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Previously "a state within a state,"
Colonia Dignidad now "belongs to Chile"
DIGNIDAD COMES TO AN END IN CHILE
Courts Takes Control of
German Colony Enclave
(August 29, 2005) Chilean court
officials, backed by a strong show of police force, took control
Friday morning of Colonia Dignidad, a German community near the
southern Chile community of Parral that had flouted Chilean law for
more than 40 years and which is believed to have been an important
torture center during the 17-year Pinochet dictatorship.
There was no resistance to the takeover, and the
court-appointed attorney Hernán Chadwick will now administer all the
“Before, it was a state within a
state,” said Clara Szczaranski, president of the State Defense
Council (CDC), who was on hand Friday to personally advance the
proceedings ordered by Parral Judge Jimena Pérez. “Today it belongs
Chadwick will administer not only the agricultural
lands encompassed by the 15,000 hectare estate, but also a
restaurant, a school, a hospital and five different businesses
controlled by the organization’s holding company: Cerro Florida
Ltda., Abratec S.A., Agripalma S.A., Bardana S.A., and Cinoglosa
The companies owned by the holding will now have to
comply with all Chilean labor and tax laws and, for the first time
ever, there will be a census taken at the community to determine the
number of Chilean and German residents living there.
Friday’s legal intervention of Colonia Dignidad appears to
mark the beginning of the final chapter of a drawn-out and surreal
story that goes back to the early 1960s, when the organization’s
founder, Paul Schäfer, first came to Chile. Schäfer, a German
evangelical with a Nazi background, said his intention was to start
a charitable foundation to provide hospital and health services as
well as schooling to the local Chilean peasantry.
he was wanted on pedophilia charges back in Germany and used his
Chilean foundation as a cover for serial child abuse that went on
Making optimal use of his German roots, hard
work, a strong alliance with conservative rural Chilean oligarchs
and the free labor provided by community members, Schäfer eventually
secured vast land holdings and a considerable fortune for himself
and the small group of hierarchs who helped him control the
Following the 1973 military coup, Schäfer was
quick to offer his community’s services to Chile’s secret police,
and an unknown number of political prisoners were transferred to
Colonia Dignidad for torture and, it is suspected, extermination.
In 1985, a vacationing U.S. academic, Boris Weisfeiler, is
believed to have been turned over to the German compound after being
picked up by a Chilean Army squad while camping at a nearby river.
Weisfeiler’s fate is still unknown.
When democracy was
restored to Chile in 1990, newly elected president Patricio Aylwin
immediately stripped Colonia Dignidad of its charitable status and
began an investigation into its activities.
German colony immediately reconstituted itself under the name Villa
Baviera, the countdown to its death knell had begun. Schäfer was
ultimately indicted for child abuse and the center-left Concertación
government led a series of raids on the German colony in an
unsuccessful effort to locate its leader.
believed to be hiding out in one of the compound’s many hidden,
underground chambers, but he had apparently fled the community to
Argentina. The raids on the German compound were protested by
Chile’s most important rightist political party, the Independent
Democratic Union (UDI).
In November, 2004, Paul Schäfer was
convicted in absentia by a Chilean court for sexually abusing 26
minors. An attorney working on the case averred that during the four
decades that Schäfer led the colony at least 10,000 young boys were
abused by the patriarch. .
On March 10, 2005, Schäfer, 83,
was captured in Argentina and two days later deported to Chile,
where he remains jailed to this day (ST, March 11). His top
lieutenants, including hospital director Dr. Hartmut Hopp, were
arrested last May and charged with human rights crimes.
Colonia Dignidad saga continues, with various legal proceedings now
The investigation into past human rights abuses
is led by Judge Jorge Zepeda, who is now analyzing a stash of some
43,000 files recently uncovered at the German colony, together with
the remains of buried automobiles that had once belonged to
disappeared leftist opponents to the Pinochet regime.
files are written in various languages – English, German, and
Spanish – and some are in various stages of decay (caused by
humidity), meaning that the effort to decipher their content has
been painstaking and slow. Still, all indications suggest that the
files will shed light on the fate of Chilean leftists who were sent
to the German colony in the 1970s, and the fate of U.S.
mathematician Boris Weisfeiler.
SOURCE: DIARIO SIETE, LA
By Steve Anderson (firstname.lastname@example.org)