The Torture Colony
April 17, 2009 1:28 PM   Subscribe

The Torture Colony. In a remote part of Chile, an evil German evangelist built a utopia whose members helped the Pinochet regime perform its foulest deeds... [i]nvestigations by Amnesty International and the governments of Chile, Germany, and France, as well as the testimony of former colonos who, over the years, managed to escape the colony, have revealed evidence of terrible crimes: child molestation, forced labor, weapons trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping, torture, and murder. It may sound like the farfetched plot of Saw VII (or something out of Kafka) but it's horrifyingly true. [Previously]
posted by dersins (36 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
And, no, it's not that Paul Shaffer, so hold the tired Letterman jokes.
posted by dersins at 1:29 PM on April 17, 2009

the tired Letterman jokes

Sir, you repeat yourself.
posted by Riki tiki at 1:30 PM on April 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

All this was happening as part of Chile's free market revolution.
posted by regicide is good for you at 1:42 PM on April 17, 2009

I'm extraordinarily depressed to say that I've already hit my torture limit due to current United States events. Seriously, would anyone like to start a new country? We could just build up from scratch...
posted by nanojath at 1:42 PM on April 17, 2009

It may sound like the farfetched plot of Saw VII (or something out of Kafka)...

Actually, it sounds a lot like Pasolini's Salò.

Here's hoping it's actually nothing like Salò.
posted by Rykey at 1:48 PM on April 17, 2009

Reminds me of "The Colonel" by Carolyn Forche:
What you have heard is true. I was in his house.
His wife carried a tray of coffee and sugar. His
daughter filed her nails, his son went out for the
night. There were daily papers, pet dogs, a pistol
on the cushion beside him. The moon swung bare on
its black cord over the house. On the television
was a cop show. It was in English. Broken bottles
were embedded in the walls around the house to
scoop the kneecaps from a man's legs or cut his
hands to lace. On the windows there were gratings
like those in liquor stores. We had dinner, rack of
lamb, good wine, a gold bell was on the table for
calling the maid. The maid brought green mangoes,
salt, a type of bread. I was asked how I enjoyed
the country. There was a brief commercial in
Spanish. His wife took everything away. There was
some talk of how difficult it had become to govern.
The parrot said hello on the terrace. The colonel
told it to shut up, and pushed himself from the
table. My friend said to me with his eyes: say
nothing. The colonel returned with a sack used to
bring groceries home. He spilled many human ears on
the table. They were like dried peach halves. There
is no other way to say this. He took one of them in
his hands, shook it in our faces, dropped it into a
water glass. It came alive there. I am tired of
fooling around he said. As for the rights of anyone,
tell your people they can go f--- themselves. He
swept the ears to the floor with his arm and held
the last of his wine in the air. Something for your
poetry, no? he said. Some of the ears on the floor
caught this scrap of his voice. Some of the ears on
the floor were pressed to the ground.

May 1978
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:53 PM on April 17, 2009 [14 favorites]

I bet you can get a Hitlercake there though.
posted by Artw at 1:56 PM on April 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

In this book the author includes an account of when he tried to visit the place.
posted by inkyroom at 2:01 PM on April 17, 2009

I bet you can get a Hitlercake there though.

posted by fleetmouse at 2:04 PM on April 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I wonder if Maggie has ever visited.
posted by Artw at 3:03 PM on April 17, 2009

Fantastic post, thanks.

As one former unit member later testified to German government investigators, once the troops were assembled, Schaefer would enter the room and say, without apparent irony, “Good evening, Comrades,” to which those present were required to respond, “Good evening, General.”

Why "without apparent irony"? "Comrade" is not a Russian word and it has nothing specifically to do with communism at all. It's just how the Russian word "tovarisch" is usually translated. The Nazis had no qualms with using the German word, Kamerad.
posted by nasreddin at 3:13 PM on April 17, 2009

Holy shit, the dude killed Santa Claus in front of a group of children!
All challengers to Schaefer’s authority—real or imagined—were rooted out and destroyed. No one inspired greater love and admiration among the children of the Colonia than Santa Claus. It is said that in the days shortly before Christmas one year in the mid-1970s, Schaefer gathered the Colonia’s children, loaded them onto a bus, and drove them out to a nearby river, where, he told them, Santa was coming to visit. The boys and girls stood excitedly along the riverbank, while an older colono in a fake beard and a red and white suit floated towards them on a raft. Schaefer pulled a pistol from his belt and fired, seeming to wound Santa, who tumbled into the water, where he thrashed about before disappearing below the surface. It was a charade, but Schaefer turned to the children assembled before him and said that Santa was dead. From that day forward, Schaefer’s birthday was the only holiday celebrated inside Colonia Dignidad.

posted by barnacles at 3:28 PM on April 17, 2009

But Pinochet was a hero, a great man. Thatcher says so.
posted by rodgerd at 3:37 PM on April 17, 2009

That's actually the evilest thing I've ever heard.
posted by mannequito at 3:37 PM on April 17, 2009

Fucking humans.
posted by lalochezia at 4:05 PM on April 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

What a horrific tale. It brought to mind some of the stories I've read about Mormon polygamy communities-- that weird, unholy alliance of communism, dictatorship, and religious cult. In this case, I was particularly struck by the de-sexualization of the woman; Schaefer apparently had no use for woman except as slave laborers and so that is how he set up his little kingdom.

