The Hacienda Dignidad Saga


The Hacienda Dignidad Saga

By Ernst Zündel


Have you ever heard of Hacienda Dignidad? My Spanish is a bit rusty, but I believe the name translates into “Ranch of Honor” or “Plantation of Pride.” Hacienda Dignidad is a mysterious place, deep in the Chilean mountains. Allegedly, it is a trading post for Nazi UFOs.

Remember, I am writing this totally from my faulty memory without any access to any notes I may still have in my files, at least in fragments. This is the rough story – by no means complete. The Hacienda Dignidad myth is only a small piece of a puzzle that is much larger, much more mysterious, encompassing people all over the globe for at least 60, maybe even 70 or 75 years.

When I was young, I stumbled upon it because of my interest in space exploration and space journeys to the near planets – to the Moon, to Mars, Venus and, beyond, to Orion and Sirius. It did not take long for me to make all kinds of interesting contacts in Canada, America, Germany, Austria, Spain and, especially, South America and, strange as it may seem, Japan of all places.

My first encounter with Japanese interests in space came in 1967 when I met the CEO of what was then a sizeable conglomerate of Japanese corporations worth well over US$250 million, all involved in the most diverse business fields. That man, let’s call him the Chairman, was a Japanese Naval Attaché in Germany during World War II. He was ultimately taken to Japan by German submarine in late 1943 with a secret cargo apparently involving jet planes. The Germans were far ahead of the Japanese, even the British and the US in that field, having had operational jets, several different kinds, by different manufacturers and designers since 1938. There is a story of just such a submarine which carried nothing but mercury, which the Japanese apparently needed in war production.

Incidentally, I corresponded with some of the crew of Captain Schäfer’s sub which landed in Argentina long after Germany’s surrender in Europe – there is also the story of a German sub using an uninhabited island in the Falklands/Antarctic/South Atlantic region. That island could still not be visited in the 1970s because it seems the Germans used a mine barrier at the lagoon entrance to prevent the Allied ships from landing there.

Anyway, the Chairman was thrilled to meet me, and I was wined and dined, had a Japanese driver/translator assigned to me, who was dressed formally, including gray gloves at all times. He did a lot of bowing. Wherever he guided me, I was showered with gifts from shops located on the most famous shopping streets in Tokyo. He took me to large art supply stores near the University of Tokyo and to the National gallery of Japan, where I was introduced as though I were a V.I.P., receiving fine collections in gift boxes of rice paper, seals and sealing wax – a very big deal in Japan! Evidently the Chairman thought that I was someone special because, as he said in his accented German, ” Herr Zündel, Sie sind der erste Deutsche, der denkt wie meine Kameraden in Deutschland im Kriege.” [You are the first German who thinks as my comrades did in the war].

The Chairman was the one who told me over a slow meal of many courses that Japan was at war with America. He pointed to an attaché case and said, “This time we will defeat them with this (meaning commerce) and not with tanks, ships, or planes.” He said in parting that Japan would never forgive the Americans for dropping the atomic bomb and for making Japan lose face before other Asians, especially the Koreans and Chinese. That was a big deal with him, as were the humiliations and executions by hanging of Japanese leaders via the Tokyo war crimes trials and tribunals. He was far less forgiving than the Germans!

I don’t know if this Chairman’s hand was involved in what followed, but in the middle 70s I was contacted by a man who claimed to be a Japanese reporter/writer. He was very interested in my UFO books, ordered several of them, kept calling me for details and basically pestering me because, by then, I was phasing out this rather frivolous line of books. I would imagine that it must have been in ’78 or ’79 when this reporter finally made arrangements to come over from Japan to interview me at length.

Money seemed no object with this Japanese reporter, who arrived with a photographer/sound man with state of the art tape recorders in tow. They parked their stretch limousine, chauffeur and all, in a no parking, no stopping zone outside my house. The bored white driver would sit there for hours, pulling away once in a while because Toronto police told him to move on. Meanwhile, we talked and looked through my UFO/Nazi Secret Weapon/Antarctica file, only interrupted by lunch, tape changes, coffee breaks. Later on, we went out to the CN Tower where I was treated to one of the most expensive dinners in my life.

The two came back the next day, and this time they seemed quite interested in talking to one of my male secretaries, Sepp. We used to horse around a lot, talking of olden times, and I used to call him my “Adjutant”, for Sepp had an illustrious past. He had served as an aide de camp and interpreter for Field Marshall Kesselring in Italy during the latter part of the war. We were young and brazen then. We thought we would supply some visual aids for our Japanese guests, so for the occasion we dressed Sepp up in a spiffy Nazi uniform of an officer of the communications section – visor’s officer’s cap, the works! The photographer just loved that man and his uniform! I could see why – it would lend authenticity to the story being told for a magazine or television special.

