December 4, 1921
|Died||April 24, 2010
|Occupation||Medic, leader of Colonia Dignidad|
Paul Schäfer Schneider (December 4, 1921 – April 24, 2010) was the founder and former leader of a sect and agricultural commune of German immigrants called Colonia Dignidad ("Dignity Colony")—later renamed Villa Baviera—located in the south of Chile, about 340 km south of Santiago. Investigations by Amnesty International and the Chilean National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation Report have verified that Colonia Dignidad was used by DINA, the Chilean secret police, as a torture and detention centre during Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship.
Life and career
Schäfer was born in Troisdorf, Germany, and joined the Hitler Youth movement at a young age. He served as a medic in the Wehrmacht during World War II, where he reached the rank of Corporal. Following the war he set up a children's home and Baptist ministry. In 1959, he created the Private Social Mission, purportedly a charitable organization. That same year, he was charged with sexually abusing two children and fled West Germany with some of his followers.
Schäfer resurfaced in Chile in 1961, where the government at the time, led by conservative President Jorge Alessandri, granted him permission to create the Dignidad Beneficent Society on a farm outside of Parral. Founded primarily on Baptist principles and anti-communism, this society evolved into the Colonia Dignidad community.
Schäfer disappeared on May 20, 1997, fleeing child sex abuse charges, this time filed by Chilean authorities under Christian Democrat President Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, after 26 children who went to the commune's free clinic and school reported abuse. He was tried in Chile in his absence, and found guilty in late 2004. Schäfer was found on March 10, 2005, nearly eight years after his disappearance, hiding in a suburb known as Las Acacias, 40 km from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Following two days of negotiations between Chilean and Argentine authorities, Schäfer was sent back to Chile to face a court hearing. There, he was charged with being involved in the 1976 disappearance of the political activist Juan Maino, and he remained in custody until his death. Schäfer was also under investigation in Chile in connection with the disappearance of Boris Weisfeiler and alleged human rights abuses, and was wanted in Germany and France in connection with earlier child-abuse allegations.
On May 24, 2006, Schäfer was sentenced to 20 years in jail for sexually abusing 25 children and was ordered to pay 770 million pesos (approximately US$1.5 million) to 11 minors whose representatives established suits. Schäfer was found guilty of 20 counts of dishonest abuses and five counts of child rape, all committed between 1993 and 1997.
On April 24, 2010, Schäfer died at the Santiago de Chile's Ex-Penitentiary's Hospital due to a heart failure. He was 88 years old. It was later revealed that Schäfer was suffering from a severe cardiac illness.
- Gero Gemballa: Colonia Dignidad: ein deutsches Lager in Chile. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1988. ISBN 3-499-12415-7. (Colonia Dignidad: A German camp in Chile)
- Friedrich Paul Heller: Lederhosen, Dutt und Giftgas: Die Hintergründe der Colonia Dignidad. Schmetterling Verlag, 2., erweiterte und aktualisierte Auflage, Stuttgart 2006. ISBN 3-89657-093-5. (Lederhosen, Dutt and poison gas: The backgrounds of the Colonia Dignidad)
- Ingo Lenz: Weg vom Leben. 36 Jahre Gefangenschaft in der deutschen Sekte, Ullstein Verlag, Berlin. ISBN 3-550-07613-4 (Away from life. 36 years imprisonment in the German sect)
- Claudio R. Salinas/ Hans Stange: Los amigos del "Dr." Schäfer. La complicidad entre el Estado chileno y Colonia Dignidad. Santiago de Chile 2006, ISBN 956-8410-06-6.
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