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Michael Müller, new leader of Colonia Dignidad, now Villa Baviera, admitted tortures took place in the colony
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Schaefer To Be Interrogated By Judge Billard Today

(March 14, 2005) Paul Schaefer, the former leader of Colonia Dignidad, will be questioned today (Monday) by the first of three Chilean judges who are investigating criminal charges against him.

Schaefer, Chile’s most wanted fugitive, will be asked about the disappearance of a left activist who was last seen within the colony in 1974, about the 26 counts of child sex abuse that have been filed against him, and about the disappearance of Russian-born U.S. citizen Boris Weisfeiler.

Schaefer was arrested Thursday near Buenos Aires after eight years on the run from Chilean courts (ST, March 11). His deportation to Chile was authorized after a conversation between Chilean President Ricardo Lagos and his Argentine counterpart Nestor Kirchner.

Lagos and Kirchner agreed to speed up an expulsion procedure to assure Schaefer’s immediate return to Chile, rather than wait for the lengthy extradition practice. Lagos sent Interior Undersecretary Jorge Correa Sutil to Argentina on Friday so that the Schaefer issue could be solved before Kirchner’s official visit to Chile on Monday, when the two leaders will discuss various bilateral issues, including an ongoing dispute about diminishing natural gas supplies from Argentina..

The German-born religious cult leader landed in Santiago Sunday and is being held at the medical clinic of the Investigaciones police. After his blood pressure surged Friday, Schaefer spent a night in a hospital outside Buenos Aires. Still, his poor health did not interfere with the deportation procedures.

He is now stable, according to Dr. Daniel Correa Suárez, who said the 83-year-old Schaefer has undergone several medical tests and “answers to questions, though with monosyllables.”

Judge Joaquín Billard, who issued an international arrest order for Schaefer last November for the 1974 disappearance of Alvaro Vallejos Villagrán of the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR), will be the first to question Schaefer on Monday. He requested the presence of German translators.

Another judge, Hernán González of the Appeals Court of Talca, Region VII, convicted and sentenced Schaefer in absentia Saturday for sexually abusing 26 minors. Last year, 22 other members of Colonia Dignidad were found guilty of aiding the sex abuse, including Dr. Harmut Hopp, Schaefer’s second-in-command (ST, Nov. 18, 2004).

González also issued an international arrest order against the four people that were with Schaefer at the time of his arrest: his adoptive daughter Rebeca Schaefer Schneider, his personal nurse Renata Freitag, his bodyguard Matías Gerlach and his collaborator Peter Schmidt.

A third judge, Alejandro Solís, is expected to question Schaefer in connection with the disappearance of Russian-born U.S. citizen Boris Weisfeiler, who was last seen near the Argentine border in Region VII in January 1985 (ST, Dec. 3, 2004) and who is believed to have been held at Colonia Dignidad.

Schaefer has also been wanted by German authorities since 1961, when he fled child molestation charges and moved to Chile to found a 17,000-hectare farming and religious community in Chile’s southern Region VII.

A German Army nurse during World War II, Schaefer became the head of the Social Private Mission, a religious foundation in Siegburg, a town near Bonn, during the 1950s. The institution was a charitable organization ostensibly to provide education and healthcare for orphans.

When he fled Germany following pedophilia charges, up to 200 members of the Social Private Mission gradually followed him to Chile, where he became the head of a similar foundation and was known as their “Permanent Uncle.”

Throughout the years, people who have managed to flee the colony and locals have pointed at Colonia Dignidad as a center of abduction, forced labor and sexual abuse (See Today’s Feature), and Chile’s failure to locate and arrest Schaefer since democracy was restored in 1990 has been a nagging issue to the center-left Concertacion alliance government.

After the 1973 coup in which Augusto Pinochet took power, the colonists began to forge links with the military and, according to the Valech Report, Colonia Dignidad became a “detention and torture center” used by the DINA and the CNI, the secret police of the military government.

But the strong protection net around Schaefer has always kept him clear of the courts, and residents at the colony have not admitted to tortures until recently. Peter Müller, the new leader of Villa Baviera, recognized Sunday that torture took place inside the colony.

“I found out many things through the Valech report, and I am convinced that these things they accuse us of correspond to the truth,” said Müller. “I don’t represent Colonia Dignidad, but rather a new entity called Villa Baviera, and I am willing to collaborate with the judges so that these issues are clarified.”

Müller has attempted a face-lift of the former colony, trying to open it up to tourism and giving its young people the chance to go study at universities throughout the country.

But Luis Henríquez, former vice director of the Investigaciones police, warns that the colony’s old leadership still lives on the premises of Villa Baviera, and takes part in all the activities and decision-making procedures.

“The former structure is still functioning,” Henríquez told La Nación. “Gerhard Mücke, Kurt Schnellenkamp and Gerd Seewald are still there. They are the ones that still make decisions.”

Joaquín Lavín, presidential candidate for the rightist Alliance for Chile, pushed Sunday for investigations of human rights violations that took place within the colony.

“Everything has to be investigated,” Lavín said. “Abuses against kids are the first and most important thing, and if (Schaefer) also participated in human rights violations, he has to be condemned.”

But Sen. Jaime Naranjo, the president of the Senate’s Human Rights Commission, said the Alliance for Chile should apologize for having collaborated in the network that protected the colony.

“The UDI should apologize for having supported Colonia Dignidad in the recent past, and Lavín should tell his people that they should at least apologize,” said Naranjo.

In 1990, when newly elected President Patricio Aylwin announced he would end Colonia Dignidad’s legal status as a charitable organization and start an investigation in the colony’s past, newly elected senators from the National Renovation and the Independent Democratic Union – which together form the rightist Alliance for Chile – wrote Aylwin asking him to stop persecuting the colony. .

By Irene Caselli (

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