Elizabeth Fritzl case

// 28 April 2008

Reports are emerging from Austria of a woman held captive for 24 years by her father and repeatedly raped and forced to bear him seven children. One child died.

A series of underground rooms equipped for sleeping and cooking, and with sanitary facilities, lay behind a concealed door, police said. The father, 73, allegedly had seven children with his daughter, now aged 42, and is under arrest. Authorities are caring for the daughter and six surviving children.

From The BBC

Three of the children were kept in the cellar with their mother, three were “adopted” by the father and his wife, Rosemarie, (Elizabeth mother) using the story that they had been abandoned by Elizabeth or another unknown woman on their doorstep. Elizabeth (now 42) and her children are now in the care of Austrian social services.

The father, Josef Fritzl, has admitted the offenses to Austrian Police. He admits to kidnapping Elizabeth on 28th August 1984 and drugging her. Her mother, Rosemarie, apparently knew nothing about the situation. The first child, Kerstin, was born in 1988-9 (exact date unknown) and a second follows soon afterwards. In 1993 a third child is supposedly “found” on the doorstep and is fostered by the grandparents. A fourth child “appears” in the same way in 1994. In 1996 twins are born but one dies through lack of medical attention, Josef Fritzl has admitted to incinerating the body in his home incinerator. In 1997 a third child appears on the doorstep and is again “adopted” by the grandparents. In 2003 another child is born and is raised in the cellar with Kerstin and her brother and Elisabeth. Earlier this month, April 2008, Kerstin was admitted to hospital seriously ill, and the authorities appealed for Elisabeth to come forward. Josef then released Elisabeth and the two remaining children and tells Rosemarie she “returned home”. Kerstin is still in hospital in a very serious condition, Josef is under arrest, the five remaining children are with Social Services and Elisabeth is receiving medical and psychological care.

The news coverage has been predictably amazed and outraged. Sadly I’d ask the question why? Why are we surprised by this? Whilst this is at one extreme of abusive and violent behaviour it’s just an example at one end of the continuum of violences women suffer daily. Why are we surprised when last year Natasha Kampusch escaped after being held for eight years in a cellar in the outskirts of Vienna? Why are we surprised when women are trafficked across continents and raped by their captors and other men paying for the privilege? Why are we surprised when children are raped for the internet viewing pleasure of other (mostly) men?

We easily talk about “man’s inhumanity to man”, lets talk about “man’s inhumanity to women” instead please – we act amazed and as if this is an extraordinary event but then accept the everyday dehumanisation and objectification of women. We hear people defending the forced trafficking of women as just “economic migrations” and defending sexual assaults as just “boys will be boys” and defending street harrassment as being a non-event caused by feminists without senses of humour. And by doing so as far as I am concerned the public lose all moral ground on which to be outraged by this – you cannot defend other behaviours which express the same sentiments and then claim moral outrage at this. Either societies have to wake up to the fact that men regularly and routinely abuse women and children and accept that and do something about it or they have to admit they are willing to tolerate it. For me this is an all or nothing issue.

Comments From You

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 28 April 2008 at 2:11 pm

Quite agree Louise – the media and society constantly react by claiming to be shocked/horrifed at yet another extreme example of men’s dehumanisation of women. But I am not surprised or shocked what this man did because his actions are extreme one on a continuum wherein everyday male violence against women and children continues to go unreported, unnoticed and just plain ignored. Only when we hear sensationalised reports does society throw up its hands in horror and claim ‘the male perpetrator is a monster.’ Thereby justifying and excusing mundane everyday male violence against women. Perhaps the media are finally beginning to recognise that women do not bear men’s children because at least two reports rightly state this male rapist fathered the woman’s children. There is a difference.

Sabre // Posted 28 April 2008 at 2:37 pm

The daily violences against women are sadly so common that people become desensitised. Thay can also be quite well hidden. This story leaps out from the background hum of misogyny that permeates society because it is a particularly unusual, uncommon and horrific story.

E-Visible Woman // Posted 28 April 2008 at 2:58 pm

Excellent post, Louise! I couldn’t agree more.

Helen Gallagher // Posted 28 April 2008 at 3:10 pm

I was shocked. But as usual I was more shocked that the wife claimed to know nothing.

At least this is illegal. Honour killings are still legal in parts of the world, men who rape so called prostitutes still get off with light sentences and beaten wives are still an embarrasment.

