SANTIAGO DE CHILE - Germany today made a 'mea culpa' for the actions of their diplomats who disregarded requests for help from the victims of a German enclave known as 'Colonia Dignidad' (Dignity Colony) for years. However, victims will not be compensated because the atrocities were committed in Chile.
"We will not accept claims for reparation. The German government did not establish the dictatorship in Chile," German president Joachim Gauck said today at the start of his visit to the South American country with a focus on the recovery of historical memory and promotion of bilateral relations.
Gauck admitted that his country's embassy in Chile should have provided help to the victims of the sect led by German Paul Schaefer who for 44 years committed serious violations of human rights and collaborated with the repressive apparatus of Augusto Pinochet's regime.
"Germany regrets that its diplomats turned away (...) but to say that there was joint responsibility would be too much," the head of state said.
Gauck was referring to the claims raised by German settlers who were victims of Schaefer, former Chilean political prisoners and relatives of those who were tortured, killed and disappeared in the enclave.
However, he announced that German authorities will provide "psychosocial support" to the victims and will assist in the construction of a memorial to remember what happened at Colonia Dignidad.
On this issue, Chilean president Michelle Bachelet confirmed the commitment of her government to clarify the truth, administer justice and repair the damage caused to victims.
Between 1961 and 2005, Colonia Dignidad, now renamed Villa Bavaria, was home of a sect where some 300 people underwent forced labor, punishment and mental manipulation, as well as sexual abuse and rape of minors.
"Chile and Germany have had dark chapters in their past, they were not always democracies," Gauck said in an appearance before media together with Bachelet.
The German president praised the decision of his country's Foreign Affairs minister Frank Walter Steinmeier who ordered documents related to Colonia Dignidad to be declassified in April.
On the first day of his visit to Chile, the German president was welcomed at the La Moneda presidential palace by Bachelet and later they both participated in a Chilean-German forum organized by local authorities and seven German political foundations.
On Wednesday, Gauck is scheduled to visit the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, among other activities.