In todays history on Edujandon.com, we will be talking about Elisabeth Fritzl.
The story emerged in April 2008, when a woman named Elisabeth Fritzl (born 6 April 1966) told police in the town of Amstetten, Austria, that she had been held captive for 24 years by her father, Josef Fritzl (born 9 April 1935).
Fritzl had assaulted, sexually abused, and raped her numerous times during her imprisonment inside a concealed area in the basement of the family home.The abuse by Elisabeth’s father resulted in the birth of seven children three of them remained in captivity with their mother, one had died just days after birth at the hands of Josef Fritzl who disposed of his body in an incinerator, and the other three were brought up by Fritzl and his wife, Rosemarie, having been reported as foundlings.
Josef Fritzl was born on 9 April 1935, in Amstetten, Austria. In 1956, at age 21, he married 17-year-old Rosemarie (born 23 September 1939), with whom he had three sons and four daughters, including Elisabeth, who was born on 6 April 1966. Fritzl reportedly began abusing Elisabeth in 1977 when she was 11.
After completing compulsory education at age 15, Elisabeth started a course to become a waitress. In January 1983, she ran away from home and went into hiding in Vienna with a friend from work. She was found by police within three weeks and returned to her parents. She rejoined her waitress course, finished it in mid-1984, and was offered a job in nearby Linz.
On 28 August 1984, after Elisabeth turned 18, Fritzl lured her into the basement of the family home, saying he needed help carrying a door. This was the last piece needed to seal what would turn out to be the chamber where Elisabeth was held captive. After Elisabeth held the door in place while Fritzl fitted it into the frame, he held an ether-soaked towel on his daughter’s face until she was unconscious, then threw her into the chamber.
After Elisabeth’s disappearance, Rosemarie filed a missing persons report. Almost a month later, Fritzl handed over a letter to the police, the first of several that he had forced Elisabeth to write while in captivity. The letter, postmarked Braunau, stated that Elisabeth was tired of living with her family and was staying with a friend; she warned her parents not to look for her or she would leave the country. Fritzl told police that she had most likely joined a religious cult.
Over the next 24 years, Fritzl visited Elisabeth in the hidden chamber almost every day, or a minimum of three times a week, bringing food and other supplies. After his arrest, he admitted that he repeatedly raped her. Elisabeth gave birth to seven children during her captivity. One child died shortly after birth, and three—Lisa, Monika, and Alexander—were removed from the cellar as infants to live with Fritzl and his wife, who were approved by local social services authorities as their foster parents. Officials said that Fritzl “very plausibly” explained how three of his infant grandchildren had appeared on his doorstep. The family received regular visits from social workers, who saw and heard nothing to arouse their suspicions.
Following the fourth child’s birth in 1994, Fritzl allowed the enlargement of the prison, from 35 to 55 m2 (380 to 590 sq ft), putting Elisabeth and her children to work for years digging out soil with their bare hands. The captives had a television, radio, and video cassette player. Food could be stored in a refrigerator and cooked or heated on hot plates. Elisabeth taught the children to read and write. At times, Fritzl shut off their lights or refused to deliver food for days at a time to punish them.
Fritzl told Elisabeth and the three children who remained (Kerstin, Stefan, and Felix) that they would be gassed if they tried to escape. Investigators concluded that this was just an empty threat to frighten the captives; there was no gas supply to the basement.He stated after his arrest that he told them that they would receive an electric shock and die if they meddled with the cellar door.
According to Fritzl’s sister-in-law Christine, he went into the basement every morning at 09:00, ostensibly to draw plans for machines which he sold to firms. Often he stayed there for the night and did not allow his wife to bring him coffee. A tenant who rented a ground-floor room in the house for twelve years claimed to hear noises from the basement, which Fritzl explained were from the “faulty pipes” or the gas heating system.
On 19 April 2008, Fritzl agreed to seek medical attention after Kerstin, the eldest daughter, fell unconscious. Elisabeth helped him carry Kerstin out of the chamber and saw the outside world for the first time in 24 years. Fritzl forced her to return to the chamber, where she remained for a final week. Kerstin was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, the Landesklinikum Amstetten, and was admitted in serious condition with life-threatening kidney failure. Fritzl later arrived at the hospital claiming to have found a note written by Kerstin’s mother. He discussed Kerstin’s condition and the note with a doctor, Albert Reiter.
Medical staff found aspects of Fritzl’s story puzzling and alerted the police on 21 April, who then broadcast an appeal on public media for the missing mother to come forward and provide additional information about Kerstin’s medical history. The police reopened the case file on Elisabeth’s disappearance. Fritzl repeated his story about Elisabeth being in a cult, and presented what he claimed was the “most recent letter” from her, dated January 2008, posted from the town of Kematen. The police contacted Manfred Wohlfahrt, a church officer and expert on cults, who raised doubts about the existence of the group Fritzl described. He noted that Elisabeth’s letters seemed dictated and oddly written.
Elisabeth pleaded with Fritzl to be taken to the hospital. On 26 April, he released her from the cellar along with her sons Stefan and Felix, bringing them upstairs. He and Elisabeth went to the hospital where Kerstin was being treated on 26 April 2008. Following a tip-off from Reiter that Josef and Elisabeth were at the hospital, the police detained them on the hospital grounds and took them to a police station for questioning.
Elisabeth did not provide police with more details until they promised her that she would never have to see her father again. Over the next two hours, she told the story of her 24 years in captivity. Elisabeth told the police that Fritzl raped her and forced her to watch pornographic videos, which he made her reenact with him in front of her children in order to humiliate her. Shortly after midnight, police officers completed the interview. Fritzl, aged 73, was arrested on 26 April on suspicion of serious crimes against family members.
During the night of 27 April, Elisabeth, her children and her mother Rosemarie were taken into care. Police said Fritzl told investigators how to enter the basement chamber through a small hidden door, opened by a secret keyless entry code. Rosemarie had been unaware of what had been happening to Elisabeth.
On 29 April, it was announced that DNA evidence confirmed Fritzl as the biological father of his daughter’s children. His defense lawyer, Rudolf Mayer, said that although the DNA test proved incest, evidence was still needed for the allegations of rape and enslavement. In their 1 May daily press conference, Austrian police said that Fritzl had forced Elisabeth to write a letter the previous year indicating that he may have been planning to release her and the children. The letter said that she wanted to come home but “it’s not possible yet”. Police believe Fritzl was planning to pretend to have rescued his daughter from her fictitious cult. Police spokesman Franz Polzer said police planned to interview at least 100 people who had lived as tenants in the Fritzl apartment building in the previous 24 years.
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