Elisabeth Fritzl was held captive by her father Josef Fritzl for 24 years in a cellar. She bore him 7 children while in captivity. It was only when one of her children Kerstin, 19, became very sick and had to be taken to the hospital, that Elisabeth was found and freed by the police. Josef Fritzl is in jail facing a multitude of charges. Elisabeth and her children have been placed under psychiatric care. To read the entire rescue story click here.
With the backing and encouragement of her doctors, Elisabeth,42, and her kids (Stefan 18, Lisa 16, Monika 14, Alexander 12 and Felix 6) made a huge ‘Thank You’ poster to express their gratitude for the support and concern from the public. The 8ft x 5ft illustrated poster features a thank you note with the family members’ hands surrounding it, each with personal messages written inside. It is on display in a shop window in their hometown of Amstetten. The main message reads:
“We, the whole family, would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your sympathy for our fate.
“Your compassion is really helping us get through this difficult time and shows us that there are good people out there who care for us.
“We hope that the time will soon come when we can find our way back to a normal life.”
Each person wrote an emotional individual message containing their wishes for the future. A heart shape marks their sister Kerstin, 19, who is still seriously ill and has been placed in a medically induced coma.
Here is a closer look at some individual messages
Stefan 18, who until his release two weeks ago had never seen the sun, or stood fully upright, wrote: “I like the sun, the fresh air and nature.
Lisa, 16, who was not locked in the dungeon but who lived with Fritzl and his wife upstairs, wishes for “love, happiness, health” and “that everything turns out well again”.
Felix, 6, said he is dreaming of going by car again and by sledge, and he wants to play with other children and “run across a meadow”. He had his first ride in a car when he was collected by police and officers spoke of his delight at the trip.
The doctors taking care of the family say that they will need time to adjust to the real world. Berthold Kepplinger, who runs the clinic, said it was becoming more apparent how much time the family needed to heal. He said that the Fritzls would “need to remain here for several more months”.
He continued: “They all need to be very carefully protected and very slowly reintroduced to the real world, and to each other. In particular, Elizabeth and her two children from the cellar need to have further therapy to help them adjust to the light after years in semidarkness. “They also needed treatment to help them cope with all the extra space that they now have to move about in.
In an appeal to the public to respect the privacy of the family, Berthold Kepplinger also said:
“If the treatment is to work properly, then it is especially important that we get respect for their privacy, the need to this cannot be underestimated.”
He added that the family reunion had “gone extremely well“. The children were playing and enjoying activities such as painting. They had also been given a computer. However, balancing the needs of each family member was complex, he said. For example, the two cellar children and their mother needed peace and quiet and were being kept inside, whereas the three children that had normal lives until now were suffering from the enforced isolation.
Natascha Kampusch, the Austrian girl abducted as a 10-year-old and held captive in a basement for more than eight years until she escaped in 2007, also offered her help to the family, but questioned the decision to move them from the cellar into psychiatric care.
“Pulling them abruptly out of this situation, without transition, to hold them and isolating them to some extent, it can’t be good for them,” said Kampusch, now 20, in an interview. “I believe it might have been even better to leave them where they were, but that was probably impossible. This case is not like mine, where that was not my environment. They were born there and I can imagine that there is a strong attachment to that place.”
Elisabeth’s lawyer, Christoph Herbst said: “Elisabeth is very happy to be rediscovering the world. She is very keen to go outside and feel the rain on her skin. But it is important for them to adjust slowly.” He also said that Elisabeth and her children who lived in the cellar have no concept of time and of the future. However, rumors that she has no teeth and cannot talk are not true.
Elisabeth’s sister Gabriele Helm, 36, says she is surprised at how well her sister has endured the ordeal of being locked in a cellar with her children for 24 years.
“None of us can believe how normal Elisabeth seems. She is healthy and very chatty and doing very well. Every day she gets a bit stronger. I can’t say what the family is going through. It’s more than anyone can believe. It has devastated us.”
“We are working together to support Elisabeth. She is overjoyed to see her children. She told them they were beautiful and she is spending all the time getting to know them.”
Elisabeth tells her family that all she longs for is a normal life – or as normal a life as they can get. That’s her only wish. One of her children, Felix, is keeping the family in good spirits says her lawyer: “They are all happy and there is a lot of laughter, which you might not expect. Felix makes everyone laugh. They are teaching him to run because inside the cellar he could not run. Elisabeth is really an impressive person. She is very strong. She’s happy now for the first time.”
Josef Fritzl,73, who imprisoned and raped his daughter for 24 years claims he is not a monster and blamed both Hitler and his mother for making him the way he is. He said he did not have sex with Elisabeth until she was older than 12, which is when she claims he first abused her. “I am not a man that has sex with little children.”
“I knew that Elisabeth did not want it, what I did with her. The pressure to do the forbidden thing was just too big to withstand.”
Fritzl would visit Elisabeth every few days, delivering food and repeatedly raping her. “It was an obsession with me,” he said. Fritzl also described the amazing planning and secrecy behind his crime, admitting he had thought about it for years. Fritzl claimed he had kidnapped the teenage Elisabeth to “rescue” her from alcohol and bad company. He said he got into a “vicious circle“:
“My situation just got more crazy. I was scared of being arrested, and that my family and everybody that knew me would know my crime … I always knew over 24 years what I did was not correct, and that I must be mad.”
“I am not a monster,” Fritzl said. “I could have killed all of them and no one would have known. No one would have ever found about it.”
In a bizarre admission, Fritzl said he had incestuous feelings for his mother, whom he described as the greatest woman in the world. “She taught me discipline.”
He went on to complain that the coverage of his daughter’s abuse was one-sided. He remains in jail under tight security. His attorney said Fritzl was a “broken man” who belonged in a mental hospital rather than prison.
Reinhard Haller, a leading forensic psychiatrist in Austria, disagreed with claims that Fritzl was insane: “His main motivation was the exercise of power. It is not a sign of mental illness but rather of an extreme personality disorder.”
And Fritzl may be in more trouble. The Austrian authorities have revealed that there are more rooms in the underground dungeon that have yet to be examined, which Fritzl is believed to have sealed off years ago. Fritzl has a history of sex crimes including a conviction for rape and attempted rape as well as being investigated for an unrelated murder, and now police fear the extra rooms may contain evidence of further crimes.
Police are set to break down walls in the cellar to get to the hidden rooms this week and plan to investigate the electrics and plumbing to ascertain whether Fritzl – an electrical engineer – could have built the dungeon, or whether he had help. They will also scan the ground surrounding the cellar to check if more rooms exist or if there are any objects buried in the garden. The dogs and radars being used can detect human body parts underground.
Meanwhile, the murky depths of Fritzl’s mind are being examined by Austria’s leading forensic psychiatrist, Dr Adelheid Kastner. Prosecutors want Dr Kastner, 46, to determine whether he is fit to stand trial.
“I am conducting exploratory conversations to get to know every possible part of the defendant’s personality. The court wants me to probe several questions and has given me a deadline. But if I need longer, then the court will have to wait” said Dr Kasner.
It remains a mystery as to how Fritzl managed to smuggle two beds underground unnoticed as well as a large washing machine and supplies for Elisabeth and the children.