Then my Japanese guests left, loaded with UFO literature. They said they would be in touch, and mentioned that if they could raise the funds, they might be tempted to go and visit some of the places in Europe and Latin America. Especially submarine bases and underground installations left over from World War II really interested them. They were like children with a new toy.

In the months that followed, I helped them gain entry to some circles and installations, such as the former German submarine base and bunkers in Bergen, Norway, which operated undamaged until after surrender in May 11th 1945 – not May 8th! The Norwegians used those facilities, along with the most modern German subs, into the 1970s. My guests also visited the Hydrographic Institute in Hamburg and looked into the thousands of air photos taken over Antarctica and its German bases, established by the Ritscher Expedition under the protection of Hermann Göring, with Rudolf Hess as the liaison for the project. They went to Camp Dora in the Harz Mountains and to the bunker complexes in the Alpine Redoubt, which figured large in the Allied propaganda in ’44 and ’45. They sent me many postcards from those places. Unfortunately, the 1985 arson claimed all of those files.

In the wake of those visits, UFO orders for books, spotter charts and investigator passes began to pour in from Japan. We even sold Frisbees resembling UFOs. The first articles appeared, and true to his word, and we did a brisk business for a while with Japan in that period.

Then one day, I received a call from our Japanese writer. He was in the US, in Los Angeles. Could he drop by? He wanted to make me a proposal about a research trip.

Sure, said I. Come on up.

He arrived within a week and suggested that I accompany him to Latin America, together with another Japanese tape recorder man and photographer, using my trusty German aide – minus Nazi uniform, I insisted! – on the trail of the Nazi UFOs. The expedition was to last from 4 to 7 weeks.

I was still a hands-on graphic artist at that time. I ran a lucrative graphic arts studio, along with my publishing house, and I had important contracts with some of Canada’s largest corporations. There was no way I could stay away that long without losing my business. So we made a compromise. I would not go, but I would lend him my German Attaché.

Of course, Sepp liked the idea of researching Hacienda Dignidad, somehow connected to Nazi UFOs, because he could get a free first class trip out of this deal and see his friends in Chile and Argentina, where he also had family. He was happy to go along. I was excited for him, even paid him his salary, bonuses, insurance, the works – for which the Japanese researchers reimbursed me generously. For me, it was a good deal, because my trusted Adjutant would be in fact my eyes and ears and report back to me. The Japanese had no problems with that. Everybody was satisfied.

Sepp took off for Los Angeles where he would meet the rest of the team. The first stop was a special effects studio in Hollywood, which mightily impressed my World War II staff officer turned volunteer. That educational experience behind them, the team flew off into the wild blue yonder and landed in Santiago, Chile to meet up with my co-author of my first German UFO book, titled “Unbekanntes Flugobject? Letzte Geheimwaffe des Dritten Reiches.” The man’s last name was Mattern.

Mr. Mattern was a German who had emigrated to Chile in the 1920s as a professional photographer. In time, he became the official photographer for all the presidents and most of the military big wigs in Chile in the early 1930s and thereafter. He was in and out of the Presidential Palace, the military academies, the Parliament – he simply knew everybody! Chile’s military was thoroughly Prussian, having adopted Prussian drills, ethos, code of honor, WWII German uniforms, and helmets – even the goose steps! – which, by the way, they have kept to this day. The Chilean army under Pinochet was like an extension of the World War II German Army in looks, behavior and feel as well as in outward appearance. Exclusively German marching bands and German marches were, and are, still played to this day by that time warp Chilean army!

Mr. Mattern was to be in charge of the Chilean part of the trip, especially since he had once personally visited the area upon which the Japanese seemed to be totally fixated – the fabled Shangri-la called Hacienda Dignidad in a remote interior mountain range. As the story went, during his one and only visit to Hacienda Dignidad, Mr. Mattern was picked up at the train station or air field – I can’t recall which – by someone and driven to the Hacienda, and when his visit was over, he was driven back to his point of arrival in the South Central part of Chile. I believe the town was called Parral.

Mattern was, by then, already a man well into his 80s, but his correspondence was absolutely lucid. He assured the Japanese team plus Sepp that they would be met at the airport by a representative of Mr. Richter who would then take them to the Hacienda for a reception and interview with Mr. Richter personally. Security and secrecy were given as the reasons for this somewhat out of the ordinary arrangement.