There are still men who genuinely yearn for the days of female dependence and women who think the Victorian times were great.

All important things that need to get fixed.

Pete // Posted 28 April 2008 at 5:52 pm

Usual stuff on the BBC website: “Journalist Andreas Wetz, of the daily newspaper Die Presse, told the BBC the suspect’s neighbours in Amstetten… were in shock at the revelations. ‘The man who is said to have done this, they said he was funny, he talked to neighbours, he might be a little introverted, but they had no idea that this person could do this,’ he said.”

Contrary to what many news reports will have us believe, the perpetrator clearly isn’t “a monster” or an easily-identifiable ‘other’. Up until yesterday’s grim discovery he was considered a ‘normal’ man.

Leigh Woosey // Posted 29 April 2008 at 12:34 am

I was going to raise the objection: ‘But surely Josef F’s crimes resulted from personal pathology’.

Then I realised it is the society that is pathological. Sane, rational questions like ‘Why are there so many female bodies on display and so few male’ when walking past an everyday newstand are hushed up or laughed away. People like Josef F simply have the symptoms in the most acute form.

Hearing news like that of this discovery makes you feel like there is some enormous crack opened up in the world and suddenly we are staring down a chasm into hell. But really this perversity has simply shocked us into looking at ourselves.

Helen Gallagher // Posted 29 April 2008 at 10:30 am

I dunno. It is an extreme version of a societal problem but I still think he has individual responsibility… these cases always scare me because it makes you realise it isn’t monsters…. that ordinary people who walk the dog and help out at church are also capable of doing terrible things.

Anne Onne // Posted 29 April 2008 at 4:23 pm

Exactly. I’m always ranting to anybody that will listen about how we as a society are to blame. We refuse to see the signs, or acknowledge the messages we give out. We always insist that ‘he looks like such a nice, normal chap’, and have this idea that criminals, murderers, abusers and rapists must look a certain way, anything different to the perfectly ‘normal’ people they masquerade as their whole lives. We give these people their masks, but never questioning how common violence against women really is, and who is perpetrating it (clue: if it’s 1 in 4 women, who the heck are all the men doing it? could it be…Normal MEN?!?), and then we are shocked when something like this happens? Society is only shocked because it ignores every other event on the continuum, and only notices the very extreme outliers. I’m not shocked at all. Sad and angry, but not shocked.

Helen Gallagher, you’re right. We must always remember to blame the perpetrators, because they do their crimed. Not the victim, not the devil. I was watching some debate on TV a while back where people were arguing that the devil must exist, because how could you explain Hitler or teenage stabbings if he wasn’t possessing people? It was really awful. We put people on a pedestal when we, ordinary people, are really capable of extraordinary cruelty. We can only move on as a society if we face that, take responsibility for it, and try to prevent it.

Society is responsible for his growing up with warped ideas of women, for his desire to do such things, and for his being able to get away with it for so long. But he, and only he are responsible for the choice he chose to make.

Louise Livesey // Posted 29 April 2008 at 5:43 pm

I am not absolving him of responsibility. My point was that the “gosh isn’t it awful coverage” sits badly, at least for me, wrapped around “Sonia, 18, wants to find a good, hard man” page 3 coverage. We can’t complain about the extremes and condone the mundane, either we’re against violence against women, in all it’s forms and in all it’s sites, or we’re not. No-one gets to pick and chose over what can be allowed (street harassment, date rape etc) and then argue the extremes of the same behaviours are wrong.

Anne Onne // Posted 29 April 2008 at 10:31 pm

Oh, I wasn’t accusing you of it. My comment was aimed in general about society, because I’ve personally heard a lot of comments recently that seem to absolve perpetrators. I agree wholeheartedly we need to tackle every cause, every manifestation of this. :)

Sonja // Posted 30 April 2008 at 12:50 pm

(hope i’m not posting twice, but think first time it didn’t go through)

A late comment on this story – I was equally horrified and then equally dismayed at my reaction in view of the standard violence against women across the world. Your point, as you explain it, stands: violence against women is an all or nothing issue. It is also one that must concern everyone of us, women and men, feminists and non-feminists.

