Home / World / Colonia Dignidad, the German sect that brought hell to Chile | Culture

Colonia Dignidad, the German sect that brought hell to Chile | Culture

For more than three decades, in a plot 350 kilometers south of Santiago de Chile there were child rapes, slavery, torture and assassinations of opponents, kidnappings, arms trafficking, forced retentions, training of paramilitaries, German chants and a lot, a lot of religious verbiage. Colonia Dignidad the sect directed there by the German Paul Schäfer reproduced since 1961 one of the most infamous and effective domination schemes of the 20th century in the face of silence and indifference of the whole world. When everything was uncovered in the mid-nineties, Chilean society could see strange, very poor Germans, who called themselves settlers, who did not speak Spanish, did not know what a computer was, when it was their birthday or who lived in a country that had suffered an atrocious dictatorship. But did anyone really know anything? "The motto of Colonia Dignidad was 'Silencio es fortaleza'. It seems that in the end it was also decided on that "tells EL PAÍS Claudia Larraguibel, who has just published in Spain Sprinters (Salto de Página) a hybrid book that uses self-fiction and mixture of genres to tell the consequences of this aberration closely.

The smile of Uncle Paul

The story of Paul Schäfer can only be read with horror . Doctor in World War II, he fled Germany accused of pedophilia and arrived in Chile in the early sixties with some of his victims. Convinced that God had entrusted him with a mission for purity and against communism, during his declaration he justified himself, did not ask for forgiveness, did not explain anything. "At the trial he kept smiling. He already had his heaven on earth, "witnesses say.

Sprinters were the children that Schäfer had at his disposal. German children snatched from the members of the sect forever - in Colonia Dignidad there were no families and separation by sex was radical - or Chilean minors kidnapped or illegally adopted. Service children, as they were called Schäfer and his group of hierarchs, slaves in the field and in bed. When Larraguibel learned about Hartmut Münch's case, he knew he had the story he wanted. The unresolved death of that child submitted by Uncle Paul, as they called Schäfer, is one of the many questions that leave decades of repression and oblivion. "As you investigate you realize that it is a skein of increasingly complex and delirious ramifications. That's why I used self-fiction, "he says before explaining that there were already many works about Colonia Dignidad in Chile, but that she wanted to go to the drama of the victims, of the settlers, of the day after, when their reality collapses and they have to face to the world. "During the investigation I was very much with the settlers, although you were fed up with them. They do not take advantage, it's ugly to say that, but since the Chilean government has not done anything to compensate the victims, they cling to what they can. At some point you want to do what a whole country did: forget them, "he says with sincerity. "I pose a question: to what extent do we prefer to look the other way? That awkward question is what I want the reader to do. "

Unlike other radical cults, instead of multiplying, Colonia Dignidad was doomed to disappear. Schäfer banned marriages, forced women to abort and killed newborn children. The sect began and ended in him. "It's something that is not understood. Even if it were only for their own interests, a pedophile needs children, "says Larraguibel. The women were the other victims of this hell. Slaves considered as an element of sin, the object of beatings, torture and humiliation, the fascination generated by Schäfer also leaves them out of the story. "That's why I used Lutgarda, which is the synthesis of many colonists," says Larraguibel, who puts this woman at the center of the plot of her book.

Why almost nobody escaped? Simple: electric fences of two meters, mines in the surroundings, watchtowers, armed men and trained dogs prevented it. The system was assembled, like everything, stone by stone by the settlers. Daily hours of 16 hours without salary give much.

When it was no longer possible to look elsewhere, the judicial siege against Colonia Dignidad was closed. Apart from all the aberrations told by the few who could escape and ignored again and again by Chile and Germany, the Pinochet regime used the place as a center of torture and extermination. At least 38 opponents died there . Schäfer and his people also sold weapons to the dictatorship for huge amounts that have never been recovered. Even the network of tunnels that ran through the hacienda were copied by the dictatorship for their centers of repression. Despite the efforts of Hernán Hernández, a lawyer for the victims, no one has been compensated for this. Only the film Cologne with Daniel Brühl and Emma Watson mobilized the government. "How could they not have known before?" The author asks ironic,

 Claudia Larraguibel this week in Madrid
Claudia Larraguibel this week in Madrid DAVID FOLGUEIRAS

After a spectacular flight , Schäfer was imprisoned in Argentina in 2005, tried and sentenced and died in a Chilean jail in 2010. Today, the visible face of the place, now called Villa Baviera, are two Chileans subdued by Schäfer when they were children. Behind, according to lawyers and experts, the same dark interests that allowed the sect to survive for so long. The domination scheme is closed when the settlers decide to stay although no one submits them. "How to understand that they are still there?" Asks Larraguibel. "They do not know how to live in the world and what they offer is also terrible. The colony was a mirror of the horrors of Chile. "

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