The meeting with Mr. Mattern was cordial at his upper middle class home. The meals were served in the finest china, rare wines, candle light, very civilized. The team was on its way, being briefed by Mr. Mattern what he had observed during his visit many years ago, such as the brand new Mercedes Benz ambulances which were used by German emergency services, Mercedes Diesel mini-buses, sheet metal workshops with the latest German metal bending machines, punch presses, all of them equipped with the most modern tools and machines. Mattern spoke of extensive vehicle repair facilities, motor reconditioning shops, modern communal kitchens and learning/meeting facilities, a state of the art hospital with a surgery and an outpatient clinic for Indians in the area and a maternity ward where local people, mostly Indios or Mestizos, were treated by the medical staff of the Hacienda Dignidad, completely free of charge.

The nurses, said Mattern, wore typical German nurses’ uniforms with Red Cross and Christian insignia on their gowns and habits. There was also a dairy farm, he recalled, as well sheep, flocks of chickens, geese etc. In fact, it seemed that the Hacienda was based on what in National Socialist Germany’s time would have been called a “Musterbetrieb” – an ideal, self-contained community, run like a perfectly integrated prototype enterprise. Mattern also saw a neat little Christian chapel. He said he was taken for long rides on magnificent horses along well-kept trails, accompanied by Richter, who would stop and talk to Indio laborers, male and female, in Spanish.

Although their outings would often last several hours, said Mattern, they never seemed to come to a fence or the edge of the property. It was rolling hills and dales, fields of potatoes, wheat, rye, and corn. Every once in a while he would hear the sounds in the distance – the whine of jet engines or turbines being accelerated, and then the sounds would die down again, and silence would prevail. Only a few times, he told his guests, did he think that he saw strange aerial activity going on by even stranger craft. He was never told what was it was, and it was clear to him that the host was unwilling or perhaps under orders not to expand on those strange noises and those odd goings-on.

During his stay, there were communal suppers and lectures on different topics by different people, said Mattern. There were German and Austrian folk dance performances and even some by Indian dancers accompanied by rather primitive local instruments. He was not allowed to take any pictures or make any drawings and notes. Camera, note pad, pens were politely taken from him and returned at the end of the visit. Some of these Mattern recollections, by no means all, found their way into the initial German books and my subsequent far more Mickey mouse English language books on UFOs, titled UFOs: Nazi Secret Weapons.

This, then, was a little preview of what the Japanese investigative reporter, the sound man photographer, and my own secretary/translator hoped to find at the mysterious Hacienda. Remember, this was long before faxes, satellite phones, much less cell phones, the Internet and e-mail came onto the scene. Letters from and to Chile would normally take 9-12 days one-way, which is still good and fast by today’s standards.

The team left Santiago, the capital, full of anticipation and arrived in Parral, hoping to be met by Mr. Richter or by one of his staff members, as Mr. Mattern said he was assured via his usually well-connected channels.

The team arrived. Parral is a regional, administrative center with military and federal police bases as well as airports and rail center.

No Mr. Richter. No one else either! Now what?

Mr. Mattern, back in Santiago, could not get any explanations from his highly placed sources either, which shocked him visibly. All his inquiries hit dead ends.

My man on the scene spoke five languages. As a German military officer on Field Marshall Kesselring’s staff, Sepp had served as a liaison to Benito Mussolini’s government, and as such he had participated in all the high level meetings, including the ones concerning Mussolini’s liberation by German commando leader Otto Skorzeny at the Gran Sasso.

Anyway, Sepp was a resourceful man because of his background and training. He decided to do the logical thing – he went to see the postmaster of the town and asked for the address of the Hacienda Dignidad.

There he was met with evasive answers. Security considerations. Obscure laws. Shrugs. Blank stares. I should also mention that Chile was then under martial law since Allende had been overthrown. Martial law can bring out very strange behavior.

When he could not shake loose the address, Sepp went to see the mayor, Japanese crew in tow. At city hall, he was at first cordially received by the staff and was shown into the mayor’s spacious office. There, behind the mayor’s desk were several large maps of the area – one of the town, another of the whole region with oddly colored patches towards areas heading to the foothills of the mountains. While they chatted with the mayor, asking for Mr. Richter and the way to the Hacienda Dignidad, it became quickly clear that security did not permit the city official from giving them the information they sought either.

By now it was past lunch. After a meal, the team decided to rent a car – a Volkswagen Beetle, what else? – and do their exploration without Mr. Richter.

Sepp had memorized the map at the mayor’s office. At the car rental place they obtained a similar scale map of the region, matched with what he had seen shaded in. A decision was made to head out into the general direction of those colored/shaded areas. Sepp was certain it had to be the Hacienda’s location, going by the description of the landscape Mattern had given them in his briefings. Sepp was confident that he could find the Hacienda by asking local people in the foothills.

