Elisabeth Fritzl

Amstetten, Niederösterreich – Austria.


In 2008, the world paused in horror as the news broke. A man in Austria was discovered to have kept an incestuous family in a dungeon beneath his home. The Fritzl case would be one of the worst cases of abuse the world had ever witnessed, and become the most famous instance of humans held captive.

Lead up to Crime

Arrested, Josef Fritzl

Arrested, Josef Fritzl

Josef Fritzl grew up in poverty. His father constantly cheated on his mother, and she threw him out of the house when Josef was four-years-old, thereafter raising the boy on her own. She only gave birth to the child to prove to her husband that she was not infertile. Josef grew up in the Nazi era where ruling parties demanded strictness, as did his mother, who ignored him except when she often beat him. He attended school in Amstetten, two years older than his classmates, he proved to be highly intelligent.

As a teenager Fritzl would indulge in sexual fantasies about his mother, and considered himself her husband. He met Rosemarie in 1956, and married her a year later.

As Rosemarie gave birth to their first child in 1957, Fritzl rode his bike around town, peering in people’s windows, but claimed he was working late at the steel factory to support his family.

Rosemary and Josef Fritzl as grandparents to an incestuous family

Rosemary and Josef Fritzl as grandparents to an incestuous family

Elisabeth was born on April 6, 1966; she was the fourth of seven children. She was a painfully shy child, timid to approach adults. Fritzl often beat his daughter, and Rosemarie claimed he didn’t like Elisabeth.

On October 6, 1967, he was arrested for raping a woman in her apartment at knifepoint in Linz, and served 12 months of an 18-month sentence. He had also committed other attacks on local women. When released from prison, Rosemarie forgave him.

In 1973, having established himself as a successful businessman, Fritzl bought the Seesteern Guesthouse at Mondsee, in the lakes district of Upper Austria. During this time he imprisoned his elderly mother in the attic of the family home, until she died in 1980.

Fritzl began sexually abusing Elisabeth at the age of 11. In 1981/82 (when Elisabeth was around 15 years old) Fritzl began making plans for the cellar beneath their family home at Ybbstrasse Number 40, Amstetten, Lower Austria. He planned to transform it into a homemade prison.

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The guesthouse was destroyed by fire in 1982. Police arrested Fritzl on suspicion of arson and held him for 14 days, but the charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence. Fritzl collected the insurance money.

As Elisabeth matured, she became more assertive, much to her father’s displeasure. In 1983 she ran away from home with a friend, fleeing to Vienna. The pair was caught by police after three weeks and returned to Josef Fritzl.

In the same year, planning permits were approved for Fritzl to commence additional work on his cellar, and he enlisted the help of his brother-in-law to carry out the works. He had very specific plans; including that the ceiling should be only 1.7 metres (5.5 feet) high. Only Fritzl himself knew the true purpose of his plans.

Held Captive

On August 28, 1984, when Elisabeth was 18, Fritzl lured her downstairs by asking her to help carry the door that would seal the dungeon. He drugged her with ether, and held her captive. Fritzl chained his daughter to a wall, unlocking her only to rape her. He wrote fake letters, claiming Elisabeth had joined a cult. Cults had gained a negative reputation during the 1970/80s, with mass media portraying them as groups that isolated and brainwashed their members. Fritzl’s story seemed plausible, especially when it came to the troublesome and wayward girl Fritzl made his daughter out to be.

What lurks below?

What lurks below?

Fritzl warned Elisabeth that if anyone touched the cellar door they would be electrocuted. Inside the cell, measuring four-and-a-half metres squared (15 x 15 feet), was Elisabeth’s world for nine years. Josef Fritzl visited the dungeon every few days, using a remote control to open the heavy door, providing supplies and raping his daughter. She was raped over 3,000 times, violently inserted her with objects that caused permanent physical injuries, and forced her to re-enact scenes from pornographic films.

Fritzl was suspected of the unsolved murder of Martina Posch, 17, who was found wrapped in plastic near the guesthouse in 1986. He continued running the guesthouse until 1996.

