Axver (axver) wrote,

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For the last week or so, the Elisabeth Fritzl case has been all over the news, and for good reason - it's an absolutely stunning and horrifying story. I'm sure most of you are familiar with it already, but the gist of it is that Austrian Elisabeth Fritzl was imprisoned in a cellar by her father, Josef, at the age of 18 and held there for 24 years before being freed in April. During this time, her father repeatedly raped her and she gave birth to seven of his children; one died not long after childbirth, three were adopted by Elisabeth's parents, and three grew up in the cellar with Elisabeth. Elisabeth's mother Rosemarie was apparently unaware of this the entire time.

It's an unbelieveable story and the media's been having a field day. I've followed it on SBS and online, so I think I've missed the worst of the commercial TV and tabloid media's tasteless and voyeuristic attitude of "let's pry into absolutely every gory detail under a thin veneer of 'news'!" What I have come away with is a sense that there is a lot more to this story than has been released to the media, as parts of it simply don't make any sense.

Most conspicuous to me is the role of Elisabeth's mother in all of this. Elisabeth disappeared in late August 1984; in September, a note appeared from her telling her parents and police to stop looking for her. And what, this was apparently enough to satisfy Rosemarie? "Oh no, my daughter's run away. Well, let's just call off everything and move on with our lives." No mother's going to do that. Then there are the three children that Elisabeth supposedly abandoned to her parents. Either her mother is an astonishingly stupid and/or cold person, or there's something more going on here. I also wonder how the authorities were satisfied to give up any search for Elisabeth and legally allowed Josef to adopt three of Elisabeth's children despite her disappearance. It seems Josef was adept at twisting red tape, but there's a spectacular failure by somebody here, surely.

Rosemarie also must be one of the most stunningly oblivious people on the planet. Four individuals are pretty hard to hide. Josef clearly had to provide for them, yet somehow managed to hide all of this activity and expenditure from Rosemarie? For 24 years? What exactly was she doing all this time? I mean, there's her daughter in her cellar, giving birth to seven kids, living with three of them, and somehow she notices absolutely nothing to indicate that things aren't right? Providing food and other necessary provisions for four people isn't exactly the easiest thing in the world to obscure. It is perhaps understandable that other people in the town didn't notice anything, as Josef was clearly rather good at spinning stories, but after 24 years, you would think that Rosemarie might have been alerted to some signs regarding her daughter's fate.

Now, Josef doesn't seem like the most exemplary chap, so a plausible argument could be made that possibly he kept Rosemarie in check with violence and abuse (not that I have seen any evidence to support such an assertion). But she was a free individual, with access to hotlines and the police. Even if she feared her husband, you would think that in an exceptional case like this, if she noticed the signs and suspected her husband was holding her daughter prisoner, she would contact the police to save her daughter. It's one thing to fear reprisals in an attempt to save yourself; it is quite another when your own child is in danger.

There's just something not told here. It's early days and early details. As I suppose this entry demonstrates, it is really bloody hard to know what to think, or what to make of this. The case is just so extraordinary that it seems to me there must be more to it than the little story we know already. I guess it's too neat. If one thing is clear, though, it's this: Josef Fritzl is a candidate for the title of "worst person on the planet". What a nauseating waste of oxygen.
Tags: austria, fritzl case, media, news

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