By now it had begun to rain, and as they were climbing steadily, it was getting colder and darker. Quickly, they left civilization behind. Telegraph poles and electric wires ended. Farmers’ fields gave way to bush land, poor soil, and the odd Indio shack made of corrugated metal roofs, old leftover wooden pallets, crates etc. with run-down or broken down cars strewn in the fields. The road got progressively worse, and the asphalted surface had long given way to potholes and gravel, which made for a bouncy ride as they wound their way ever higher into the foothills.

It was a miserable afternoon drive. The Japanese wanted to turn back. Sepp wanted to press on, and since he was the driver and navigator, German stubbornness won out. With his cold and grumbling passengers getting more weary by the minute, things were heading for a crisis, when suddenly the rain stopped just as they came to an area of clearly man-planted, 25-year-old conifer trees on either side of the road. They could see a light flicker in some hut on a hillside in the distance.

They hit upon a paved road, and soon they found themselves on a driveway with a cut lawn on each side. They could see a white stucco gate, Latin American style, with a high wrought iron fence on either side, and then a long, heavy wire security fence, metal links with barbed wire continuing on into a distant, man-planted forest. They were, in fact, in a turn-around, circular driveway area, and there was even an electric bell.

By the street lamp they could see some metallic reflections in some high birch trees inside the fence behind the large gate, which had a smaller gate for pedestrians on the side of it. This road carried on behind the gate into a well-kept landscaped area, dotted by majestic 25-35 year old coniferous, German-type blue spruce, or Norwegian pine trees familiar to people in Central Europe, the Black Forest and the Alpine regions. There was a winding path up to the blinking light shack a few hundred meters up a steep bank.

It began to drizzle again. The Japanese were lightly clad, shivering and uncomfortable, sitting huddled in the car. Sepp had a waterproof ski jacket and offered to investigate the light, while the others waited. He decided to take a shortcut and climb straight up the hill. It was slippery and rough going – when, suddenly, a car horn sounded, and as he turned around and looked down, he saw several men in non-descript rain coats surrounding the Volkswagen Beetle.

Hastily, he slid down the hillside to get there faster, getting himself wet and muddy by the rain-covered high vegetation. The men had started questioning the Japanese who did not speak Spanish and were clearly at a loss as to what to do next. One of the strange men, to Sepp’s surprise, wore a forage cap used by German mountain troops in World War II, the famous Gebirgsjäger of Oberst Dietl in Narvik, Murmansk and later the Caucasus when they climbed the highest mountain, Mount Elberus, and planted the Swastika flag on the peak, creating a worldwide sensation at the time.

The German spread-eagle insignia and the Edelweiß had been neatly removed from the cap, but one could still see the outline in the sun-bleached material. This man was muscular, bronzed, blue-eyed and blond. More yet, he spoke heavily accented Spanish with a clear Bavarian twang, familiar to my south Tyrolian born Sepple! Sepp knew he was in the right place. He knew that was no local Indio or Chilean.

Sepp addressed him in German; however, the man refused steadfastly to answer in German. In Spanish, he asked the team what they wanted, denied knowing a Dr. Richter, and requested that they hand him their passports, airline tickets, cameras and tape recorders. He then motioned them inside the gate which opened electrically, although no wires or high poles were visible anywhere. He motioned them to drive down the driveway, while the rest of the “reception committee” followed them in their own, four-wheel drive military type vehicle.

After 300-400 meters, they came to a series of typically German type buildings – sturdy masonry with baked-tile roofs, stone and stucco Alpine style architecture. They were told to park their car. Politely, they were assisted with their luggage. They entered a large office/reception type room, tastefully decorated, again Alpine type, and were asked to make themselves comfortable. It was a building with all modern amenities, electric lights, flush toilets, wash basins, typewriters, office desks, office lamps, clothes racks etc. It had the feel of a military officer’s quarters.

By now, it was pitch dark outside.

They were given sandwiches, hot herbal tea, some dessert, and then the interrogations began – at first, separately in different rooms by different people, some of whom spoke English with the Japanese. With Sepp they insisted on speaking Spanish, an odd situation. They could not be persuaded to speak German – even though they were clearly Germans.

No one answered any questions as to where they were, what the place was called. No one claimed to know a Mr. Richter. No one admitted that this was indeed Hacienda Dignidad.

The interrogations lasted several hours, and about 10 p.m. they were all brought together again. They were told that they had penetrated a restricted military area without authorization, and that this was a serious offense – that a military police escort was on its way from Parral to pick them up, and that it would be up to the military to decide what to do with them once they got there. Their passports, cameras, tape recorders, films, and luggage would be turned over to the military. It was suggested that they could get some rest in a room that had some bunk beds and blankets, and they were warned not to try anything foolish. They could use the rest room but not leave the building for any reason.

