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Paul Schaefer dies at 89; Nazi founded Chilean colony

Paul Schaefer, a former Nazi Luftwaffe medic who founded a secretive, commune-like colony of German immigrants in Chile, died of heart failure Saturday in a Chilean prison where he was serving time for child molestation and human rights abuses dating to the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. He was 89.

Schaefer immigrated to Chile from his native Germany in 1961 and started Colonia Dignidad, or Dignity Colony, a strictly regimented enclave 210 miles south of Santiago that was home to several hundred Germans and Chileans.

According to witnesses’ testimony in court documents, Schaefer allowed Pinochet’s security forces to operate a clandestine prison on the grounds where they detained, tortured and executed dissidents during the 1973-1990 military dictatorship.

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Colony members say he ruled them cruelly as well. Married couples were forced to live apart, and children were separated from parents. Residents were prevented from leaving. Those who angered Schaefer were subject to electric shocks, high doses of tranquilizers and long periods of isolation.

Many “became real slaves of Schaefer, like robots dedicated only to obey his orders and not displease him,” members said in a newspaper ad they took out in 2006 acknowledging human rights abuses at the colony and asking for forgiveness. The colony is now called Villa Baviera.

There were also dozens of allegations of child molestation, leading Schaefer to flee the country in 1997. He was arrested in neighboring Argentina in 2005 and extradited back to Chile the same year.

Schaefer was convicted in 2006 of sexually abusing 20 children who attended the colony’s school and clinic. He was sentenced to 20 years, plus three additional years for an illegal weapons conviction.

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In two separate cases in 2008, Schaefer received more prison time for the torture of seven colony residents and for the fatal poisoning of a renegade security agent during the dictatorship.

After his World War II service, Schaefer became an evangelical preacher. He fled Germany after being accused of molesting boys at the orphanage he ran.

news.obits@latimes.com


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