A former Nazi and his followers spent several decades building a bizarre compound in the mountains of Chile.
In 1961, dozens of former Nazis fled Germany for Chile under the leadership of Paul Schaefer (variantly spelled Schäfer). Working alongside the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, Schaefer created a micro-state called Colonia Dignidad in the Andes mountains.
After The War
A soldier and medic during World War II, Schaefer set up an orphanage after the fall of Nazi Germany. He was eventually caught abusing two boys, which lead to his flight overseas with the help of an underground pro-Nazi network of connections.
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Once in Chile, Schaefer purchased 220 miles of land near the town of Parral. His compound would eventually include a restaurant, a hospital, airstrips, a school, a television station, and several watchtowers.
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Colonia Dignidad consisted of approximately 300 members, mainly German but with a mixture of some Chilean followers. The local population initially supported the business that the colony brought to the area. The compound developed a number of thriving enterprises that created much-needed jobs.
Children Begin To Disappear
Residents were taught to shun sexual desire through the administration of electric shocks. Men and women were carefully segregated and only allowed to marry or reproduce with Schaefer's blessing. Schaefer took the few children to be raised in the “Kinder House,” where they were abused. Soon rumors of local kids "disappearing" inside the compound began to circulate.
A Dark Interior
On its surface, Colonia Dignidad looked like a Utopian vision, but a series of underground bunkers lay just below ground. Visitor reports on the colony vary, but one Chilean psychiatrist who worked in the colony told the New York Times, "Their ideology is a little bit old-fashioned, like that of the Mennonites who went to the United States, but nothing justifies the co-ordinated, synchronised lies and distortions that have been invented about them."
The truth, however, was more sinister. Colonia Dignidad was a hiding place for wanted Nazis like Josef Mengele, Auschwitz's “Angel of Death,” and Walter Rauff, inventor of the portable gas chamber.
Support From The Pinochet Regime
The Pinochet regime was aware of these activities and intelligence chief General Manuel Contreras was known to visit the site regularly. Political prisoners of Pinochet were supposedly lead through the warren of underground bunkers in the compound where they were tortured to the sound of classical music.
Charges against Schaefer were finally filed in 1996, years after the fall of the Pinochet regime. He died in 2010 at the age of 89 while serving a 20-year sentence for the sexual abuse of minors. He was also under investigation for possible connection to the disappearance of Boris Weisfeiler, an American hiker who vanished in 1985.
The Colonia Remains
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Colonia Dignidad still exists, but its name has been changed to Villa Baviera. According to the New York Times, approximately several hundred inhabitants resided there in the early 2000s.