The Japanese seemed pretty upset by all this and wondered what they had gotten into. Their ardor had considerably cooled by then, and they felt it was wiser not to press their luck und instead beat it back to Parral, get their passports back and get out of the jam they were in! They were satisfied that out in nowhere, cut off from civilization, there obviously were people living with all the accountrements of civilization, European no less, who had video surveillance cameras, electricity, flush toilets, heating systems, paved roads, tall metal wire fences, automatic electric door openers as well as a facility where there were multilingual people working in shifts, people connected somehow with the military or at least the federales, the police, who had the power to take people’s passports.

Everybody was tired, and soon all were asleep, only to be wakened in the early morning hours by truck motors howling, doors being slammed, loud voices in Spanish. They were introduced to the head of their military escort – a whole convoy of trucks and jeeps! After a short breakfast, they headed out into more rain and fog, making visibility difficult. Even so, they could make out numerous European type buildings in the distance which looked like part of a community with neatly cut lawns, garden flowers, and all asphalt roads everywhere they looked!

The trip back to Parral was slow and rocky. The team was taken to an army or federal police compound where they were herded into a large room and, once again, separately interrogated. They were told what they already knew – that they had entered a restricted military area without authorization, for which they could be jailed for a substantial period, but seeing that they were foreigners, and that their press credentials and stories checked out, they were only going to lose their undeveloped film, same with the tape recordings. They were told to take their rental car, drive it all the way to Santiago, check at the federales’ posts along the way, have their expulsion orders stamped at each place – and be out of the country in 72 hours! Pronto!

The Japanese did as they were told – they left Chile in a hurry. All were glad they got off easy. They were given their passports and cameras and tape recorders back and went on to points in Brazil and Argentina for other interviews on the trail of the mysterious Nazi UFOs. And our Sepp told us this story as he remembered it.

A decade later, I was invited to Princeton University for a lengthy series of Nazi UFO-related interviews, which were aired on prime time Japanese TV in a remarkable if sensationalized UFO special with superb computer animations of realistic Nazi UFOs.

Mr. Mattern never did find out what had happened to Mr. Richter – or to Hacienda Dignidad for that matter. He died within a year, but as I said, he was well into his eighties by that time. Sepp passed away a few years later.

The 137-sq-km (53-sq-mile) Colonia Dignidad colony
near the city of Parral,
some 350 km (220 miles)
south of Santiago
– in a lush valley in the
Andean foothills

From other sources, such as El Mercurio, a left-leaning mass circulation Chilean newspaper, as well as from the German weekly, Der Stern, and the German news magazine, Der Spiegel, the following story emerges:

Hacienda Dignidad is a colony totally self-sufficient in everything, technologically equipped with the very latest amenities. The community has its own schools, teachers, hospital, medical staff, and technical people. It is claimed that mysterious testing of some sort is being carried on at the Hacienda for the Chilean military. Even Chilean senators and parliamentarians find all their efforts blocked, usually by courts, the police, and the military. The German Embassy reports that numerous Germans receive their World War II army, air force, and other pension checks, which are sent to a collective address in the town of Parral, where they are deposited into a joint account.

The El Mercurio newspaper reported already in the late ’40s and ’50s that one of their reporters, in fact, did penetrate the Hacienda terrain via back roads through the mountains, using pack horses, and that he did observe strange flying craft taking off and landing in some remote area of a valley away from the actual community – which is what Mattern reported seeing during his one and only visit in the 1950s or 1960s – I don’t remember now exactly just when his visit took place.

The latest report about Hacienda Dignidad I read in the late 1990s in Der Spiegel. There was talk that the community was run by an autocratic leader. It was described almost like a semi-religious cult, but that there were married couples with children there. After his visit to what he certainly believed had been Hacienda Dignidad or a similar enterprise in the remote foothills of the Chilean mountains, Mattern was of the view that this place was a supply base for fresh fruit and vegetables picked up by “flying saucers”. He also felt that the colony served as a rest/recuperation and medical facility for German-staffed UFO bases further to the South likeTierra del Fuego and even Antarctica proper.

The story of the El Mercurio reporter, except for Mattern the only other human being claimed to have visited Hacienda Dignidad, is in one of my booklets in excerpted form. It was a bestseller in its time and is still widely quoted, as is the hastily organized Admiral Byrd Expedition to the mysterious continent of Antarctica in 1947. 

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The most extensive photographic documentary is to be found in an exhaustive article in  National Geographic magazine, replete with maps and flight paths of the Byrd over flights, leaving out the far more sensational revelations supposedly contained in Byrd’s private diary, which was forbidden to be published by U.S. authorities – or so it is alleged. Its content was leaked by Admiral Byrd’s son, who himself came to a rather bizarre and mysterious end.