He was very smart (in a hideously evil way) to separate the children from their families from birth. It was the perfect way to ensure the children were never properly socialized. Furthermore, this kept the family unit from from forming loyalty bonds with each other which might have lead to a lessening of Schaefer's power. Schaefer was the father of all-- the wellspring of all things good and bad, the visionary of the future, the strength of the community.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:52 PM on April 17, 2009

Fucking humans.

c'mon lalochezia, be fair, Allende did nationalise the banks and try to govern for the people, and that, well would be the thin end of the wedge.
posted by mattoxic at 4:54 PM on April 17, 2009

Schaefer was getting to be an old man by the time he fled. Among the other weapons, police found a walker capable of delivering an electric shock of 1,200 volts.
posted by Flunkie at 5:20 PM on April 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Fascinating. Would love to read a book or catch a really well-done documentary on this. A story like this needs the full treatment.
posted by billysumday at 6:42 PM on April 17, 2009

B1tr0t, where in the article were those things equated?

This was a fascinatingly terrible account.
posted by rollbiz at 6:52 PM on April 17, 2009

There's a documentary film about this place; the footage is compelling. I saw it more than six years ago, but I've no idea now whether it was in German or English or some other language. I'll try looking for the title of it - it doesn't have the more recent details the posted article does, but the visual scenery is haunting and strange.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:34 PM on April 17, 2009

There are days I can hardly wait for the next earth-shattering asteroid strike.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:10 PM on April 17, 2009 [4 favorites]

All this was happening as part of Chile's free market revolution.

...and socialist revolutions are bloodless affairs where everyone lives happily ever after.
posted by storybored at 8:17 PM on April 17, 2009

Not if the teapartiers have their way, storybored.
By Schaefer’s design, pregnancy was uncommon. To this day, no one knows why he discouraged couples from having children. What seems clear is that he did not care if the community endured after he was gone. Only about 60 children were born in the Colonia in the 30-odd years he spent at its helm
Weird. A cult that was going to commit its mass suicide by natural death. How bizarre.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:25 PM on April 17, 2009

Weird. A cult that was going to commit its mass suicide by natural death. How bizarre.
Well, first of all, not really. They effectively adopted new members from the surrounding communities.

Second, Shakers are the same (uh, in this particular regard), but better at it. Well, better at the "no kids of our own" part, but worse at the "adopt" part.
posted by Flunkie at 9:33 PM on April 17, 2009

The Colony short film. more stuff about Condor and related matters.
posted by hortense at 9:51 PM on April 17, 2009

Maybe he just didn't like kids.
posted by delmoi at 10:01 PM on April 17, 2009

“The colonos were like zombies, or maybe like robots,” Henriquez would later recall...

I think we've found the setting for the next Jane Austen travesty novel.
posted by Schmucko at 10:06 PM on April 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Well you've got to limit births so your generational starship won't become overpopulated. You know the kind of visionary who builds a 1,200 volt walker has got to be looking far ahead.
posted by localroger at 7:17 AM on April 18, 2009

Somehow it reminds me of Stanislav Lem's story Gruppenführer Louis XVI (the one novel in A Perfect Vacuum I wish he'd actually written).
posted by Grangousier at 7:35 AM on April 18, 2009

...and socialist revolutions are bloodless affairs where everyone lives happily ever after.

Mine will be.

In this case however that's not a particularly useful comment, Allende was democratically elected. All the blood came from the right.
posted by knapah at 7:42 AM on April 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Seldom have I been as happy to read about the imprisonment of an octogenarian.
posted by Kattullus at 8:39 AM on April 18, 2009

Phillip Adams (Australia's Late Night Live) had a show about this as well—an interview with Bruce Falconer, author of The Torture Colony. (page with info and link to MP3)
[link straight to MP3]

posted by blueberry at 2:11 PM on April 18, 2009

Incredible how this vicious, torturing, malignant narcissist cult leader can look so benign. The poor widdle psychopath Schaefer has a face that could go on an old folks’ Cute Overload.

"They say Chile must confront such allegations if it is to complete the process of coming to terms with its past."

Interesting how the act of truth telling, with an agenda to be authentic and transparent, can be so painful but healing.

United States’ citizens’ tax dollars went into paying the CIA’s involvement in Pinochet’s dictatorship. All during a time when the patriot fanatics were flag waving and spewing loyalty and devotion to Freedom, Democracy and the American Way.

It is truly revolting when the appearance, the camouflage, is one of benevolence, of something Good and the reality is not merely that it is bad but it is evil. I think Schaefer's actions, Pinochet's use of this evil man, Chile's looking the other way for decades and those in the Colonia Dignidad behaved in the classic mode of operation of malignant narcissists and of a government under the influence, the control and manipulation, of malignant narcissists.

The sooner society knows how this emotional illness, narcissistic personality disorder, works, how it masks itself, uses endearing or noble disguises as a lure, all while wreaking havoc on humanity, the healthier the world can be because those voting in or choosing to follow somebody as a leader will not make their choice of the basis of merely alluring charisma but on authenticity and integrity of character, earned trust.
posted by nickyskye at 3:31 PM on April 18, 2009

PS, thanks dersins for the post and education.
posted by nickyskye at 3:32 PM on April 18, 2009

B1tr0t- I don't really see how having them listed together equates them in terms of gravity.
posted by rollbiz at 4:19 PM on April 18, 2009

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