Permanent Uncle

At 7:20 a.m. Saturday April 24 2010, former Nazi and cult leader Paul Schäfer died of heart failure in a Chilean prison hospital, closing a decades-long story of torture, tax evasion, and child sexual assault.

Schäfer had served five years of a 33-year prison term, which included 20 years for the abuse of 25 children. However, he was accused of sexually abusing as many as 10,000 children over a period of 40 years in Chile.

In 1961, Schäfer (a former Luftwaffe paramedic) fleeing charges of child abuse in Germany, came to Chile and founded the  “Colonia Dignidad” with a group of German immigrants who had traveled with him from Germany. They settled a rural area about 225 miles south of Santiago, near the city of Parral.

Schäfer ruled the colony with an iron fist and called himself “The Permanent Uncle”. Television, telephones and calendars were banned. Men and women worked separately, children were separated from their parents, and sex was forbidden unless one had the unlikely permission of Schäfer. Citizens were encouraged to confess, both their own sins and the sins of others. Drugs were also administered as a form of sedation, mostly to young girls, but to males as well. Severe discipline in the forms of beatings and torture was commonplace: Schäfer insisted that discipline was spiritually enriching. Hard labor was said to bring one closer to God. Residents worked wearing Bavarian peasant garb, singing German folk songs, rarely if ever allowed to leave the colony. The community was  isolated from the outside world, an outpost of 1930’s era Bavaria transported to the wilds of rural Chile.

"Everyone saw him as a celestial being and no one dared doubt him…”

The Colony prepared itself for the war it knew was on the horizon. The town remembered the Russian threat well and was staunchly anti-communist. They sealed themselves away behind barbed wire, high walls, watchtowers, searchlights and barricades. They formed paramilitary outfits which would patrol the countryside, stockpiling military grade weaponry (automatic rifles, rocket launchers, machine guns and grenades, even a battle tank). At its greatest extent, Villa Baviera was home to some three hundred German and Chilean residents and covered 53 square miles. The main economic activity of the colony was agriculture, but it also contained a school, a free hospital, two airstrips, a restaurant, and a power station.

Both the C.I.A. and famed Nazi hunter Simon Weisenthal presented evidence that Colonia Dignidad provided shelter to the infamous “Angel of Death”, the mysterious Nazi concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele. There were theories spoken in hushed whispers of Schaffer’s connection to rumored Nazi military outposts in Antarctica. Though these claims cannot be substantiated what is known is that the Permanent Uncle’s power increased dramatically with a very real pact, with a very real devil: Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet.

During Augusto Pinochet’s 1973-1990 military dictatorship, Colonia Dignidad collaborated with the DINA, the government secret police. The colony served  as a holding center and torture site and the resident paramilitaries were reportedly responsible for many government opponents who disappeared in the surrounding areas.

Things unraveled for Schäfer after Pinochet’s death in 1990. In 1995, more than three tons of weapons were found at Colonia Dignidad, including 85 submachine guns, 60 hand grenades, and rocket launchers. In 1997 Schäfer fled to Argentina after escaping numerous police raids on Colonia Dignidad by hiding in secret bunkers underground. Schäfer was tracked down in 2005 and brought back to face justice in Chile. At that time, former Interior Ministry Undersecretary Belisario Velasco attributed some responsibility for the delay to “a network of people involved with Schäfer who did not want an investigation to ever occur, much less get to the courts”.

Today the aging remnants of the colony remain. Eeking a subsistence existence among the suspicious countryside it once dominated.

%s1 / %s2

in conjunction with BaddBob

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3 Comments

  1. pinkie
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 2:51 am | Permalink

    Fascinating stuff…thanks for this post :)

  2. SM
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    “Things unraveled for Schäfer after Pinochet’s death in 1990.” Pinochet left the the power in 1990. He died December 10th, 2006.

  3. TheAllSeeingI
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    absolutely right. unforgivable fuck up on my part.

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