Germany to compensate Chilean paedophile cult victims
Germany says it will pay compensation of up to €10,000 to members of the Nazi paedophile sect “Colonia Dignidad” in Chile.
Last week German prosecutors dropped a case against the sect’s former doctor Hartmut Hopp, 74, saying there was a lack of evidence that he was involved in child sexual abuse.
The cult was founded in 1961 by Paul Schäfer, an ex-member of the Wehrmacht, lay preacher and convicted paedophile, who abused, drugged and indoctrinated residents and held them as virtual slaves, prevented from leaving by armed guards with dogs.
He had close ties to the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and would torture and murder the regime’s opponents.
Around 240 German and Chilean survivors, including about 80 who now lives in Germany, will be available for payments from a fund valued at €3.5 million.
Some of the victims would receive pension-style payments.
Children were made to live separately from their parents and many were sexually abused by Schäfer.
The fenced mountain commune 350km south of Santiago in the remote Maule region only came under scrutiny after the end of Pinochet’s regime.
At its peak, 300 Germans and Chileans were living in the 137 sq km compound, overlooked by a watchtower with searchlights.
Schäfer initially fled but was arrested in Argentina in 2005 and jailed in Chile for child sexual and other abuses. He died in jail in 2010 at 88.
Under Pinochet, Colonia Dignidad became a clandestine detention centre with about 300 dissidents interrogated and tortured in its tunnels by the Chilean authorities and Schäfer’s associates.
More than 100 people are thought to have been killed in the compound, including US academic Boris Weisfeiler, who went hiking in Chile in 1984.
Hopp, who ran the sect’s clinic, was convicted in Chile of complicity in Schäfer’s crimes but fled to Germany in 2011 before the court ruling could be imposed.
A German court initially upheld Hopp’s sentence but a higher court, and state prosecutors, since ruled that the evidence provided by the Chilean court fell short of that required in Germany.
Colonia Dignidad changed its name to Villa Baviera in 1991, becoming a tourist resort with a German-themed restaurant and hotel. More than 100 residents, many of them former members of the sect, live in the compound with many saying it is the only home they have known.
Members can now visit universities and the site attracts a number of tourists, some of them drawn by its infamous history.
The missing. Picture credit: Wikimedia