Elisabeth gave birth in isolation to seven children. Kerstin was born in 1988. Three unfortunate children — Kerstin, the eldest, Stefan and Felix — grew up in the dungeon.

On April 28, 1996, Elisabeth gave birth to twin boys, Michael and Alexander. Michael died three days later, Fritzl cremated his body in the furnace and scattered his ashes throughout the garden.

Three children — Lisa, Monika and Alexander — would live seemingly normal lives upstairs. Everyone was led to believe Elisabeth, unable to care for her children while she lived her cultish lifestyle, had dropped them off on the doorstep in the dark of night.

As Fritzl’s underground family grew, so did the dungeon as he covertly constructed additional rooms. The small confines of the cell were filled with stale air, leaving the captives listless, barely able to move. A rancid, sick smell engulfed the cavern. Condensation dripped from the tiled walls. The two-bedroom dungeon was soundproofed and included a bathroom, toilet, and kitchen. The lack of natural light would leave the children weak, sickly, and pale. The moisture provided a perfect environment for mould to grow, causing fungal infections for the captives. They suffered malnutrition, vitamin D deficiencies, and severe dental problems. Stefan suffered from motor neurone problems. The children’s only understanding of the outside world came from what they watched on an old television, and from what their mother taught them.

In 1998 Fritzl went on a four-week holiday to Thailand, leaving Elisabeth and her three children behind in the cellar. He bought her dresses, claiming they were for his girlfriend. Rosemarie was unaware of the secret family her husband hid beneath her feet.


Kerstin, now 19, became desperately ill, suffering from uncontrollable screaming fits and lapsing into unconsciousness. On April 19, 2008, she was taken to hospital by ambulance, along with a letter Fritzl made Elisabeth write, begging the hospital to take care of her daughter. With no medical records or personal documentation, the hospital became suspicious of Kerstin’s identity.

The young woman presented to doctors was suffering from multiple organ failure and placed in an induced coma as doctors worked to help her recover. Doctors made a public appeal over Austrian television on April 21, asking for Elisabeth to contact authorities. Elisabeth watched the story ignite, and begged her father to take her to the hospital.

On April 26, Fritzl decided to release his captive family from their underground prison. Elisabeth, Stefan, and Felix made their way upstairs, where Fritzl told Rosemarie their prodigal daughter had returned home. Elisabeth Fritzl had been missing for 8,516 days. After nearly 24 years she was finally free.

Once in the hospital grounds, Josef and Elisabeth were detained. Elisabeth refused to provide information on her circumstance until she was promised she would never have to see her father again. In the early hours of the morning, on April 27, 2008, Josef Fritzl was arrested. By nightfall, Rosemarie and all the children were taken into state care.


Three hundred officers initially worked on the Fritzl case. On March 16, 2009, the trial against Austria’s incest dungeon master began.

Josef Fritzl, 73, pleaded guilty to false imprisonment, incest, and rape; but pleaded not guilty to enslavement and murder by neglect.

Elisabeth testified via an 11-hour pre-recorded video presented to the court. Josef Fritzl sat in the courtroom in St Pölten and listened to his daughter’s testimony. Neither Rosemarie nor Elisabeth’s children testified. Jurors found the case especially difficult, and extra jurors were kept on standby in case any original jurors could not continue.

During the four-day trial, Elisabeth dressed in a wig and entered the courtroom to watch the proceedings. Her father turned around and saw her. He began to weep.

After watching Elisabeth’s testimony, Fritzl changed his plea to “guilty” on all charges. On March 19, 2009, he was sentenced to life imprisonment, to be detained in a psychiatric hospital.

Fritzl must serve 15 years before he is first eligible for parole in 2024. He will be 89 years old. He is currently held in a secure ward for the criminally insane at Garsten Abbey in Upper Austria; a former Benedictine abbey, with a near millennia long history, converted to a high security prison. He is prisoner number 4546765. Fritzl is permanently isolated because of his risk of being attacked by other prisoners.  He suffers from dementia.


Elisabeth Fritzl and her basement children spent months in a secure psychiatric hospital while they recovered from their torturous ordeal. Elisabeth had aged far beyond her years. She attempted to re-establish a relationship with her mother, but her anger boiled over when she questioned why Rosemarie never tried to help. Elisabeth threw her mother out of their villa nestled in the grounds of the psychiatric hospital.

