Germany to offer financial assistance to victims of “Colonia Dignidad” commune

BERLIN, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) — German federal government has announced on Friday that it will provide one million euros in funding to assist victims of the notorious German “Colonia Dignidad” commune in Chile.

Matthias Bartke (SPD), the president of the parliamentary labor and social affairs committee, told the magazine “SPIEGEL” that policymakers were finally ready to assume their responsibility for “one of the darkest chapters of German post-war diplomacy.”

According to Bartke, the “terrible crimes of Colonia Dignidad could only take place because the German embassy in Chile did not intervene in spite of several calls for help.”

“With the budgetary item which we have now agreed, we consequently want to enable urgently-needed supportive services for the victims of Colonia Dignidad”, the SPD politician added.

The item was included in the final draft of the “grand coalition’s” public spending plans for 2019 which was approved by the special budgetary committee of the federal parliament (Bundestag) early this morning.

“Colonia Dignidad” (colony of dignity in English), renamed Villa Baveria in 1988, was an enclave of German expatriates and Nazi fugitives which achieved international notoriety due to reports of sexual abuse of children and minors, the rigid indoctrination of members, slavery-like practices and torture over the course of three decades.

The religious sect was originally founded by the former Wehrmacht soldier and convicted pedophile Paul Schaefer. The commune leadership enjoyed good relations with German foreign office diplomats.

Schaefer was arrested in Argentina in 2005 and thereafter convicted in Chile for sexual abuse of children, the possession of weapons and human rights infringements. He died, aged 88 in a Chilean prison in 2010.

The German government only agreed to declassify state files on the sect in 2016 after then Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) admitted that the country’s foreign service had failed to stop abuse. German diplomats “looked the other way and did too little to protect their citizens in this commune”, Steinmeier lamented at the time.

“SPIEGEL” reported Friday that most surviving victims of the sect are still traumatized by their experience and that many are living in poverty. A growing number of former inhabitants has also returned to Germany where Hartmut Hopp, a doctor who served as the right-hand man of Schaefer was recently sentenced to five years in prison.

The one million euros in public funding agreed Friday comes with a restriction on its disbursement until a concrete concept for how to assist victims is developed during the coming year. Earlier, Berlin already signed off an additional 800,000 euros in funds to build a memorial site for the scandal.

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