Tales of tyranny: The global face of perversion

Tales of tyranny: The global face of perversion

Elisabeth was his favourite daughter and her horror saga began when she was just 11. After being raped for seven years by her father, her entire existence was entombed in a 55-square-metre windowless dungeon carved out of the earth beneath her own home since she was 18. Eight custom-made doors had to be accessed to reach the chamber. It had an electronic code that only he knew.

Elisabeth first became pregnant in 1988 and the youngest of her seven children was born in 2002. As things became unmanageable underground, Fritzl devised a scheme to raise three kids above the cellar in his own house. He just delivered them at his own doorstep and they later became part of his family. The yarn he spun was that Elisabeth had run away and joined a sect and the kids were products of her dissolute life. “Your sister is gone and I don’t expect she’ll be back,” Fritzl told the clan. He even made Elisabeth write letters that she had found a life for herself. She bore the brutality stoically first to avoid being thrashed by her father and later for the sake of her children.

The sordid saga came to an end on April 16, 2008 after one of the children fell gravely ill threatening the order of the cellar and its inmates. Elisabeth, now 42, is undergoing psychiatric treatment like the rest of her children. They can’t even stand sunlight having been citizens of the empire of gloom for so many years. The eldest child is now over 15 and the youngest 11. Even ordinary things excite them. Once Elisabeth picked up a rhodendron flower that was coming into bloom and took it to her hospital ward twirling it in her hands. She had attained the status of a heroine in the hospital.

As health care workers and others put the building blocks of the lives of the dungeon victims in place, questions were being asked about the utter ignorance of Elisabeth’s mother who was just three feet above. And what sort of man was Fritzl to perpetuate such a horror? Rosemarie is described as a very quiet, mousy woman who just subjected herself to the authoritarian whims of her husband.

Austria might be a land of Mozart and his music, mountains and meadows. But it was yet to bury its Nazi past. Nazis were his public role models and at home it was his mother with whom Fritzl, the only child, was fixated. His own father had been a tyrant at home. It is this kind of upbringing that would later contribute to Fritzl viewing women as mere objects of lust, to be treated as dirt. Football was his passion and he did well academically. But psychological profiling shows that the seeds of evil might have been sown when the loner was just two or three. After he grew up he became a genius in finding solutions to engineering problems. Among other countries, he spent a lot of time in India building bridges. Even as a grown-up he enjoyed watching Tom and Jerry cartoons. But deep in his mind were warped sexual fantasies that once made him rape a nurse at knife-point. He was a regular at the flesh pots of Austria and even far-off Thailand. Questions are being asked how Amstetten, the small town, let such an atrocity to go on for 24 years.

Allan Hall, a seasoned British journalist based in Berlin, has pieced together the story of the monster and his madness methodically. The Monster is a quick work of current history. It is racy and makes you sad and angry too.

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