought sanctuary in the German embassy (in Santiago) were returned to the colony.

Children began a life of heavy farm labor at age 7. Allowed only one rest day a year, both children and adults worked 12-hour days seven days a week. Schaefer used the farm profits to expand his land holdings.

When the fascist dictator Pinochet came to power in a 1973 CIA coup, Schaefer made his hospital facilities available to the Chilean army to interrogate human rights activists under torture.

Despite the restoration of Chilean democracy in 1990, it would take the government until 2005 to investigate and close Colonia Dignidad. Schaefer (who died in 2010) was arrested and given a 20 year sentence for child molestation in 2005. Five of his accomplices were arrested and sent to jail in 2013. The sixth fled to Germany, which doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Chile.

Winfried Hempel, one of the children abused at the colony, has since become a lawyer. He’s suing the governments of Chile and Germany. He has compelling evidence that both were aware of the atrocities yet did nothing to stop them.

In 2019 the German government agreed to pay 50,000 euros to each of the 50 remaining victims. See https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-48318295

 

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