The captives took on new names, and were moved to a secure location only known as “Village X,” a short distance from Amstetten. Security personnel and CCTV guard her home. Local villagers are only too willing to contact police if sightseers are spotted.

The upstairs and downstairs family has reunited, and all have undergone psychological therapy and schooling. Elisabeth decided to discontinue with psychiatric care. She now understands that her mother was also a victim and the pair has mended their relationship. Rosemarie lives in a small flat in Linz, sells homemade bags to supplement her pension, and visits her family each week.

After their release, Elisabeth would shower several times a day, and became compulsive about cleaning. Closed doors distressed the children, and doors were fixed to remain open or removed from the hinges altogether. Treatment is expected to be on going with all the children.

Elisabeth has worked to gain her drivers licence. Despite her shying away from media attention, paparazzi have photographed her shopping, something which she enjoys doing. She was reported to have fallen in love with Thomas Wagner, a bodyguard 14 years her junior. A fulltime carer resides at their house, looking after Elisabeth and the children, especially when moments of panic overwhelm them.

Josef Fritzl wrote a series of letters to Elisabeth, requesting she send him money so he could defend himself by studying law. She no longer accepts his communications. In 2012, he divorced Rosemarie because she never visited him in prison.

As a means of reaching out, fellow Austrian and former captive, Natascha Kampusch, gave Elisabeth Fritzl 25,000 euros from funds publically donated to assist kidnap victims.

By David Phoebe.

Read more stories like the Elisabeth Fritzl’s case . . .


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  1. Autumn Marks


    1. David Phoebe

      Hi Autumn,

      What happened to Elisabeth was truly horrific. Hopefully we never see something like it again.

      To what I know, Elisabeth and her family have sought a life away from the public spotlight. She is protected in the place that she lives in Austria by the village residents. There have been attempts to contact her by the media, but it appears she wishes for her privacy. I respect that. Perhaps one day it might change, but it is not necessary on her part. Thank you for your support.

      – Dave

    2. Eleanor

      I truly do not wish for horrible things, BC I believe we are all capable of some kindness. I do wish for his very long term misery & loneliness. Please let it be unyielding despair that he knows until he dies very very old. Perhaps he will reincarnate. Unfortunately I can only hope his torture is repaid over many lives. The truth is he expected her to die. She didn’t. My heart breaks for her and her children.

  2. Stefan D

    At first it said that the guesthouse burned down in 1982, and then he “runned it until 1996”? I dont think that Fritzl rebuilded it..

  3. Fuck You Josef Fritzl

    Fuck You Josef Fritzl You Piece Of Shit
    (;-; Poor Elizabeth And Children ;-;)

  4. Faye Kane, girl brain

    Yeah,yeah, he was a nazi monster. But he never beat her up, just fu cked her: brutally, gleefully, and repeatedly. For the first three days, he kept the teenage girl chained to a pole. Naked. He was always looking at new stuff to do to her, and when he found some,made her watch porn vids and then do what was on the video.

    That is SOOOO sexy!

    Like Kampusch, she came out of it perfectly psychologically okay. Pissed off, for sure, but not all traumatized.

    Anyone who says they don’t get aroused by The Fritzl case is lying. Sure, you feel GUILTY about it, but you feel it.

    -faye kane girl brain

  5. horrible

    Does Austrian law suck or something???? He served only TWELVE MONTHS after raping a woman at knife point?
    And I can’t believe such a demon would actually be eligible for parole WHAT?
    He shouldn’t be kept in isolation because he is at risk of being attacked by other inmates – FEED HIM TO THE FUCKIN WOLVES
    what a fucking MONSTER
    he raped her every 3 days or so – he ought to be whipped naked every 2 days til the day he DIES.
    i hope he comes back in his next life and is faced with even worse torture than he inflicted on his own daughter. HIS OWN DAUGHTER OH MY GOD.

