07/03/14

Permalink The Colony: Chile's dark past uncovered

Forty years after the US-backed military coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power in Chile, the truth about the sordid abuses and crimes that took place during his dictatorship are still emerging. The mountains of Patagonia in southern Chile witnessed a particularly bizarre chapter of the Pinochet era; one that is still claiming victims today. In 1961, a former Nazi corporal called Paul Schaefer fled Germany, along with hundreds of others, to found a sect in southern Chile. In an idyllic rural enclave framed by the Andes Mountains he created a virtual state within a state - one where horrifying events unfolded. Initially with the ignorance of the government, and then with the complicity of the Pinochet regime, children were separated from their parents at birth and raised in a Kinder House. Men and women were kept apart and often drugged, while Schaefer systematically sexually abused boys and, occasionally, girls. But it was not only the residents of Colonia Dignidad, or the Dignity Colony, that endured such brutalities. The secluded Colony, set on a huge estate featuring forests, mountains and rivers and enclosed by electrified barbed wire fences and look-out posts manned by armed guards, was the perfect place for the interrogation, torture and disposal of anyone Pinochet considered to be an enemy. It also served as a haven for Nazi fugitives - such as Walter Rauff, the inventor of the portable gas chamber, and Joseph Mengele, the so-called 'Angel of Death' - who were permitted to hide out there in exchange for overseeing sophisticated forms of torture. All of this took place with the full knowledge of the Pinochet regime, whose notorious intelligence chief, General Manuel Contreras, would often visit the site.

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