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Chile, Germany establish Colonia Dignidad commission

Germany and Chile have signed an agreement on the notorious cult of Colonia Dignidad founded by a pedophile ex-Nazi who fled Germany after WWII. The cult operated with impunity for decades, committing dreadful crimes.

Germany and Chile agreed to establish a joint commission to document the crimes of a secretive cult founded by a pedophile ex-Nazi in 1961, Chile's foreign ministry said Thursday.

The agreement will create a documentation center for the community, and a memorial for victims that were tortured and killed within the confines of Colonia Dignidad. The cult was started by Paul Schäfer, a German lay preacher, former army medic and convicted pedophile who fled West Germany to Chile after World War II.

 Read:Chilean court imposes heavier sentences on German cult leaders

Over 30 years, countless boys were raped and forced to labor at the remote commune hidden behind security fences. Schäfer brutally suppressed and controlled his followers, using means including brainwashing, draconian punishments and enforcing a vow of secrecy. Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet used the German commune as a torture camp, and hid weapons and poison gas on the premises.

The so-called "Uncle Paul" maintained good relations with right-wing extremist circles and was able to operate with impunity for decades until the fall of the Pinochet regime in 1990.

Schäfer then went undercover, escaping justice once again. He was arrested in Buenos Aires in 2005 and was sentenced to jail for 25 cases of sexual abuse. On April 24, 2010, he died in a prison in Santiago de Chile.

Former residents of the colony still live on the 30,000-hectare area near the southern Chilean city of Parral. The dorms, where men, women and children used to sleep separately, were converted into apartments for families.

Watch video 05:25

A German sect in Chile

In 2005, the Chilean state released a secret archive file found at the former Colonia Dignidad. The archive indexes approximately 39,000 individuals. Human rights groups still hope to uncover the fate of the many people who disappeared during the Pinochet dictatorship.

Read: Colonia Dignidad - one victim's fight for justice

In 2006, former members of the cult issued a public apology and asked for forgiveness, saying they were brainwashed by Schäfer, who many viewed as a god.

Earlier this year, Germany's Foreign Ministry made its documents on the cult between 1986 and 1996 available to the public. The foreign minister at the time, now President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said that Germany's representatives had done too little to help the victims.

The story of Colonia Dignidad was made into a movie staring Daniel Brühl and Emma Watson last year.

aw/msh (Reuters, KNA)

Watch video 42:29

Colonia Dignidad, the torturers' cult

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