  6. Cristina Natalie Meneses

    Hi I read this and this made me sick.I wish that there was no one else like Josef Fritzl but unfortunately this world is filled with people like him.I am thankful that nothing of that ever happened to me.I hope I can learn more of her story and that she is now alright and safe far away from the hands of evil.

  7. tessa-leigh brookes

    I feel so fricking bad for all of them (not joseph fucking pretzel) i think its absolutley sick to do something like that. Poor kiddies! I am a rather gentle person(or so my boyfriend has said) and i would NEVER curse on anyone! But joseph fritzl,seriously…burn in hell u piece of s**t!!!!!!!!!!!:(

  8. Midge

    Why should we believe his stories about abuse from his mother? Look at the false stories he told about his daughter’s behavior & cults & child abandonment. I suspect he sexually assaulted his mother as well. He admitted to having fantasized about her & feeling like he was her husband. She was afraid of him. He also told everyone his mother had died. I think he substituted his daughter after his mother died. He just doesn’t want anyone to know he sexually abused his mother & reverses the story to make her look like the villain.

    The police wont look into it because of statute of limitations but he may have been responsible for the death of his mother. Is there a statute on that in Austria?

    Then there is the complicity of his wife. I seriously doubt she didn’t know about his mother locked away in their attic & the bricked up windows. If she knew about that then she would have had suspicions about all the time he spent in his expanded cellar & the doorstep babies. She was a submissive enabler who looked the other way as long as he left her alone & took out his deviant behavior on someone else. She traded her peace for his prisoners suffering.

    Elisabeth’s siblings also would have known about grandma in the attic. Her brother Josef Jr was still living at home in addition to 3 of her upstairs children when she was freed. And it seems unlikely that Josef Jr did not nose around while dad was on holiday? Or did he help while dad was away for weeks? He could have worn gloves which prevented DNA evidence of his cellar visits. He only had to place food in the outer section with the freezer. Without being seen.

    There is also the likelihood her father abused their children as well but kept it out of the news & out of the court records to protect them from a public ordeal.

    With the dead 17 year old female found near his guesthouse; his record for armed rape, arson suspicion & peeping tom habits; this monster may have also been a serial killer.

    I think someone should interview him & get what info they can… while they still can. He was crafty enough to have hidden bodies of victims where they would never be found. I think someone needs to get him to talk. The best way would be a female author to question him for book info which would tweak his ego into revealing what other crimes he has done & any missing victims. But they had better do so before he dies.

    Or at least send in a female police posing as a writer. He is unlikely to tell any more to the doctors or police since he likes to claim himself as a victim. But he might tell a female writer which tweaks his ego about fame for his real untold escapades. Even if it is past statutes, it might bring some closure for his unknown victims families & answer some unsolved missing persons.

  9. Mary

    The worst kind. May you suffer during your incarceration & aging days til you die. You cruel evil bastard.

  10. Me

    This garbage still alive?!
    Shame to Austrian for not killing him

  11. Lori evans

    How tragic, because he was a sick sick man he’s ruined all these lives. I hope they are all doing okay!! I’m sorry but that man should have been put to death!! How could he do that to his daughter!! I’m wondering if he tried anything with the eldest daughter? Probably did the sick son of a bitch!! I wonder about Elisabeth”s siblings and if they were abused sexually? Pedophile will get tired of the same victim. They will pray on other kids!!!!

  12. Momo

    There are some sick sick sick people in the world, man.
    Hard to believe, a life ruined, 24 years spent in a dungeon because that guy needed to rape someone.
    I strongly agree that he should get his dick cut off, so he could not eve jerk it off again.
    And I also hope for Elisabeth and her family to live as normal people, to have a normal life with her children and to live on.

  13. Pattie Smith

    What a brave young lady/woman. She could have given up and found any way to die in her prison. However, her children/siblings needed her, and like any mother gained strength to be there for them. I am so thankful her captivity is over, physically at least. I know that part of that time will always be with her emotionally and mentally. My heart breaks for her and her children. I cannot imagine growing up in that kind of environment like she and her children did. Her father chose a child because he knew he could intimidate her. He did so for so many years that it will never leave her. I hope and pray that God will be able to grant her peace and joy in her new life. God bless.

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