Kolonie der Würde (Dignity Colony)

Associated Graphic novel project

In 1961, 180 adult sect members and 50 children set off from Germany for Chile, brought by their leader, Paul Schäfer, who was fleeing arrest for sexually abusing minors. On a large piece of Chilean wilderness, they founded Colonia Dignidad (Dignity Colony). The history of this fundamentalist Christian community is replete with atrocious incidents of sexual violence, forced labour, torture and surveillance. Its role in Pinochet’s military dictatorship and the uncountable crimes which took place within the community have yet to be fully brought to light.

The graphic novel Kolonie der Würde (working title) will tell the story of this reclusive cult from the perspective of its former members and torture victims, German and Chilean, examining the mechanics of totalitarian regimes and the psychological motives of those who create and support them. The fictional characters will be developed from real memories, derived from interviews and personal statements of those affected. Narratives will sometimes contradict one another or describe the same event from different perspectives. Through this interweaving of individual recollections, the novel will tell the story of Colonia Dignidad from its foundation through to the present day. This project will not attempt to present an objective examination, but it seeks rather to uncover clues to the physiological underpinnings of those involved in its complex story.

The graphic novel format lets us take a unique approach to the subject of atrocities. The abstraction of the drawn image allows engaging with difficult stories without becoming voyeuristic or glossing over painful subjects. This lets the reader look beyond a particular story and focus more on fundamental questions.

Sonja Hugi

Center for Contemporary History
Am Neuen Markt 1
14467 Potsdam

Office: Am Neuen Markt 1, room 1.33
phone: 0331/28991-13
fax: 0331/28991-40