My (male) partner last night came to tell me in an obvious state of anger that he had just written to the Advertising Standards Authority to complain about the pot noodle ad which parodies an 80s power ballad and has a line in it “if she lived in a cupboard things wouldn’t be so tough.” http://tinyurl.com/3ftd3h and media guardian reported the ad earlier last week: http://tinyurl.com/6ngwkf

It was aired during a football game – it’s clear what kind of demographic the ad is targeted at (youth market, they say). It also dismayed him (about himself) that it was possibly because of the Fritzl case that he was moved to complain, though the blatant misogyny offended him quite independently. What strikes me as important to note is that the onus of campaigning, acting and speaking out against misogynistic portrayals of women is not on women or feminists, but on men too: in the case of this targeted advert, it is above all demeaning to women, but it is also demeaning to men, if the advertisers think this is what they would snigger at, or tacitly agree with.

Louise Livesey // Posted 30 April 2008 at 2:37 pm

I believe this is our coverage of the Pot Noodle advert in question.

You’ve pretty much got my point I think I’d just slightly alter it to say being against violence against women is an all or nothing issue. You can’t be slightly against it, or just against parts of it but the rest is OK. It just doesn’t work. And that counts for men too – I am constantly dismayed (for which read driven to spitting rage) by men who tell me that “real” violence against women is a bad thing but shouting obscene comments is a “compliment” or goosing a woman at work is OK because “it’s an in joke” or, I’ll stop, you get the idea…

Sonja // Posted 30 April 2008 at 3:37 pm

Louise – yes, thank you for noting that. I agree. On all counts, and that is what I meant to write. Thanks also for the link to your earlier blog post, it slipped past me. I stopped watching TV a while ago, so I’m not exposed to these ads- an incidental blessing, perhaps, or alternatively it means I don’t know that this shit is still going on. Over and over and over.

I also wanted to relate my point to Anne’s question “…could it be NORMAL men?” Well, this (fair) question strikes quite rightly at men, and to me that means men must take responsibility for the existence of violence against women, and take it up and protest, no, this is *not* normal, and protest that they find anything that suggests otherwise obscene. So that we can stop it rather than ‘understand’ or ‘explain’ it. And then it still won’t help to demonise that Austrian man as a monster, but the extremity of his crimes will stand out even more – against a norm we would be happy to call norm: namely non-violence against women. (I hope this makes sense).

Maria // Posted 30 April 2008 at 5:21 pm

Did Elizabeth Fritzl’s mother really not know she was being kept prisoner in the cellar from 1984 until 2008? With several children?

There are many women who turn a blind eye to the abuse of their children for the sake of a quiet life and because they are afraid of their husbands. These women would rather play dumb victim than protect their own children.

In the animal kingdom a mother will fight to the death to protect her young and will let nothing stop her in the process. What is wrong with human mothers?

Julie // Posted 30 April 2008 at 11:24 pm

I honestly don’t think is wife knew anything, I mean if I was her and did know he would have been killed years ago everyone is being judgemental about Rosemarie but she was so apologetic and remorseful for what had happened it is so hard to come to terms thinking she knew all the time, especially being a mum of 4 girls myself,

Naomi Smith // Posted 1 May 2008 at 9:03 pm

I can not believe that the mother is so ‘innocent’ – the investigation should include her as a possible accused.

Naomi Smith

jennifer // Posted 1 May 2008 at 10:30 pm

You know your child. Wouldn’t her mother of known it was out of character for her daughter to just dissapear? wouldn’t her mother of known wether her child would leave her own children she raised her for 18 years. i don’t belive it at all!!!! shes hiding something. Maybe she was scared or maybe just acting oblivious but there is no way she could of not known about this or had suspicions Worst part about this is we all know this is happening right now in a differen’t place or country and no one cares or wants to find out until there is a name to a face. Things need to change i do agree this is an all or nothing issue. im hurt by this and its sickening to know that people can be so cruel. how can a man do that to his own children? his grand children? What type of man does that? some one whos had a hard up bringing? or maybe some people are just born that way. this man deserves the worst punishment that is available. He hasn’t abused a stranger. a person he was attracted to. hes abused every person in his family the closest people around him lied and minipulated all around him. what type of man does that? when people go missing expecially young women and children a note should’nt be justified as the reason why. Authrotiys need to be stronger and more sufficient. The amount of “missing” people in the world, yes there’s a percentage that don’t want to be found what about the rest? people only care when cases like these are brought forward. im suprised that im shocked at this incident but i truelly am.