The nation of Chile appears to be particularly likely to be infested with NeoNazis according to Peter Levenda. (‘Unholy Alliance: A History of the Nazi Involvement With the Occult’).  Among others the occult writer and Chilean diplomat Miguel Serrano has written praising Hitler. Levenda himself investigated the secret Nazi center, the infamous “Colonia Dignidad”, in Chile. This mysterious colony is run by the self-described “Baptist” zealot, Dr. Ernst Schäfer, with unproven ties to Nazism. While in Chile, Levenda encountered this mysterious Nazi colony and barely managed to escape alive (luckily a report involving the statute of limitations on Nazi war crimes was being reviewed that day which may have allowed his escape). Rumors of mysterious deaths, torture, sexual abuse of children, and the practice of the black arts combining traditional Voodoo ritual with Nazi occultism have spread about the infamous “Colonia Dignidad”. Whatever exactly this colony consists of, it is certainly not a wholesome affair.

Fugitive Nazi Cult Leader Arrested

3/11/2005

A former Nazi who founded a secretive German colony in South America where opponents of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship were tortured has been arrested after more than a decade on the run. A former Nazi who founded a secretive German colony in South America where opponents of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship were tortured has been arrested after more than a decade on the run.

Detectives in Argentina captured Paul Schäfer, an 84-year-old German, on Thursday on the outskirts of the capital, Buenos Aires. Schäfer has been wanted in Chile in connection with child abuse charges since 1996, when he disappeared. Last year a Chilean court convicted him in his absence of child abuse, together with 26 other cult members.

Smiling and handcuffed, he refused to comment as police officers took him to a cell in a wheelchair.

Schäfer, one of South America’s most enigmatic fugitives, was the leader of a notorious German cult in southern Chile known as Colonia Dignidad.

A former corporal and medic in the German army during the second world war, he moved to Chile in the early 1960s. He established a self-sufficient colony in the mountains near the city of Parral, 218 miles south of Santiago. Surrounded by barbed wire and electric fences, and largely populated by Germans, the cult remained cut off from the rest of Chile.

In 1996, a number of former residents testified that Schäfer had systematically abused the colony’s young children, some of whom were taken from their parents at birth. Others alleged that cult members had been mistreated and forced to stay in the colony against their will. Chilean officials also believe the colony was used as a centre for torture between 1973 and 1990, during the Pinochet era, with former Gestapo and Nazi officers giving torture lessons.

Investigators say that political prisoners, including the former leftwing leader Alvaro Vallejos Villagran, arrested by Pinochet’s agents in May 1974, vanished after being sent to Colonia Dignidad.

Police also want to question Schäfer about the mysterious disappearance in 1985 of Boris Weisfeiler, an American Jewish maths professor, who was last seen there.

Yesterday Germany’s foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, took the unusual step of welcoming Schäfer’s arrest. “It’s good news. His arrest will allow a comprehensive investigation into all the criminal activities in the former Colonia Dignidad to be carried out,” Mr Fischer said.

Schäfer and the colony had enjoyed Pinochet’s protection right until the end of his dictatorship in 1990.

Chile’s deputy interior minister, Jorge Correa, said he wanted Argentina to expel Schäfer to Chile rather than begin an extradition process that could take months.

About 300 people, most of them Germans, still live in the colony. Yesterday a spokesman for the group, Michael Müller, said he was pleased by the arrest. He added: “Our colony has reorganised itself as an open free colony, fully integrated into Chilean society.”

Colonia Dignidad–Germans and Pinochet

Peter Levenda

July 13, 2005

When the news trickled in from Argentina and then Chile that a fugitive from justice, Paul Schäffer (no, not the Letterman guy) was finally apprehended and extradited from the land of Peron to the land of Pinochet, I was quite frankly relieved.

And then the revelations about a horde of documents and weapons, and my relief turned to anxiety.

I visited Paul Schäffer in June, 1979. It was a cool winter’s day in Chile, and I was wearing a tan trench coat so that I would be a very recognizable figure should anything go wrong. I was not an invited guest, or an expected one, that Sunday morning. I had read about Schaeffer’s notorious German estate in the Andes Mountains in a much-maligned book by Ladislas Farago, Aftermath. Farago’s focus was on the ratlines that enabled Nazi war criminals to escape European justice by providing transport, false documents, and visas to countries in South America, the Middle East, and Asia. Some of the more famous alumni of the ratlines include Dr Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death at Auschwitz, who wound up in Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil; Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyons, who wound up running the secret police in Bolivia; and Alois Brunner, a sadistic Nazi mass murderer who is believed to be living in Syria today.

Almost as an aside, Farago mentioned the bizarre German outpost and safe house close to the town of Parral, in Chile. Run by an ex-Luftwaffe medic, Paul Schäffer — an accused pedophile and Baptist minister on the run from the German courts — it covered thousands of acres in the Andes near the border of Chile and Argentina. It was populated almost entirely by German nationals, and ran a clinic that was free to the local townspeople two days a week when I was there. (A free German clinic, run by a former Luftwaffe medic? Is it safe?)

