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Colonia Dignidad

The disembodied voice of a woman speaking Spanish with a heavy German accent echoes from behind the one-way mirror at the guardhouse. "You can go in now," she says, and the white metal gates to Colonia Dignidad, the secretive paramilitary religious sect that took refuge here in the foothills of the Andes more than 40 years ago, slowly swing open.

A winding dirt road leads to the compound where Chilean authorities say that Paul Schäfer, a former Nazi Luftwaffe medic turned lay preacher, sexually molested scores of young boys. A few yards away is a hospital where, according to former cult members, those who drew Mr. Schäfer's ire were drugged and tortured. And somewhere beneath the ground, human rights groups say, are the clandestine dungeons where Colonia Dignidad held the political prisoners who were entrusted to it in the 1970's by Gen. Augusto Pinochet's secret police.

Until he was arrested in March after years on the run, Mr. Schäfer, now 84, dominated the life of this bizarre and isolated place, which Chilean officials have likened to Jonestown in Guyana or the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Tex. But with their notorious leader, known as the Permanent Uncle, now in custody, some 300 followers of his apocalyptic, anti-Communist and anti-Semitic creed have been left suddenly adrift.


Chilean authorities said that one of the reasons they did not act earlier against Mr. Schäfer was that they feared a mass suicide or conflagration at the settlement, as had happened when other cult groups collapsed. Experts said that even residents who were not sexually abused had been damaged by their years living in Colonia Dignidad.

- Guru of Sadism, Safely in Jail, Leaves Cult to Fend for Itself, New York Times, May 16, 2005

News and News Archive

Religion News Blog research resource Colonia Dignidad news tracker

2006-01-04 Chile discovers secret grave on cult grounds
2006-01-04 Mass grave found in Chile enclave
2005-12-28 German held over 'Chile torture'
2005-10-12 Search for bodies to being at Chile's Colinia Dignidad
2005-06-19 At Cult's Enclave in Chile, Guns and Intelligence Files
2005-06-17 Weapons arsenal found buried in Chile's ex-Colonia Dignidad
2005-06-16 Chile discovers weapons cache on cult grounds
2005-05-16 Guru of Sadism, Safely in Jail, Leaves Cult to Fend for Itself
2005-04-01 Chilean judge indicts five aides to cult leader
2005-03-22 German ex-cult head faces new charges in Chile
2005-03-19 Ex-cult leader indicted in disappearance of leftist
2005-03-16 Judge questions Chile cult head
2005-03-14 Argentina hands over fugitive in Chile sex case
2005-03-13 Argentina expels Chile cult head
2005-03-12 Indicted Chile cult leader 'ill'
2005-03-12 Cult leader arrest stirs joy in Chile
2005-03-11 Capture of former Nazi hailed
2005-03-11 Secrets of ex-Nazi's Chilean fiefdom
2005-03-11 German Fugitive Cult Leader Arrested in Argentina
2004-11-17 Chile Judge Sentences Fugitive German Sect Leader
2004-11-09 Secret German Cult in Chile Breaks 43-Year Spell
2003-04-28 Rich commune exists in shadow of dark roots
2002-12-30 Chile Sect Thrives Despite Criminal Charges

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This post was last updated: Jan. 4, 2006