By Dave Sherwood and Maria Sheahan
SANTIAGO/BERLIN (Reuters) – German lawmakers have proposed that former members of a Chilean cult established by an ex-Nazi in the 1960s be offered compensation by the German government, according to the parliamentary group of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives.
The budget committee of the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, said it had included a proposal in its budget plan to pay out a total 1 million euros (£873,516) to victims.
The cult and the community that housed it, called Colonia Dignidad, was a secretive sect founded in 1961 by former World War II German army medic Paul Schaefer in the foothills of the Chilean Andes.
Schaefer preached ultra-traditional values while sexually abusing and torturing dozens of youths. During the 1973 to 1990 dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, the community also served as a detention and torture site for enemies of the state.
Schaefer died in 2010, while serving a 20-year sentence for sex abuse.
In 2006, former members of the cult issued a public apology and asked for forgiveness for 40 years of human rights abuses in their community, saying they were brainwashed by Schaefer, who many viewed as a god.
“Across political groups and in the near future we want to achieve results with the ‘Joint Commission to Assist Victims of Colonia Dignidad’,” the parliamentary group’s spokesman for human rights, Michael Brand, said in a statement.
The federal draft budget, which includes the proposal to compensate victims, still needs to be approved.
The budget committee was not immediately available for comment.
Colonia Dignidad continues to stir controversy in Chile. The community has been rebranded as a rustic, Bavaria-themed retreat, which victims argue is disrespectful.
(Reporting by Dave Sherwood and Maria Sheahan, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)