According to Farago, the “Colony of Righteousness” or Colonia Dignidad was a weird combination of voodoo and fascism in the middle of the Andean forests. There was something forbidding about the place, and as I searched further for information on the estate, I was informed that it did exist, was run by German doctors, and that it staunchly supported the Pinochet regime. Indeed, it was claimed that Schäffer and Pinochet were friends, and that Colonia Dignidad was a favorite hangout of Nazi-loving Chilean military officers and members of DINA, the secret police.

I was 28 years old that year, and I could not pass this up. Nazis, voodoo, secret police. I was working on a book that would eventually become Unholy Alliance and which would attract the attention of writers and journalists such as Norman Mailer, Jim Hougan, Dick Russell, Jim Marrs, and Whitley Strieber. (Norman Mailer would eventually write the foreword to the second edition, published by Continuum in 2002.) It was a study of twentieth century Germany’s fascination with the occult, and how this fascination fueled the formation of the Nazi Party and especially of Himmler’s SS. Based on primary sources located at the National Archives, the Berlin Documentation Center, and the Library of Congress’ Rehse Collection, Unholy Alliance attempted to demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that occult ideas and concepts were central to the Nazi Weltanschauungand to lift the discussion out of the realm of speculation and mystification.

So, I girded my loins and made the flight down to Santiago, catching a bus for the town of Parral about 250 miles to the south of Chile’s capital.

That story is told in detail in Unholy Alliance, but suffice it to say that my stay at the Colony was brief, albeit unpleasant. I was detained there for several hours, my passport was taken, the film was removed from my camera, and I was interrogated. I was allowed to leave (for reasons I did not know at the time, but which became clear a few days later) and was virtually escorted out of the country. The Colony had radio contact with the military, and I had soldiers ensuring that I was indeed on the bus back to Santiago and on the next plane to the United States.

The rest of the story forms the backbone of Unholy Alliance. I tried, without success, to interest members of the mainstream media in the Colony and in my experiences at the hands of the blue-coated doctor who did most of the interrogating on behalf of Schaeffer, who did not speak English. Major magazines and newspapers were simply not interested, didn’t believe my story, or didn’t think that Colonia Dignidad was anything more than a bunch of unpleasant Germans living in seclusion.

Then Boris Weisfeiler disappeared.

That was in 1982, three years after my visit. The Russian-born American academic had been hiking in the Andes near the Colony. Picked up by a Chilean military patrol, he was taken to the Colony and left there. He has never been seen or heard from again.

There was still no interest in this tale by anyone in the States. After all, there was a great deal of resistance on the part of the Nixon White House to deal with the disappearance in Chile of Charles Horman, the young artist whose story was memorialized in the Costa-Gavras film, Missing. Horman had been arrested by the Chilean security forces during the Pinochet coup, and was murdered at the National Stadium. Witnesses to the event said that an American official was present at the time. The American relationship to Chile has always been a trifle problematic. Nixon made it our business to do what we could to unseat a democratically elected president, the socialist Salvador Allende, and to replace him by a more definite anti-Communist strongman, General Augusto Pinochet.

As more and more news came out of Chile, it became clear that Colonia Dignidad had a special role in the military coup and in the subsequent interrogation, torture and murder of political prisoners. As it was honeycombed with underground tunnels and chambers, people could and did disappear within the Colony at an alarming rate. This would eventually include the Colony’s founder, Paul Schäffer himself, who used the tunnels to flee justice during a raid on the estate ordered by the newly elected president of Chile after Pinochet’s demise, Patricio Alwyn.

Then, a few months ago came the capture and extradition of Schaeffer to Chile, where he will stand trial for human rights abuse and child abuse. During an excavation at the Colony a few weeks ago, a hoard of guns and ammunition, some dating from the Second World War, was discovered and revealed to the world’s press. Along with that came the discovery of hundreds of documents, many of them dossiers on people the Colony considered suspect. I have contacted the Chilean Consulate to discover if, by any chance, one of those dossiers is mine. (In 1979, when I was held there by a lot of strong Germans with side arms, my passport was confiscated. It was returned to me perhaps 20-30 minutes later. I had the distinct impression it had been photocopied.)

When I returned to the States a few days later, Jack Anderson ran a column on Colonia Dignidad, reporting its use as an interrogation center by DINA and the fact that a CIA report existed on the place. This was news to me at the time, and anyway I was suddenly afraid for my life. I had nothing to do with the story, but would the men of the Colony know that?

