|BUENOS AIRES, May 31 (JTA) — Recent arrests of top
leaders of Colonia Dignidad, a secretive Nazi refuge in southern
Chile, have given new hope to the family of a Jewish academic who is
the only American still considered “disappeared” in Chile, and who
last was seen in Colonia Dignidad.
Coming on the heels of Interpol’s detention of Colonia Dignidad
leader Paul Schaefer in Buenos Aires in March, Chilean police
arrested Schaefer’s top aide, Hartmut Hopp, and three other leaders
May 26 on charges related to the disappearances of four Chileans
during the Pinochet military government.
For the first time in the more than four decades of Colonia
Dignidad’s existence, it appears the Chilean government is showing
the willingness to investigate the sect on charges of torture,
disappearances, sexual molestation of minors and numerous other
human rights abuses, including the disappearance of Boris
Schaefer, 84, is awaiting trial in Santiago on a variety of
similar charges after being deported from Argentina.
Weisfeiler, a world-class mathematician, escaped from
anti-Semitic harassment in the Soviet Union and emigrated to the
United States in the 1970s. He taught first at Princeton’s Institute
for Advanced Studies and then was a mathematics professor at Penn
He was never heard from again after he left in December 1984 for
a solo hiking vacation in the Andes of southern Chilean. According
to U.S. State Department documents, a Chilean informant told U.S.
Embassy officials in Santiago that he saw a virtual slave laborer in
Colonia Dignidad in 1986, and recognized him as Weisfeiler.
“I still don’t know how the arrests will affect Boris’ case,” his
sister, Olga Weisfeiler, said from her home in Newton, Mass. “I’m
sure they know perfectly well what happened to Boris, when he was
murdered and by whom. I hope that when this mafia is gone, arrested,
then people will feel free to start talking, and that perspective is
giving me hope.”
Olga Weisfeiler said she recently sent a letter to U.S. Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice, and feels assured that “the State
Department realizes the case of Boris cannot be closed without a
Colonia Dignidad — now called Villa Baviera, or Bavarian Village
— is located about 300 miles south of the capital city, Santiago.
Recent excavations of the 80-square-mile property by police and
judicial authorities have uncovered a series of tunnels and pits
harboring cars believed to belong to some of the missing persons.
Sensors and an arms cache also were found.
Jewish groups such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center are seeking an
investigation into reports that the enclave was a refuge for Nazi
war criminals during the 1960s and ‘70’s. Schaefer, a Nazi Luftwaffe
official during the war, has never hidden his affinity for the Nazi
cause, and some of the few people who escaped the colony testified
that there were Nazi war criminals who regularly visited the
community, some staying for extended periods.
The extensive series of tunnels, which still have not been
completely uncovered, could lead into nearby Argentina and could
have provided a handy escape route for Nazi war criminals.
For almost two decades, Olga Weisfeiler has pressed Chilean and
U.S. government officials to investigate her brother’s
disappearance. For most of that time, government bureaucrats and
judges didn’t heed her pleas. Now things seem to have changed.
“My next trip to Chile to push the investigation will probably be
in September or October,” said Weisfeiler, who already has been to
Chile five times in the past eight years. “I am confident that the
two judges in the case will try to get to the bottom of what
happened to Boris and what went on in Colonia Dignidad. But only
time will tell.”