Everyone is glued to the little screen pending The Squid Game, that Korean Netflix series that has become a phenomenon after having agreed with everyone who has seen it. In its catalog of premieres this month, the platform also includes other curious examples such as the mini documentary series Colonia Dignidad, which brings to light unpublished documents and new testimonies around one of the darkest sects that has ever existed.
Paul Schäfer, a former member of the Hitler Youth, traveled to Chile in 1961 fleeing from justice accused of sexual crimes. There, on a vacant lot, he and other emigrants established a fertile agricultural colony that soon gave way to new buildings and even a hospital. That German lay preacher and fugitive from justiceOver four decades, he became one of the most powerful men in Latin America and also the terror of those who lived with him.
Schäfer was their “spiritual leader” and “they worshiped him as if he were Jesus”, as one of the narrating voices tells of one of his victims. In this “cradle of horror” there were “schools of torture” in the time of Pinochet, his “great friend.” Those who lived with him remember that time as a “nightmare” and describe him as a “demon”. Others, especially fans whom he recruited in his native country, always remember him “with good humor.” Soon, his encounters with the younger boys who came to visit him raised suspicions, but those matters were kept under the rug.
But how did it all start? After spending time in the forests of Germany, Schäfer said he had an encounter with Jesus, who ordered him to form a community of “true Christians”, so he began to preach and gather the people who later followed him to a promised land. His capacity for attraction was so strong that in his speeches one could hear a pin fall to the ground during his silences, as those who lived with him remember.
“As a victim, as a child, it is not something you would say to anyone on the street, and it is a great burden that you carry. My mother did not believe me. Schäfer was the kind type and I was just a child,” says one of the victims who suffered abuse in Germany. After the first complaints, he was not arrested at the airport and managed to escape the country. Italy, Jordan and Egypt were his first destinations, where he was looking for a “refuge” in which to settle with his community, a place he found in Chile, where he was invited to help in various territories after a strong earthquake.
Colonia Dignidad: a scammer’s community
In a short time he obtained the visas for three hundred people and some land in the south of the country, in the interior and of “poor quality”, which aroused the suspicions of the neighbors. Schäfer, a “pathological liar, con man and pied piper of rats and the sheep that go to the slaughterhouse “, as described by those who knew him, managed to take all those German settlers to the” end of the world “, where they had neither money nor passports. Some escaped and others took revenge, according to testimonies of this mini documentary series, which brings to light hours of footage and unpublished photographs of that sect and its spiritual leader.
Colonia Dignidad is today Villa Baviera, a limited company that continues to have enormous power despite what happened. There, the children of the founders revive German culture. It has a tourism area run by the daughter of the former economist leader of the colony, Ana Schnellenkamp, who is seen in this documentary visiting her father. “I am very sorry that I was as insensitive as a block of ice,” acknowledges Kurt Schnellenkamp. The surprises that this documentary about this sect, which the German Gallenberger with Emma Watson as the protagonist, already brought to the big screen, are worth discovering.