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  HOME | Chile

Survivors Ask for German Support to Close Colonia Dignidad Site in Chile

SANTIAGO DE CHILE - The families of executed and missing prisoners in the German enclave Colonia Dignidad (Dignity Colony) during Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet's regime today asked support from the German government so that the site, now renamed Villa Baviera, closes its doors to tourism and is turned into a memorial site.

Myrna Troncoso, leader of a group of relatives of disappeared and executed prisoners in the Maule region, where Villa Baviera, is located, met with David Gill, head of the Federal Presidential Office of German president Joachim Gauck who concluded his visit to Chile Tuesday.

Troncoso and other relatives of victims said that they had requested a meeting with Gauck two months ago but received no response.

On Wednesday, they had prepared a protest in front of the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Santiago which Gauck visited accompanied by Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, although at the end they agreed to a meeting with Gill.

Troncoso handed him a letter addressed to Gauck requesting an immediate cessation of commercial and tourist activities in Villa Baviera, situated some 400 kilometers south of Santiago.

"Today in the former Dignity Colony ... is commercial tourism with a restaurant, hotel and frequent parties with heavy alcohol consumption without any respect for the past and the memory of those who disappeared there," stated the letter.

Between 1961 and 2005 Colonia Dignidad was home of a sect led by German Nazi Paul Schaefer, where some 300 people suffered forced labor, punishment and mental manipulation, as well as sexual abuse and rape of minors.

After the coup that overthrew Salvador Allende in 1973, Schaefer offered the enclave to the secret police of Augusto Pinochet's regime and the place eventually became a key part in the dictatorship's repressive apparatus.

Although there are no exact figures, it is estimated that half of the 350 opponents of the dictatorship taken there never came out alive.

Families of political prisoners killed there also asked the German president that his government ends any economic aid to the company that manages the site.

They also request that the land ownership be transferred to a non-profit organization of relatives of the disappeared and executed political prisoners so that it can be transformed into a memorial site.

 

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