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Paul Schafer 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. 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 Chilean dictatorship.
Before the war
Schafer was born in Troisdorf, Weimar Germany, and joined the Hitler 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. As an ex-Nazi, he lived in Germany until 1961.
After the war: flees Germany
Following the war he set up a children's home and Baptist (or Lutheran) 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, possibly with ODESSA's network help.
Founds Colonia Dignidad in Chile
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 alleged to have been interned and tortured during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (see the Valech Report). According to the son of DINA head Manuel Contreras, his father and Pinochet visited Colonia Dignidad in 1974, and his father and Schafer were good friends.
Escape from Chile and extradition from Argentina
Schafer disappeared on May 20, 1997, fleeing child sex abuse charges, this time filed by Chilean authorities 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. Schafer 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 Argentinean authorities, Schafer 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 remains in custody. Schafer 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 in France.
On May 24, 2006 Schafer 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. Schafer was found guilty of 20 counts of dishonest abuses and five counts of child rape, all committed between 1993 and 1997.
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