Scarlett McQueen // Posted 2 May 2008 at 1:38 am

“Whilst this is at one extreme of abusive and violent behaviour it’s just an example at one end of the continuum of violences women suffer daily.”

Sorry, but I really don’t see there is any gender political capital to be gained from linking this extremely unfortunate, tragic and bizarre situation with a continuum of male violence and oppression towards women. To do so insults the name of man. We should be appalled as human beings.

Simon // Posted 2 May 2008 at 3:46 am

I agree with you jennifer,u have a very good point,and a very intellegent answer,there is many questions to b asked and many to b answered,it will come out in time,

JC // Posted 2 May 2008 at 7:50 am

If only the tenants living with the Fritzl’s at the time were smarter and more vigilant and acted immediately as soon as they heard strange knocking and lashing noises coming from the cellar, this horrific crime may have come to light so much earlier.

It’s makes me feel even more sorry for Elisabeth because she was frantically trying to get people’s attention, but no-one suspected anything.

Louise Livesey // Posted 2 May 2008 at 9:48 am

Does this mean we should shut up Natascha Kampusch who is making the same analysis herself after her eight years of captivity? Sounds you share a view point with the austrian journalist on Radio 4 this morning who insinuated that Kampusch’s imprisonment had addled her mind somewhat.

Violence against women is a gendered crime, it happens as a form of patriarchal control. In a society which truly abhorred and dealt with violence against women Josef Fritzl would never have been able to do this.

maxine // Posted 2 May 2008 at 10:46 am

The mother of elizabeth sould be blame,

how could she live in the house and observed nothing going on after years of daugther disappearance> she should get the state involved. I felt so bad for elizabeth and her children. I them god richest blessing, my prayer goes out to her daughter in hospital. God bless them all.

maxine // Posted 2 May 2008 at 10:48 am

The mother of elizabeth sould be blame,

how could she live in the house and observed nothing going on after years of daugther disappearance> she should get the state involved. I felt so bad for elizabeth and her children. I them god richest blessing, my prayer goes out to her daughter in hospital. God bless them all.

Lindsey // Posted 2 May 2008 at 11:33 am

Why is there so much mother blaming going on? We don’t know everything that went on behind the scenes. Josef could have been mentally, physically or sexually abusing her too. He could have been abusing his daughter from a young age, making her moody and distant and prone to running away before she disappeared. We don’t know. The point is is was Josef who committed these mysogynistic crimes and he should be focus of blame here, not the mother (unless you write for the Daily Male).

Btw Maria: some animals might fight to the death for their young, but equally some abandon their young before they’re born and some eat their babies, so I’m not sure how useful this is as a comparison.

Marina // Posted 2 May 2008 at 12:09 pm

I agree with the article. Although the media coverage, the neighbours and the public act very surprised and shocked to find out about such an exteme case of abuse, as a society we turn a blind eye to everyday abuse happening to women throughout the world.

What shocks me the most is not just the fact that as a society we allow some forms of abuse to happen daily, only realising the terror of it when a more extreme case is brought up, but the fact that the father will receive about 10 years in prison, with a bit of luck will actually be in prison for 5 years, while the woman was abused since she was 11!!that’s 31 years of her life gone. I don’t understand how this can be called punishement. It makes me sick to think about it.

Vanessa // Posted 2 May 2008 at 2:37 pm

Er, actually…the FATHER is the one to blame for ALL of this as he is the sole perpetrator of the crime. I agree that it seems bizarre that the mother claims to have known nothing about what was going on but it IS possible. If she WAS aware of what was going on then she is still not to blame for what happened – HE is. Of course she should have done something if she knew but let’s not shift the blame to her. This man alone is accountable for his actions and should be castrated, starved almost to the point of death, and then executed (in my opinion).

Dee // Posted 3 May 2008 at 5:59 am

Her mother may not have known of her incarceration in the dungeon, but it is highly likely that she was aware of the early abuse of Elisabeth, sexual and emotional Elisabeth tried to escape by running away from home — TWICE. The mother took no action to stop it at that time.

jacky fleming // Posted 3 May 2008 at 9:06 am

Fritzl previously received a sentence of 18 months for breaking into a house and raping a woman at knifepoint. 18 months!!! That was the point he was given permission to carry on.

JC // Posted 3 May 2008 at 9:24 am

How can working day and night for hours on end in a cellar, and not allowing anyone to enter not seem fishy ?

