The gruesome life story of Josef Fritzl became the center of a nationwide uproar that shocked the world as the unimaginable story unfolded of a man who held his own daughter as a slave in a cellar for twenty-four years, in which he fathered seven of her children. The abuse dated back to Josef Fritzl’s grandmother who was violently abused by her husband for her inability to produce children. Because of her infertility, the husband resorted to having sexual relations with their servants. As each of the three servants became pregnant, he would allow them to give birth in the house, yet would force them to leave soon after. The youngest of the three children was Josef’s mother, Maria. As Maria grew up, she was constantly abused and reminded of her illegitimacy and disgrace. When Maria married, her husband coincidentally shunned her for being infertile, just as her mother once had been. Her husband would tell her, “You are not a woman,” and “You don’t work properly.” He eventually left her. Out of vengeance, she married the first man that would have her and started trying for a baby to prove her womanhood.
Josef Fritzl was born shortly before World War II and his mother believed he served his purpose. To her, he was merely an “alibi child.” When Josef was a baby, Maria never hugged, kissed, or showed any love towards him. If he would cry, she would panic and leave him unattended and dirty. She would even taunt him saying, “How could you have thought I loved you?” When Josef was merely a toddler, the first Allied bombs fell on Amstetten. The sirens continuously sounded forcing all inhabitants to retreat underground, except for Maria. Maria would remain in the house “facing death.” However, Josef would go along with the other refugees, while abandoned by his mother. “Certainly she didn’t have enough maternal feeling to accompany her son to the shelters, and that winter Josef spent many days seperated from her, feeling alternately terrified and protected: scared of what might be happening to his mother aboveground; secure in the bunker below.” Maria was soon arrested for turning away German lodgers fleeing Russian advances. This left Josef crying in the doorway, while his mother was hauled away to one of the worst Nazis’ extermination camps. Thereafter, Josef spent most of his childhood in an orphanage while his mother was beaten, raped, and tortured in the camp.
Once the war ended, Josef was miraculously reunited with her. After her return, Josef’s abuse became much worse. Hitting him would no longer suffice, so instead, she would kick him in the face until he bled all over the ground, force him to sleep in the garden, or make him kneel on an angle of a piece of wood for hours. “The child was too hungry, too clingy, too stupid. Too expensive, with the rate at which he grew out of his clothes,” according to his mother. Josef’s continuous abuse and neglect inhibited him from leading a normal teenage life. This made him feel invisible towards young women. Because he was deprived of a normal social upbringing, he began to show unusual behavior in his teenage years. He crouched beneath open windows in hope to hear sounds of sex or catch a glimpse of nudity, and began following young girls and watching them on a regular basis.
After a while, Josef calmed down and started living a normal life in which he furthered his education and began new business ventures. He gained confidence and met a young lady named Rosemarie. The two married and had a good relationship as Josef’s success began to flourish. Meanwhile, Rosemarie gave birth to three children, in which Josef vowed never to treat them as he was. However, Josef’s job forced him to travel often, in which he had “sexual experiences” with many different women. When he returned, Rosemarie sensed something was wrong, became suspicious, and distanced herself and the children from Josef. Because Josef felt that he...