SANTIAGO, Chile -- The renewed search for Nazi 'Angel of Death' Josef Mengele has turned the spotlight once again on Colonia Dignidad, a German colony in the Chilean Andes ringed by barbed wire and guarded by Alsatian dogs.
Mengele, the doctor-torturer at the Auschwitz concentration camp who is wanted for sending some 400,000 people to their deaths, was last seen in Paraguay in 1962.
In December 1979, Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal claimed Mengele had left Paraguay and was living in Chile at Dignidad, a controversial self-contained community set up by Germans after World War II. Some still believe he may be hidden in its sanctuary.
There is no official register of how many people live on the colony's more than 2,000 acres of hilly farmland some 200 miles south of Santiago.
The community grows its own food and has its own school and a modern 80-bed hospital. Fierce Alsatian dogs guard the entrance and visitors to the area are watched closely.
Strangers are seldom allowed in, a fact that has surrounded the colony in mystery and given rise to strange stories, including one that the hospital was used for plastic surgery operations on war criminals living in Latin America to hide their identities.
Controversy over Dignidad erupted for the first time in 1966, when a 19-year-old youth, Wolfgang Muller, escaped the colony with tales of corporal punishment, forced labor and sodomy practiced by community leaders.
Muller also claimed two former SS officers lived at the colony.
In 1979, Amnesty International charged that the colony was used as an interrogation and torture center by Chilean secret police after the 1973 military coup.
But in an interview published by a Chilean magazine in mid-1983, Wiesenthal said he had changed his mind about Dignidad and declared there were no Nazi war criminals living there.
Wiesenthal told 'Cosas' magazine he had been invited to visit Dignidad. He said it was a 'model colony' and Chilean exiles had tarnished its reputation merely because Germans lived there.
Dignidad, which means 'dignity' in Spanish, won the first part of the court case in Bonn against Amnesty International.
A judge ordered the human rights organization not to publish a book containing testimonies of two former secret police agents who claimed they had tortured prisoners with the help of Germans at the colony.
John Loftus, a former Justice Department Nazi investigator, said Saturday that Mengele was traveling between Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. Loftus, a private attorney in Rockland, Mass., attributed his information to an unnamed U.S. attorney investigating nationalism in South America and who recently returned from Paraguay.