Nazi pedophile, torturer, cult leader in Chile dies


schaferth.jpgNazi pedophile, torturer, and cult leader Paul Schäfer died in a prison hospital in Chile last week. The German-born Evangelical Christian raped children, founded and ruled over a Jonestown-like agricultural commune, and oversaw a torture and assassination outsourcing service for the bloody regime of Augusto Pinochet. One of the men Schäfer is suspected to have "disappeared" on behalf of Pinochet was an American citizen, Boris Weisfeiler, in 1985.

Here's a New York Times obit, Washington Post here, a BBC article when Schäfer was arrested in 2005.

By far the most comprehensive article I found about the history of "Colonia Dignidad" (aka "Villa Baviera," or "Bavarian Village,") and all of the evil committed there: The Torture Colony, by Bruce Falconer in The American Scholar. A fascinating and disturbing read; great journalism on a horrible subject.

Few outsiders ever gained access to the Colonia while its reclusive leader remained in power. An old Chilean newsreel, however, filmed at Schaefer's invitation in 1981, provides a rare picture of life inside the community, a utopia in full and happy bloom. The footage shows a bucolic paradise of sunshine and verdant fields set among clean, fast-flowing rivers and snowy peaks. Its German inhabitants improve the land and work their trades. A carpenter assembles a new chair for the Colonia's school. A woman in a white apron bakes German-style torts and pastries in the kitchen. Teenaged boys clear a new field for planting. Children laugh and splash in a lake. Schaefer himself, wearing a white suit and brown aviator sunglasses, takes the camera crew on a tour. Standing next to the Colonia's flour mill, he extols the quality of German machinery. "We bought this mill in Europe," he says in broken Spanish. "It is 60 years old, but we have not had to do any repairs on it."

And nearby that mill, the mass graves and torture cellars. The easy joke to make here is that with a C.V. like his, no-one sheds tears when you die—but the further loss for victims is that he was not tried for all the crimes for he was suspected of having committed. Chile's president Sebastián Piñera said Saturday, "There is another justice that never ends, which is divine justice."

Random fact: as a student, Schäfer gouged out his own right eye while using a table fork to tie an uncooperative shoelace.

(PHOTO: The entrance of "Colonia Dignidad" in Chile, a Creative Commons-licensed photo from Flickr user Robert Brands.)