When one travels to Chile as a German journalist, there are really only two relevant “German” themes: Margot Honecker and Colonia Dignidad. One of them hit me with full force: Colonia Dignidad. Just as I happened to be on holiday in South America, Paul Scha_fer was arrested after an eight-year flight from authorities in Argentina. Up until that point, no German journalist had ever been on the grounds of Colonia Dignidad—I went there anyway.
Several broadcast vans from Chilean television networks were waiting in front of the gate of the notorious sect. I signed in at the “registration area”, where an older wom- an reluctantly let me in. A committee of four men came to meet me. The conversation ran much differently than I’d expected. They were very shy toward me, seemed not to know the ways of the world. When I spoke to one of them alone, the 44-year- old man told me of his extensive abuse by Paul Scha_fer. He claimed never to have spoken about it to anyone else. His childhood full of beatings and work, he lived apart from his parents and siblings.
It became clear to me: The picture of this horrifying sect Colonia Dignidad has many more facets than anyone had suspected before. Up until that point, there had been mostly stories from the “outside perspective”, but no one had looked inside. And many of the inhabitants, stigmatized as perpetrators, were—also—victims.
I wrote a page 3 report for the Tagesspiegel [daily news] and then began work on my story for Die Zeit [one of the leading newspapers in Germany], writing the story “It stays in the family” about the family Schnellenkamp—the father once Scha_fer’s right hand, his children born into the sect. I wrote portraits of the parents and five of the seven siblings.
At the end, many questions remained after many discussions had been held. It wasn’t easy to grasp their past—and even more difficult to understand their present. I talked to Matthias Zuber and the script of the film “German Souls” was born. As we worked on the research, we flew to Chile together twice. Getting close to the former sect members was very difficult. For decades, they had let no strangers onto their land, nor had they left it. To receive us there, to talk to us, was a huge step for them.
Then came the actual filming. We slept on the grounds of Colonia Dignidad, now renamed Villa Baviera. In this way, we got very close to the inhabitants—but this closeness sometimes became simply unbearable for both sides. We were watched, avoided, pressured. Sometimes we were showered with friendliness, sometimes handled with extreme abrasiveness. “Normal” working conditions weren’t possible; we felt our way slowly forward. How traumatized many of these people were became more apparent daily.
I personally lived intensely with Colonia Dignidad for two solid years. Sometimes with ever-changing emotions, I fluctuated between understanding, empathy and also abhorrence. Their fates didn’t allow themselves to be laid aside. Even today I still have contact to several of the one-time sect members. The time I spent with the German souls in Chile was an extreme one.


Martin Farkas
Martin Farkas (born 1964) worked on several documentaries in Asia, South America, Africa and Europe after his graduation from secondary school. After that, he studied the social sciences with a concentration on sociology and psychology and worked as a gaffer. He directed award-winning video art and commercials. Since 1994 he has done the camera work for feature documentaries and films which are shown around the world at film festivals and have won international prizes. As a cameraman, he has worked on many television movies and miniseries, such as „Tatort“.
Filmography (selected):
German Souls Production: Polyeides, Berlin ZDF, Kuratorium, NRW Filmstiftung Director: Martin Farkas and Matthias Zuber Camera: Martin Farkas
DRAUSSEN BLEIBEN Production: HFF / Pelle Film Director: Alexander Riedel Camera: Martin Farkas Festival Hof, Leipzig, Duisburg The film opened in theaters in May 2008
TUERKISCH FU_R ANFA_NGER (21-28) Production: Hofmann & Voges Director: Christian Ditter Camera: Martin Farkas
Adolf Grimme Award
BOROWSKI IN DER UNTERWELT Tatort Production: Studio Hamburg Director: Claudia Garde Camera: Martin Farkas
STIRB UND WERDE Tatort Production: Studio Hamburg Director: Claudia Garde Camera: Martin Farkas
Film Festival Hamburg
DIE GELEGENHEIT Production: Ostlicht Film Director: Benjamin Heisenberg Camera: Martin Farkas Short film 35 mm Scope Grand Prix from the jury in Angers (France) International Film Festival Athens
GEORGISCHES LIEBESLIED Production: Egoli Tossel Director: Tatiana Brandrup Camera: Martin Farkas Festival Saarbru_cken, Tiflis
A WOMAN AND A HALF Production: @Lounge Entertainment Director: Clarissa Ruge Camera: Martin Farkas Movie-Documentary about Hildegard Knef Nominated for the Deutsche Filmpreis 2002 Nominated for the Deutsche Kamerapreis 2002 Theater analysis
MUENCHEN, GEIHEIMNISSE EINER STADT Directors: Dominik Graf, Michael Althen Camera: Martin Farkas Berlinale, numerous international festivals Nominated for the Deutsche Fernsehpreis
MARTIN Director: Ra’anan Alexandrowicz Camera: Martin Farkas Winner of Jerusalem Filmfestival Invitation to Permanent Collection of MOMA, New York

Matthias Zuber
Matthias Zuber (born 1965) graduated from the German School of Journalism in 1998. He founded polyeides medienkontor in 1999. Since then he has been working as a freelance writer for Stern, die Zeit, and Su_ddeutsche Zeitung, amongst others. In the area of broadcasting he has created several long features for stations such as Deutschland Radio, SWR II and WDR III. He has worked freelance as a writer, director, cameraman, cutter and producer television not only with magazine format but also for longer films (30‘ - 120‘), broadcasting stations he worked for include i.a. BR, DW TV, MDR, SFB/RBB, ARD, ZDF, 3sat and arte. In 2000 he was co-writer of the movie-documentary “A Woman And A Half” about Hildegard Knef that received a nomination for the Deutscher Film- preis in 2002. As a university lecturer he teaches i.a. at the German School of Journalism. At the moment he is working on the documentary “Der Bergfu_rst” in Albania by Philip Vogt in Albania for the BR. At the same time two further half-hour projects (for MDR and RBB) are in preparation as well as several documentaries and a feature.
Filmography (selected):
2009 Deutsche Seelen – Leben nach der Colonia Dignidad (HDCam / DVC Pro HD, 92‘) A co-production with ZDF/DAS KLEINE FERNSEHSPIEL (commissioning editor: Christian Cloos), director (together with Martin Farkas), production, funded by the curatorship for young German film and the Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfahlen
2008 Sprachlos mit einem Schlag – Jutta muß neue Worte finden (XD CAM HD, 30‘) RBB; first broadcasting: 13. December 2008, writer, director, camera, cut, production
Beginning of the shooting to the documentary “Der Bergfu_rst” by Philip Vogt, (DVC PRO HD) in Co-Production with Bayerisches Fernsehen (editor: Petra Felber) and HFF Mu_nchen; estimated completion date: summer 2009; producer
2007 Shooting for the documentary Meerkampf - Watt in Brunsbu_ttel. Director: Frank D. Mu_ller; funded by Filmfo_rderung Schleswig-Holstein, co-camera
2006 Beginning of the Shooting for the documentary Der Ewige Onkel (At) in Chile. A co-production with ZDF/ KLEINES FERNSEHSPIEL (editor: Christian Cloos), director, production, funded by the curatorship for young German film and the Filmstiftung Nordrhein Westfahlen
2005 Draußen – Alleinerziehende auf Partnersuche (IMX und DV Cam; 30’) RBB; first broadcasting: 29. January 2005; writer, director and co-camera
2004 „Liebe tut weh“ – Sexueller Missbrauch an geistig Behinderten (Digibeta; 30’) ARD; first broadcasting: 15. March 2004; writer, director and camera
2003 Bauen fu_r Gott – Was steckt hinter moderner Kirchenarchi- tektur (Digibeta; 30’) RBB; first broadcasting: 20. September 2003; writer and director
2002 Tod vor der Geburt (Beta SP; 30‘) Sender Freies Berlin, first broadcasting: 26. October 2002; writer and director
Unter Druck – Mitch Frankes Traum vom Baseball (Digi-Beta; 25‘) Deutsche Welle TV; first broadcasting: 10. June 2002; writer, director and camera
2001 Hinter Kirchenmauern – Flu_chtlinge suchen Asyl (Beta SP; 30‘) Sender Freies Berlin; first broadcasting: 22. December 2001; writer and director
Illegale Kinder (Beta SP; 30‘) Sender Freies Berlin; first broadcas- ting: 24. March 2001; writer and director
2000 That’s a Woman and a Half - Hildegard Knef movie-docu- mentary 90‘; director: Clarissa Ruge, Berlinale 2001, Nomination Deutscher Filmpreis 2001, co-writer and directing consultant for Berlin, Munich, New York, Los Angeles
1999 Im Schatten der verbotenen Stadt - Beobachtungen in Wu_nsdorf; Sender Freies Berlin (Digi-Beta und Beta SP; 30‘); first broadcasting: 2. October 1999; writer, director and production

Britta Buchholz
Britta Buchholz, born in 1977 in Nienburg, in Lower Saxony, Germany, is the ZDF editor for domestic, social and educational policy with a focus on elections and political conventions. From 1998 until 2004 she studied German linguistics, Spanish and business studies in Berlin, Barcelona and Bielefeld. She completed her internship at the Berlin School of Journalism in 2005, followed by further work experience at SPIEGEL, Focus and ZDF. After her internship Britta Buchholz worked as a freelance writer in Berlin for a year. During this time she published reportages about Colonia Dignidad in Chile in the Tagesspiegel and DIE ZEIT. The idea and script for the documentary “German Souls” originate from this work.

Nina Ergang
Alongside her studies in Theatre Science at Ludwig-Maximilian-University, Nina Ergang works with students at the School for Television and Film in Munich on the set and in the cutting room. In the 1980s, she was co-director for more than 60 episodes of Hans W. Geissendo_rfer’s „Lindenstraße“. Since then, she has been cutting movies, television shows, and documentaries, and supervises the cutting room at the HFF.
Some of her most important early works include: “Adios al Odio” and “Lani und Seinen” with Werner Penzel and Nicolas Humbert; “Von Gewalt keine Rede” with Theodor Kotulla in 1990; and “Donnerstag auf Kanal 4”, a compilation programm that received the 1991 Grimme Prize. Then came evening-filling documentaries: in 1991 “Celibidache” under the direction of Jan Schmidt-Garre, in 1992 “Celibidache—The triumphant return” under the direction of Wolfgang Becker, in 1992 also “La Musica e_ Quattro” directed by Rolaie Schweitzer, and television and theatre films with such people as Theodor Kotulla: “Nacht der Frauen”, a three-part miniseries for ZDF, and “Tot auf Halde”, as well as “Ku_ss mich!” in 1995 and “Die Liebesdienerin” in 1997 with Maris Pfeiffer (director). Nina Ergang cut “Tatorte” with Markus Fischer (1995 and 1996); Niki Stein’s theatre film “Still Movin’” and Thomas Freundner’s “Traumfrau mit Nebenwirkungen” (1998); “Up and Dancing—the Magic Stilts of Trinidad” and “Akini”, both directed by Harald Rumpf. Together with Alexander Adolpf, she created the 2006 documentary “Die Hochstapler” as co-director and cutter.

Philip Vogt
Born 1977 in Heidelburg, lives in Berlin.
Philip Vogt is a filmmaker, camera operator and sound mixer. He began studying documentary films and television publication at the School for Television and Film in Munich in 1999. At the moment, he is busy with post-production work on his gradua- tion film “Der Bergfu_rst” (produced by polyeides medienkontor and HFF Mu_nchen for the BR, sponsored by FFF). He was responsible for the sound in such films as “Draußen bleiben” by Alexander Riedel (which won the prize of a youth panel from the film school in Leipzig e. V., 2007 FFF Developmental Prize) and “Cosmic Station” (also lighting, awarded many prizes including the German Short Film Prize in 2008), both directed by Bettina Timm.
As a camera operator, he worked on “Castells” directed by Gereon Wetzel (second camera, HFF/BR, won the 2006 Main Prize at the International Documentary Film Festival in Munich), “Wiedergeboren in Westfalen” by Melanie Liebheit (90 minutes, HFF/WDR) and “Nemashim” (directed by David Vogel, in post-production), as well as other films.

