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Josef Fritzl And Austria’s House Of Horrors: Blame The Nazis

by | 29th, April 2008

fritzl-elisabeth-josef.jpgJOSEF FRITZL has admitted to keeping his family – daughter Elisabeth and their children – in the cellar of his Austrian house. But how Germanic is the crime? And what does it say about us?

Now read on…

DAILY MIRROR: “THE WORLD’S MOST EVIL DAD”

Says police chief Franz Polzer: “We’re not talking about a prison designed to hurt its prisoners, but something built to fulfil their basic human needs. He got planning permission and gradually built the various rooms in which the children were born and lived.”

The Oesterreich newspaper wrote in an editorial: “The community of Amstetten should drown in shame.”

DAILY MAIL: “Austria: Secrecy, shame and the land of the lost children”

Like many Britons whose image of Austria was defined by school history lessons and The Sound Of Music, whenever this landlocked Alpine nation is mentioned certain stereotypes spring to my mind.

And the Nazis. And Hitler. And little cakes with pictures of Mozart on them..

Or at least they did, until this week. One would think of mountain vistas shimmering with snow-white swathes of edelweiss, and apple strudels accompanied by cream-topped mugs of hot chocolate.

And one would remember that, although modern Austria is little more than a stepping-stone on the road to Eastern Europe, it was once the rock on which the mighty Hapsburg Empire was built, and dominated the civilised world for centuries.

What about the Nazis..?

As anyone who remembers the plot to The Sound Of Music will recall, during the late Thirties and Forties, Austrian society was riven with fear and mistrust, as some connived with the annexing Nazis and others (like the film’s defiant naval captain Georg von Trapp) sought to remain free of their malign influence.

Fact and fiction. The camps are alive with the sound of…

The Germans encouraged collaborators to spy on their neighbours and report any dissent, and – much as the Austrians now dislike admitting it – this has produced the sort of insular mentality which underpins its towns and villages to this day.

THE GUARDIAN: “’This monstrous crime raises pressing questions for a rich, self-satisfied society’”

“There are pressing questions raised by this monstrous crime which need to be put to a rich, self-satisfied society in which during a quarter of a century what was happening in the immediate vicinity went apparently unnoticed,” Petra Stuiber wrote in a commentary in the Austrian liberal daily Der Standard…

Because of the war?

“How is it possible that no one ever heard or saw anything, how can it be that no one ever asked questions?” she wrote. “What does it say about neighbours, relations, acquaintances and not least about authorities who had anything to do with the family, that the perpetrator succeeded in ‘deceiving’ everybody?” She said it was “time for a whole country to ask itself what is fundamentally going wrong”.

THE INDEPENDENT: “Josef Fritzl, the man who haunts Austria”

The Amstetten scandal is certain to raise further questions about the conduct of Austrian police in cases involving missing persons. Above all, why police, social services, doctors and teachers at the schools attended by the Fritzl children failed to detect than anything was amiss for nearly a quarter of a century.

THE SUN (front page): “INSIDE THE DEVIL’S LAIR”

Neighbour Erika Manharter said: “I grew up with Josef and he always appeared friendly, though he never seemed to want close contact.

“It seemed as if they were a perfect family unit but it just goes to show you cannot really see what is happening behind closed doors.”

Mercedes-driving Fritzl, who rented out ground floor rooms at his main house, was seen as a pillar of respectability despite having been jailed in the 1960s for sex assault and arson.

THE OBSERVER:

“As the horrors of the case unfolded and Austria tried to come to terms with a case of incest on an extraordinary scale, neighbours said they had thought the family strange, but not suspicious. They said they had not considered it particularly strange that the family bought large quantities of groceries which Fritzl mostly delivered to the cellar in the dark of night.”

Better to grow your own – what with there being a war on, and all…



Posted: 29th, April 2008 | In: Broadsheets, Tabloids Comments (17) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink