Chile - Colonia Dignidad - Germany

Colonia Dignidad remains a dark chapter of German legal history

Chile - Colonia Dignidad - Germany

Colonia Dignidad remains a dark chapter of German legal history

Torture and child abuse are just two of the crimes committed in Colonia Dignidad, a German sect in Chile known as. Starting in the 1970s, Hartmut Hopp and Reinhard Döring were part of Colonia's leadership. They currently live in Germany – but German authorities show no interest in holding them accountable for their crimes.

In early 2019, investigations into Hopp and Döring were closed. This setback shook survivors' and witnesses' trust in the German justice system. Many had been willing to give evidence in the proceedings, but were simply ignored. ECCHR partner lawyer Petra Schlagenhauf’s appeal to this decision was rejected in December 2020. ECCHR filed a disciplinary complaint. Those affected also submitted a request for legal examination.


Hartmut Hopp was Colonia’s physician and “right hand man” to Paul Schäfer, the sect's German founder and leader. Hopp also represented Colonia in external affairs. In 2011, he was sentenced in Chile to five year’s imprisonment for aiding the sexual abuse of minors, but escaped punishment by fleeing to Germany. Former Colonia Dignidad residents, as well as relatives of Chilean victims believe Hopp bears responsibility for other crimes at Colonia, such as torture, systematic abuse of psychopharmaceuticals, and murder. The German prosecutor's decision, however, means that for now, Hopp will not face legal consequences for his alleged crimes.

Reinhard Döring was one of the first Germans to follow Schäfer to Chile to help set up the settlement. Döring was one of Colonia Dignidad’s leaders. He was familiar with what happened at the settlement, and one of the few residents with direct contact with DINA, the Chilean secret police. Between 1973 and 1977, DINA was the most influential intelligence service of the Pinochet regime. DINA was stationed in part on Colognia Dignidad’s grounds.


Colonia Dignidad, founded in 1961, was a fortress-like German settlement in Chile that operated as a walled-off parallel society. Grave human rights abuses were committed in the settlement over several decades. Opponents of the Pinochet regime were “disappeared,” tortured and murdered at the enclave. German and Chilean children were subjected to systematic sexual abuse. Inhabitants were drugged with potent psychopharmaceuticals.

ECCHR and its partner lawyer Petra Schlagenhauf, together with survivors and witnesses, filed criminal complaints against Hopp in 2011 and Döring in 2018. The complaints were submitted to public prosecutors in Krefeld and Münster. The primary aim of the legal interventions in Germany is to support ongoing efforts in Chile to address these crimes.

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