History of Colonia Dignidad
Paul Scha_fer founded the “Private Social Mission”, a home and school for children of sect members, in Siegburg near Bonn. In Lohmar-Heide, the developing sect built its community building. To the outside world, they appeared to be a happy congregation that officially ran a youth home. But appearances and facts began to diverge. Slowly but surely, Scha_fer’s followers had to give up their family ties completely. A “free Christian” could serve God better, according to Scha_fer. Here as it had already been in the youth group, the most intimate “confessions” were required. As sect leader, Scha_fer required sexual asceticism from his believers; as a dominant paedophile, he sexually abused young boys. The group showed itself early as capable of turning a profit. Grocery stores were founded. The members of the sect had to work hard without earning wages for their work.
After the beginning of an investigation by the public attorney’s office on suspicion of sexual abuse, the members of the sect fled to Chile, where the Colonia Dignidad was founded in 1961. Scha_fer drew people to him with his “return to the roots of a Christian life in the promised land” and scared many other hesitant or fearful followers with rumours of a threatening Russian invasion into Germany. In just a few years, a “model community” of about 15,000 hectares of fenced-in land was formed through untiringly driven work. The German settlers built roads and bridges and dug a gold mine and a titanium mine. Early on, a hospital was opened as the figurehead of the community, in order to provide residents with free medical care. The children of Chilean farmers were the ones who wound up paying for it. Colonia Dignidad of- fered young boys food and education through the Colonia’s boarding school. If the parents accepted, then the best-looking boys landed in Scha_fer’s bed.
The first two Germans fled the Colonia. They told tales of forced labour and child abuse. No one believed them.
After the Chilean coups of 1973, the German National Socialist Hans-Ulrich Rudel settled there. The Colonia was outfitted as the operational basis of Pinochet’s secret service DINA. It was also the base for the ANDREA project (Alianza Nacionalista de Repu_blicas Americanas, English: National Alliance of American Republics). This project was aimed at the cooperation of Latin American national socialists, secret service agents, and anti-Semites with extreme right tendencies.
UNICEF and Amnesty International began tracking the “settlement” of about 350 people in 1977. Escaped occupants reported believably that the Colonia was used as a torture centre for decades by the Chilean secret service during the Pinochet regime. Later, it came out that Chilean citizens were held captive and used as forced labourers in Colonia Dignidad. In the “tradition” of German concentration camps, medical experiments were performed on captives. Children of the sect community were regularly abused.
In the 1990s, there were several court trials that appeared up to the level of the fourth Senate of the German Social Court. Expatriate German sect members claimed retirement benefits, which the Retirement Insurance Carrier had trouble paying out. This led to the on-going suspicion that the inhabitants were not allowed control over their own earnings, rather that any money brought in lined the pockets of the Colonial leadership.
81-year-old Paul Schaefer disappeared. All attempts to this point by the now demo- cratic Chile to bring the enclave under control had failed. Claimed reasons for this included the complexity and loyalty of the old secret services, the local police and other important powers, and the lack of overview caused by the huge area of the Colonia. Near Talca, the Colonia ran a German restaurant in order to acquire foreign currency. Photographs of police actions against the sect were displayed there as well.
On 17 November 2004, a Chilean court found Scha_fer, the once “Master of Life and Death”, guilty of the sexual abuse of 27 children, though he was not present. 22 other Chilean and German members of the Colonia were found guilty of keeping the abuse secret and obstructing justice. They were sentenced to up to five years in prison. In addition, the Colonia had to pay 549 million pesos (691,000 euro) in damages to the victims and their families. The lawyer for the defendants declared that they would appeal.
On 10 May 2005, Paul Scha_fer was arrested in Argentina. Two days later, Scha_fer was extradited to Chile. During the night of 28 August 2005, the Colonia was put under state control by Chilean authorities. Lawyer Herman Chadwick took over the running of their companies. Colonia Dignidad exists today under the name “Villa Baviera”. About 200 members of the sect still live there on a roughly 140-squarekilometre, strictly enclosed area. Many of them are now aged German expatriates who don’t speak Spanish and live fully isolated in Chile.