How can taking food in a wheel barrow in the middle of the night to a cellar not arouse suspicions ?

The authorities are to blame for not noticing anything suspicious about Mr Fritzl, but I think the tenants who lived there should share some of the blame as well, especially the ones that lived just above the cellar.

It was absolutely shocking to hear that a former tenant admitted that he knew Mr Fritzl was abusing his daughter.

It’s time for Austria to unmask this attitude of secrecy. For god’s sake an innocent girl was held in captivity and locked in a cellar by her ruthless father for 24 years, and no-one ushered a word ?!

jacky fleming // Posted 3 May 2008 at 9:54 am

…oh, and the reason for such a short sentence : the judge considered ” he should be reunited with his wife and four children”.

JC // Posted 3 May 2008 at 3:47 pm

The more I read about this appalling crime, the more sick I feel. My heart goes out to poor Elisabeth and her children.

What an animal, what a sadistic beast !

They should put him on the electric chair !

jennifer // Posted 3 May 2008 at 7:15 pm

JC i totally agree he will only get UPTO 15 years i no thats his life over but theres a chance he will still be free…Its disgusting….He is the scum of the earth

Dee // Posted 4 May 2008 at 7:16 am

His hours and nights in the cellar most likely provided his wife a welcome respite from his constant immature demands for attention and obedience.

In this light, she likely would have turned a blind eye toward any relationship he might have had with another woman — possibly conducted in the cellar. In addition the absence of Elisabeth from the family, ostensibly to join a cult, probably provided a modicum of tranquility where there had previously been tension. Under these circumstances, the wife might have wanted to “leave well-enough alone.”

Fritzle himself is a coward. He attacked a girl half his size, she weighed about 105 pounds, and could only hold her through threats and physical restraints…like any common bully. She bore him seven children and went through childbirth without anesthesia or assistance. He was incapable of tolerating minor frustrations. She has won…at terrible cost to herself and her children. She is and has always been stronger than he; he could not stand it. He tried to destroy her and did not succeed. He has destroyed himself. May her victory serve to free women and girls everywhere from oppression.

I pray to all the powers of healing and comfort in the universe that they may gather together and minister to the healing of Elisabeth and her children.

Barbara K. // Posted 4 May 2008 at 12:15 pm

It just struck me that when young women like Miley Cyrus pose sexually for Annie Lebowitz they are just adding to the lust of the many perverted men out there. My prayers go out to Elizabeth and her family. BK

JC // Posted 4 May 2008 at 3:03 pm

Latest headlines : Josef Fritzl ‘will plead insanity’ to dodge prison ?!?!?!

This is absolutely scandalous…a total disgrace !!!

Shame on Austria !!!

valeria // Posted 4 May 2008 at 6:59 pm

i think that this situation is just horrible..and has many hidden aspects..

i mean,how could the wife didn’t notice anything at all?we aren’t talkin’ about 1week,1month,we are talking about 24years..is a lot of time…

and why she didn’t go deeper in research everytime that a baby came to her door? how could that woman give birth 7 times helpless?she even had twins…is possible that she did all alone?this is just weird..the man himself is just unbelievable..how could someone to this?

Dee // Posted 4 May 2008 at 8:53 pm



Meanwhile, it emerged that Fritzl, a retired engineer and real estate developer had racked up debts amounting to millions of pounds in a series of property deals.

Fritzl’s family house, 40 Ybbsstrasse in Amstetten, complete with the dungeon complex where he abused his daughter, is mortgaged and could be claimed by creditors.

A local bank has already requested the immediate return of a loan of over one million euros that Josef Fritzl took out for property investments. In addition, authorities investigating his financial affairs have so far found mortgages amounting to 2.2 million euros.

Heather H // Posted 5 May 2008 at 6:13 am

Reading all I can about Elisabeth F. as well (how I found your blog) The story is a shame. What I cannot find out is reaction from Elisabeth’s 6 older siblings. So far it seems the reunion is only Elisabeth’s children. What is the rest of the immediate family’s reaction? People have been quick to ask why the mother didn’t notice but why didn’t her siblings? If my sister disappeared I would not give up searching. If I was told she was with a cult, I would ask, “which one?” I would try to find it and get her to return to society. If her kids started showing up somewhere where I knew she had been abused I would really be concerned. If these siblings had any idea what was up- wouldn’t they also wonder why she had not left these kids with them and rather chose to leave them with an widely acknowledged abusive dictatorial father?

JC // Posted 5 May 2008 at 10:24 am

The only way Austria can restore any credibility is to sentence Josef Fritzl to life imprisonment without parole. 15 years with parole is a insult to his daughter who’s life he took away for 24 years.

Look at his holiday shots in Thailand, does he look mentally ill ?

Allowing him to plead insanity is an insult to the world !!

The humilation, pain and torment this sadistic beast inflicted on his own daughter is absolutely disgraceful and shocking.

Wake up Austria, wake up !!

Ana // Posted 5 May 2008 at 1:00 pm

The biggest shame in this matter is that women as women do not see or do not want to see the girl’s mother knew what was going on. you can fool someone onece, but not with 7 children. as a mother it was her duty to protect her. and what about the neighbour who knew the father was raping his daughter? or the girl’s friend who also knew? the whole community failed her and stabbed her in the back.

Anne Onne // Posted 5 May 2008 at 2:57 pm

The problem is, if we place an emphasis on questioning his family, and why they jut didn’t know, it takes the focus away from his heinous deception. They may have truly have had no idea. Or, seeing as he was clearly a monster, he probably treated the rest of his family in a tyrannical manner, too. Clearly not as badly as he treated her, but in the case of fathers abusing his children, it’s not rare for them to be physically or emotionally abusive of their wife and other children. I find it hard to believe that he acted completely normally and compassionately to the rest of his family, and only abused one daugter. Much more probable that he was a bully to all, so much so that others learned not to question him.

No doubt his neighbours thought him an upstanding family man with his family well in hand, leading his family like the father should. On the outside, he probably seemed stern, but people assumed he was just being a good father and husband, if they inherently buy into this belief that a man owns his family. And on the inside? The rest of his family would know better than to challenge his authority

So I don’t think he was ever ‘normal’ or that his extended family would have had no idea. They couldn’t see the signs because they were fed the idea that it’s a man’s role to be a bully, so any bullying behaviour they would have noticed they would have explained as being out of love. And his close family? I have little doubt he abused them all, to a lesser extent.

What creeps me out more is that there are countless men just like him out there, who are controlling over their families to various degrees because they are brought up to believe themselves master over them.

This is just a more extreme example, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were other situations like this we haven’t found out yet.

I don’t think he’s mentally ill, at least, I don’t believe he’s a sociopath. Rather, I think he’s a product of a society that teaches men that women (among others) are something to be taken advantage of. He’s just taken it further than most men.

Whilst I have no doubt that the way society is encourages people with APD traits to act out their desires, hides them and encourages them, I just don’t see him as being extreme enough a sociopath. He’s somewhere on the scale nearer to it than ‘normal’. Mind you, there are many people out there who don’t fit the clinical definition who are still very dangerous people.

sandie // Posted 5 May 2008 at 4:47 pm

I too am confused by the fact that none of Elizabeths siblings have spoken out… at all! If this were my sister I would be saying a great number of things, but there seems to be no involvement on their part whatsoever….no reports of her siblings visiting her, or the children, no reports of them showing an iota of interest. It strikes me Josef not only abused Elizabeth, but it seems her fractured his own family in many ways long before he took Elizabeth to the cellar. I read somewhere that all of Elizabeths sisters married young just to get out of the house, and away from their tyrant father! I wonder, 1) if this is true, and 2) if they married in haste and married into a similar situation as their mother. Also I wonder how Elizabeths brothers are dealing with this!

Roussana // Posted 5 May 2008 at 9:31 pm

Ladies, for this already labelled “crime of the century” which frankly keeps me awake with nightmeres let’s start a world campaign “Only a man can do this”

Dee // Posted 5 May 2008 at 10:24 pm

Josef is a malignant narcissist; always has been always will be. There is no cure for narcissism.

The family are doing better and the psychiatric staff are doing a splendid job of respecting the habits and needs of this beleaguered family and planning for their intengration into their biological family and their eventual healing. According to this article, even Kerstin is doing better! Hopefully she will recover and avert an additional heart-wrenching loss for Elisabeth and her children.


belle // Posted 5 May 2008 at 11:04 pm

I can’t help it, no matter what you all say I am terribly shocked at this case. 24 years is unfathomable. However, the fact that she has survived is even more astonishing. And she has obviously tried to create a loving environment for her three ‘downstairs’ children, against the odds and despite her own personal hell. She taught them to talk, sang them lullabies, drew pictures for them and told them fantastic tales of fairies and pirates. Those qualities in her are the ones that shine out in this case, the ones that make me proud of her and proud to be a woman. But I will always be shocked by this case.

Saysha // Posted 5 May 2008 at 11:28 pm

SHAME ! SHAME! ABSOLUTE SHAME if he pleads insanity and is allowed to get away with it. That goes over and beyond getting away with murder!!

ps i agree …15 years for him and 24 years for Elisabeth and the children?? come Austria …surely you can do better than that!

Leslie // Posted 6 May 2008 at 5:24 am

Women do need to take some responsibility for their choices. Elizabeth must have been extremely strong indeed to have survived and raised three of her children all those years underground. Her mother on the other hand was well aware that her husband was a sexual predator. After all, he was convicted of rape and imprisoned for a year and a half when Elizabeth was a baby. However she continued to stay with him to support and enable him. I think she should not be excused, despite her protestations of ignorance, but should be prosecuted right along with him as a passive aggressive co-conspirator. She saw how her husband was treating their children, whether she knew he was raping Elizabeth or not. Yet she played along.

Anne Onne // Posted 6 May 2008 at 11:24 am

Leslie, but you’re assuming that her husband wasn’t abusing her. If he was abusive to his kids and bullying of his family, can we honestly assume that he wasn’t abusing his wife? Or is is only rape if it’s a child? Are wives property who can’t be raped or abused? We know he raped an unrelated woman, and we know he raped his daughter. But for some reason, we assume he can’t possibly have raped his wife. Why? Because we’d blame her for staying with him, regardless of how forceful or abusive he was. We play into the woman-shaming society teaches us, by blaming women for their abuse if they don’t risk their lives to leave.

If he was abusing her, it’s all very well to tell someone to leave an abusive partner, that they should do X or Y, but to be put in that situation, manipulated, coerced, maybe abused…and witness what is going on, but be powerless to stop it? To be blackmailed with your children if you threaten to leave? Knowing that he’d probably try to kill you if he left? Abusive partners are no laughing matter. Suggesting that women who are suffering staying with an abusive partner are enablers is an insult the horrific experiences of many, many women out there who try their best to survive under conditions of various forms of abuse.

Even if she did know, how do we know she wasn’t treated only marginally better? What are most women living with abusive men treated like? How do they act? Aren’t they isolated? Crippled by insecurity planted by their abuser? Threatened with violence or death to themselves or their children if they leave?

We have no idea what his wife did or did not suffer beign married to that monster. Assuming she wasn’t abused, and must have been in on it is exactly the kind of victim blaming that takes responsibility away from the abuser. He did his crimes. Let’s not cheapen that by trying to pin the blame on others.

JC // Posted 6 May 2008 at 11:52 am

The whole world is in shock by this appalling crime. The thought of a man kidnapping a girl and imprisoning her in a dungeon for 24 years and fathering 7 children is vile, but when that man is the victim’s father with the wife living just a staircase away, that is just very very difficult to grasp ?!

I think we should all give Rosemarie Fritzl some breathing space. I can’t imagine that she would have let this continue had she known. I don’t think any woman would ever have imagined that their husband would be capable of carrying out such a callous act right under their nose. It was such a clever ploy by Fritzl; Rosemarie’s attention was fully focussed on bringing up her adopted grandchildren, so she had no reason or time to carry out any investigative work on her husband.

sian // Posted 6 May 2008 at 1:04 pm

sorry, just to go back to the mother and neighbour blaming – it is completely unaccepatable, and i am really shocked to read it here. he did the crime. he locked her up. it does seem suspicious that she didn’t know anything, but that doesn’t make what he did her fault.

sandie // Posted 6 May 2008 at 2:38 pm

As much as I agree with many of the comments holding Rosemarie at least partially responsible, I have to say what others have said….ONLY josef raped and imprisoned his daughter, and as much as others may have known etc…..ultimately he is responsible, and to take that away from him by allowing ourselves to hold others responsible as well contributes to many of the problems in society. The more we allow ourselves to diminish the perps role by blaming his upbringing, his wife, his neighbours, etc…..the less responsiblity he ultimately holds for his own actions….I have serious problems with this attitude in society.

Have Your say

Comments are closed on this post

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds