Paul Schaefer was a NAZI veteran who lost his job as a youth pastor with the Free Evangelical church in Germany due to accusations over the way he treated boys in his care. He set out on his own with an acoustic guitar and a pair of lederhosen and somehow managed to convince hundreds of people to follow him.

After further accusations of abuse he ended up in Chile where he founded Colonia Dignidad, his strange 32000 acre colony of German immigrants a few hundred miles south of Santiago in Chile. Over the next four decades he terrorized people who had voluntarily put themselves in his care and it now seems he supported Pinochet’s fascist regime in Chile by murdering political dissidents. American Scholar has a depressing and compelling article on him.

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.

It is a bizarre and saddening tale of a Messiah-figure. I have a great old lecturer, Fr. Tom Norris, who often says you can tell the psuedo-Messiahs from the real one because he dies in our place while they kill from theirs.

Your Correspondent, Leaving church-leader off his resumé