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A disappeared American

A sister's quest to find out what happened to the only U.S. citizen who disappeared during Chile’s military dictatorship.

SANTIAGO — On his death bed in a Santiago prison hospital, the 88-year-old German child molester, weapons trafficker, torturer and sect leader Paul Schafer still refuses to say what happened to the only U.S. citizen who disappeared during Chile’s military dictatorship.

Boris Weisfeiler, a 43-year-old Russian-born mathematics professor at Pennsylvania State University, was last seen in January 1985 during a hiking trip in a remote area in the Andean foothills, 250 miles south of the Chilean capital and near a secretive German settlement called “Colonia Dignidad.”

Two months later, a far from thorough police inquiry determined that Weisfeiler had drowned trying to cross a river, and no more questions were asked. Almost a quarter of a century later, the only sure thing about Weisfeiler’s disappearance is that it was no accidental drowning.

Documents declassified in 2000 told an entirely different story from the official line, leading Weisfeiler’s sister Olga to open a judicial investigation. But it has been dragging on for nine years, with no visible progress. She came to Chile this July for the eighth time. The secret memos and reports revealed not only negligence and inaction by the U.S. government to determine his whereabouts at the time, but evidence indicating that her brother may have been abducted by the military and handed over to Colonia Dignidad under the suspicion he was either a Russian or Jewish "spy." A still unidentified U.S. Embassy source using the alias "Daniel," spoke of seeing Boris living in “animal-like conditions” in Colonia at least two years later.

Olga, a retired microbiologist, spends most of her time trying to make sense of documents, analyzing possible leads, reading the Chilean press and writing many letters. Untiring but frustrated, she has written to the presidents of Chile and the U. S., members of Congress, judicial authorities, army chiefs, human rights institutions and others.

In 2002, Olga traveled to the rugged, isolated riverbank where her brother was last seen. Two years later, she paid an unannounced and unprecedented visit to Colonia Dignidad with relatives of other human rights victims who disappeared there and members of Amnesty International. Mid-level leaders received her reluctantly. They said they couldn’t confirm or deny that her brother had been there, and denied knowing what had happened to him.

“This has dominated all my life. I can’t do anything else right now. I can’t dedicate to my children, grandchildren, not even to myself. I can’t even read books, because I am thinking about Boris 24 hours a day,” Olga said.