Colonia Dignidad Archive

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Jailed Chilean cult leader Paul Schaefer dies at 88

(Reuters) – Former Nazi Paul Schaefer, who founded a secretive German cult in Southern Chile in the 1960s and was later convicted of sexually abusing children, died of heart failure in a prison hospital Saturday, officials said.

He was 88.

Courts also investigated Schaefer for keeping a huge cache of illegal weapons and helping former right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet’s secret police kidnap and torture political prisoners.

For decades, the residents of Villa Baviera, initially called Colonia Dignidad, submitted to the authoritarian whims of Schaefer, who banned almost all contact with the outside world at the commune 210 miles south of Santiago, the capital.

In 2006, former members of the cult issued a public apology and asked for forgiveness for 40 years of sex and human rights abuses in their community, saying they were brainwashed by Schaefer, who many viewed as God.

– Source / Full Story: Jailed Chilean cult leader Schaefer dies at 88, Reporting by Erik Lopez and Fabian Cambero, Writing by Terry Wade, Reuters, Apr. 24, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

He was in jail serving a 20-year sentence for sexually abusing children at the Colonia Dignidad, some during Chile’s military dictatorship.

The former Baptist preacher established the colony in southern Chile in 1961, after fleeing Germany to escape separate child abuse charges.

While under Schaefer’s control, most of the commune’s residents are believed to have been held there against their will.

He had fled Chile in 1997 and was convicted of sex crimes in absentia. He was found hiding in Argentina in March 2005 and sent back for a fresh trial.

A Chilean congressional report has said that Colonia Dignidad – which means Dignity Colony – operated as a “state within a state” during the Pinochet regime, thanks to Schaefer’s close ties to the country’s ruling elite.

Chile’s government took over the 13,000-hectare (32,000-acre) colony in 2005.

– Source / Full Story: Nazi corporal Schaefer dies in Chile prison , BBC, Apr. 24, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

After Chile’s courts began investigating Mr. Schaefer for sexual abuse charges in the late 1990s, he fled to Argentina, where he hid until he was found in 2005.

After being returned to Chile, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually abusing 25 children.

Mr. Schaefer was also sentenced to three years for violating weapons control law after a huge military arsenal was found on Colonia Dignidad grounds, to seven years for homicide and to three years for torture.

Sebastián Piñera, Chile’s president, said Saturday that while Mr. Schaefer now cannot be judged in court for additional crimes he was suspected of, “there is another justice that never ends, which is divine justice.”

– Source / Full Story: Paul Schaefer, German Guilty of Chile Child Abuse, Dies at 89, Alexei Barrionnuevo, New York Times, Apr. 25, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Colonia Dignidad founder sentenced for child torture

Commune head sentenced for child torture

Paul Schaefer, the founder of the notorious former German religious commune Colonia Dignidad in Chile, has been sentenced to three years and a day in prison for torturing children.

The sentencing is the latest in a series of cases that have condemned Schaefer to at least 30 years in Jail in 25 cases of sexual abuse of minors and violations of legislation over the possession of firearms.

The victims in the current case were eight children who were given psychotropic medication and electroshock therapy from 1970 to 1980 in the settlement hospital, the court said in Santiago.

Moreover, the children were separated from their parents and prevented from developing a normal sexuality through the use of physical violence, the court added.

A former corporal in Adolf Hitler’s army, Schaefer started the commune in southeastern Chile with other German emigrants. While preaching rigid morality, he sexually abused children and teenagers at the sealed-off complex, authorities have said.

Schaefer, 86, also faces charges of human rights abuses.

Prosecutors allege that the dreaded secret police of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who ruled from 1973 to 1990, killed and tortured political opponents at Colonia Dignidad and that Schaefer took part.

In the 1950s, Schaefer was under investigation by German authorities over an alleged sexual abuse of German minors. In the early 1960s he convinced hundreds of Germans to emigrate to Chile, founding his commune near Parral in southern Chile.

– Source: Commune head sentenced for child torture, AAP, via The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, July 12, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

After an investigation that spanned eight years, in November, 2004, Paul Schaefer — a fugutive since 1996 — was sentenced in absentia on charges of child abuse. The cult leader was captured in Argentinia in March, 2005.

After standing trial he was convicted in May, 2006, of sexually abusing 25 children and sentenced to 20 years in jail. In August that same year he was sentenced to seven years in prison for arms possession.

Members of Schaefer’s cult thought he “was God on earth […] who preached an unnamed religion that said harsh discipline would draw them closer to the supreme being.”