Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Paul Schäfer Schneider (born December 4, 1921) is 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 central Chile, about 340 km south of Santiago.
Schäfer was born in Troisdorf, Germany, and joined the Nazi youth movement at a young age. He served as a medic in the German army during World War II, where he reached the rank of corporal. Following the war he set up a children's home and Baptist evangelical ministry. In 1959 he created the Private Social Mission, supposedly a charitable organization. That same year he was charged with sexually abusing two children and fled Germany with some of his followers. He showed up 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 anti-communism, this society evolved into the Colonia Dignidad community, where political dissidents are thought to have been interned and tortured during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
Schäfer disappeared on May 20 1997, fleeing child sex abuse charges, this time filed by Chilean authorities after 26 children who went to the cult'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 dissapearance, hiding in a suburb known as Las Acacias, 40 km from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Following two days of negotiations between Chilean and Argentinean 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. Schäfer is also under investigation in Chile in connection with the disappearance of Boris Weisfeiler and alleged human rights abuses, and is wanted in Germany in connection with child-abuse allegations from before he went on the run, and also in France.
- Secrets of ex-Nazi's Chilean fiefdom (BBC News)
- Argentina expels Chile cult head (BBC News)
- Judge questions Chile cult head (BBC News)
- New charges for Chile cult head (BBC News)
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