(This Article appeared in Spanish in the March 13, 2005, issue Diario Siete in Santiago, Chile)



Now that fugitive Paul Schafer has been detained by a team of Interpol detectives in Argentina, the mystery and the history of Colonia Dignidad will hopefully begin to unravel.  For years, Shafer has eluded justice, just as the controversial German enclave in
Southern Chile has defied repeated efforts to fully investigate its cult-like environment, criminal activities, and role in the repression of the Pinochet dictatorship.

U.S. documents may well contribute to the further investigation and prosecution of Schafer because La Colonia has been on the radar screen of the U.S. Government for a long time.  In one State Department cable, for example, a source described Schafer as "a charismatic leader similar to Jim Jones of the Jonestown (Guyana) disaster" where 900 members of the cult died in a mass poisoning.  Another source painted this picture of the cult: "total dominance of the members by the leaders. Reports of drugging, physical and sexual abuse and mind control."

U.S. officials described La Colonia as having "neo-Nazi tendencies." Indeed, Schafer was a former SS officer who fled Germany to escape charges of pedophilia and founded the Sociedad Benefactora y Educacional Dignidad in 1961. After the military coup, Colonia became part of the apparatus of repression:  according to State Department documents written in the mid 1980s, "rumors of forced labor, torture,
murder and complicity in these acts with elements of the Chilean armed forces have circulated with tantalizing frequency." 

Soon, Schafer will be questioned for many heinous crimes for which only he has the answers.  One of those crimes is the disappearance in January 1985 of Boris Weisfeiler, a
U.S. mathematics professor who went missing during a hiking trip in Southern Chile.  The Pinochet regime claimed that he drowned while trying to cross the swirling waters of the Nuble River.  But hundreds of declassified documents
obtained by his sister, Olga, in June 2000 tell a very different, and sinister story.

The documents reveal that soon after Weisfeiler disappeared, the U.S. Embassy in
Santiago received indications that he was still alive, apparently from intelligence sources.  Three months after his disappearance, the Consul at the Embassy, Jayne Kobliska, wrote an urgent "EYES-ONLY" memorandum noting that "at the time of his
disappearance Weisfeiler was either on or very near to the Colonia property."  A year later, Kobliska attempted to push her superiors at the Embassy to pressure the Pinochet regime on Weisfeiler's disappearance:  "If Weisfeiler is still alive," she wrote, "and is being held captive somewhere in
Chile (probably Colonia Dignidad),
widespread publicity could be the best means we have of saving his life."

In June of 1987, a CNI agent who called himself "Daniel" approached Maximo Pacheco, then head of the Chilean Human Rights Committee with a startling story about what had really happened to Weisfeiler. Pacheco convinced him to speak to U.S Embassy officers. The declassified document reproduced here--page one of a lengthy cable--summarized what "Daniel" told them about how a military patrol and local carabineros who helped keep Colonia secure, had been searching for a "subversive" in the area and came across a hiker near the Nuble and Los Sauces rivers:

”A further search of the subject produced a US passport and a letter saying that he was a professor at a US university.  We then took off his shoes, tied him up and took him into Colonia Dignidad where he was turned over to the Chief of Security.”


The cable noted that Weisfeiler was “delivered to Colonia in accordance with standing orders from the High Command of the Chilean army, which protects the Colonia and, along with the National Information Center (CNI) uses it as a training center.”

In the debriefing "Daniel" described how "the patrol's commander and the Colonia's security chief security chief entered the Colonia and interrogated Weisfeiler for a period of some two hours. When the interrogation was over, the patrol's commander emerged and stated that the prisoner was neither a Russian nor a CIA spy, but a
Jewish spy."

In 1987, "Daniel" stated that another member of his military patrol has recently seen Weisfeiler alive at the Colonia.  Later, in 1997, he met with radio talk show host Ricardo
Israel and gave him a handwritten report stating that Weisfeiler had been turned over to Colonia officials that included "P. Shaefer and Strauss" and that a
Chilean major named "Neckerman" had been involved.  Now "Daniel" said he had learned that Weisfeiler had been executed with a shot "to the nape of his neck."


“Daniel’s” real identify has never been learned; and despite multiple efforts by Olga Weisfeiler to find him, he has not come forward again in the last eight years. (If he is reading this, I urge him to contact Diario Siete to further help the Weisfeiler family.)  Besides him, Paul Schafer is potentially the most knowledgeable and responsible person in ongoing legal efforts in Chile to find Boris Weisfeiler.  Judge Alejandro Solis is now in the position to significantly advance the investigation into this case.  


Until then, Boris Weisfeiler will remain the one disappeared American citizen among 1100 disappeared Chileans.  His case, and theirs, must be resolved legally and factually—for the benefit of the families who still do not know the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones, and for the benefit of Chile’s ability to close this dark and gruesome chapter of its past.