A few days after the column appeared, I was accosted by four large Germans in a taxi in Brooklyn who screamed epithets at me, using various anti-Semitic slurs, threatening me bodily harm. A few days after that, a strange man in a white suit and a red carnation in his lapel stopped me on a street in Astoria, Queens, and told me, “Don’t worry. You’re among friends here.” I am not making this up.

Now, documents have been found and I can’t help but wonder if one of them holds a piece of my story. More importantly, do these documents help survivors understand what has happened to their loved ones, los desaperecidos, people who disappeared during the Pinochet regime? Will they hold answers as to the fate of Boris Weisfeiler?

And will anyone care? Stories about the Colony do not make the nightly news (in spite of its tabloid appeal along the lines of “mysterious religious cult abuses children, Nazi medics torture, murder dissidents in remote South American outpost.”) Reports barely make it into the Spanish-language media, which I monitor regularly. No one seems to want to know. Approaches to the mainstream media have, again, resulted in a deafening silence.

And men like Pinochet, Schäffer, Mengele, Brunner and all the others eventually die peacefully in their beds as the bodies of the people they murdered lie buried in unmarked graves.

News at eleven? Not a chance.

Aliens, Adolf Hitler and the Mystery Villa of Fuerteventura

Aliens and Adolf Hitler might not seem to have much in common. But lying in isolated mountainside in one of the most secluded areas of the Canary Islands lies an spacious villa that has given birth to mysterious legends about both …

This spacious villa lies hidden from the world nestling between the mountains and the wild Atlantic ocean on Fuerteventura. It can only be reached after a hair raising drive along a dirt track in the mountain borders. The sheer isolation of Villa Gustav Winter holds a mystery which has yet to be explained.

This mystery starts with the appearance and position of the villa itself. It is surrounded by land which has exactly the same shape and proportions of the island of Fuerteventura itself. And the villa’s location within this enclosed replica corresponds geographically to its true position…

Was this location and shape the result of exact mathematical positioning, a signal to some alien life form or just sheer fluke? The truth will probably never come to light but theories abound.

Mystery man in dark glasses

German-born Gustav Winter arrived on Fuerteventura in the 1930s. He worked for a large company that had just acquired a great expanse of land in the south of the island – the peninsula of Jandia.

Winter became known for his mysterious dark glasses and accompanying black dog and was responsible for building the first port at Morro Jable. However, it is not for these reasons that he is best remembered. His name will always be connected to the small isolated hamlet of Cofete where he built the villa that later gave birth to countless myths.

Originally, the villa was said to have been built to establish agriculture in the region. It was modeled on a villa built in the Black Forest in 1893. But rumours began spreading after the appearance of armed guards accompanied by large dogs started guarding the walls of what was becoming more of a fortress than a villa.

Anyone trying to get to the villa had to first identify themselves to the guards who would then call Winter. If they were granted permission to enter, they then had to travel along a dirt track road which, according to urban legend, was built by political prisoners held captive at a concentration camp at Tefia. An airport runway was also built there and put at Gustav’s disposal.

Rumours were flamed after accounts from people allowed into the villa described the five rooms in the attic as being completely tiled over, of a large kitchen and of vast dark cellars and caves stretching under the villa and into the mountainside. Were the tiles to stop any radio signals being picked up by eavesdroppers?

And why would such an important engineer as Gustav, who held the rank of Colonel and who was at the forefront of an important shipyard in Bordeaux, hide himself in the middle of nowhere to practice farming while his country was at war? He was a man of considerable importance – at a time when his country needed him most, would he really hide himself away in a fortress in a remote island with its close proximity to the sea and an airport runway?  Would he really shelter in a fortress built of solid walls with ample cellars and a kitchen large enough to feed a small army?

A safe house for Nazis

Allied ships were frequently attacked by German submarines that surrounded and protected this small island from prying eyes.

Historical accounts now tend to suggest that Villa Winter acted as a safe house for top escaping Nazis most probably heading to America. Its isolated location next to the Atlanticand its natural mountain shelter would have been an ideal rendezvous point for Nazi leaders arriving by submarine and seeking a safe haven until they could slip into anonymity after the war.

Another myth that has grown is that the villa was a halfway house not only providing safe haven but also a hospital where plastic surgeons operated to give their overlords new faces to match their new identities.

In an interview shortly before her death, the widow of Gustav Winter firmly denied the allegations leveled at her late husband over the years. She denied that the villa had ever had connections to the Nazis or that it was built as a hideaway for Adolf Hitler – she said the infamous villa was built for the simple reason of exploiting agriculture in the area.

But the sheer size of Villa Winter, its isolation and the constant guard patrols would tend to suggest that this was never destined to be a family home ringing with the sound of laughter from happy children.

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About dharmen1

traveller
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