Such coincidences usually only happen in the movies. All these Russian and Austrian sex maniacs were electricians who built nearly identical bunkers for their victims. What’s the root cause behind the growing trend in sex slavery?
One cannot help but wonder how the drama went unnoticed for so long.
Just imagine the small town of Amstetten, Austria. On a quiet road rests a light blue home with ornate paintings decorating the rooms inside. Here lived Joseph Fritzl, 73 years old, his wife Rosemary and their many children.
But beneath the property’s loving facade lies a concrete labyrinth that once housed Fritzl’s numerous victims.
Newspapers worldwide recently reported how Fritzl held his daughter Elizabeth captive in his basement for 24 years. Each year she bore him more children. Fritzl brought the three loudest infants upstairs. He told his wife that their daughter had joined a religious sect and left the newborns on their doorstep in the night. In the evenings, Fritzl went downstairs via a secret passage in the garage to see the other children. One died in infancy and Fritzl burned the child’s body in the same gas furnace where Rosemary baked biscuits on holidays.
Given the recent trend in such crimes, the main shock factor of Fritzl’s story is how long Elizabeth was held captive. Austria witnessed a similar crime only several years ago. Natasha Kampush, who was then 18, ran away from her captor Wolfgang Priklopil after 8 years of confinement. Russia wasn’t shocked at the crime itself either. In 2004, Lena and Katya, two girls from Rzyansk, were freed from a vault beneath a garage owned by Viktor Mokhov, a factory worker in Skopin. Back then, their story was beyond comprehension. But today, they seem lucky. Three and a half years of abuse is insignificant compared to Elizabeth’s quarter-century of captivity.
Despite several differences, the horrible tales of captivity are nearly identical. The Austrian bunker was in fact much more comfortable than its Russian analogue at 55 square meters with two rooms, a kitchen, a tiled shower and a washing machine. (The Russian bunker was primitive — a 5-square-meter hovel with an electric oven and bucket instead of a toilet.) But Amstetten and Skopin both have a population of 25,000 and seem peaceful rural towns to outsiders. What else ties together the fate of Mokhov, an unmarried Russian who lived with his mother and had no personal life, and Fritzl, an Austrian family man and father to numerous children living near the Alps?
“He did what many people think about doing…”
It would be wrong to say that Skopin and Amstetten are backwards in some way. News reports about similar incidents in France, Belgium, Hungary and Italy have hit kiosks in recent weeks. What unites these criminals who imprison and sexually abuse their victims?
Psychologists say that they crave absolute power. This forces them to build a world that they alone can rule. With one press of a button, Mokhov was able to cut off the ventilation in the small bunker if his victims refused to fulfill his sexual fantasies. Meanwhile, psychologists called Fritzl an egoist after stating that he liked to feel like God. But such an illness falls outside the realm of psychiatric pathologies. Fritzl is more a victim of psychological licentiousness than anything else.
“Fritzl did what many people think about doing,” Director of the Sigmund Freud Fund Inga Shultz-Strasser told KP.
But thinking is not doing. Fortunately, few people manifest their sexual fetishes by oppressing others.
Mokhov learned how to build bunkers while watching a documentary film about the criminal Aleksandr Komin. Ten years ago, Komin built a vault where he forcibly kept two slaves. He tattooed the word “SLAVE” on their foreheads and made them stitch robes for his makeshift enterprise. After Mokhov was captured, he confessed that he plagiarized Komin. When Mokhov saw him describing how he built the cell on television, he said to himself: “I can do better than that!”
Nightmare on Fritzl’s Street
“We just live far too well. And we’re all going mad from the fat,” said the salesgirl at the flower shop near Fritzl’s home when I asked her if Amstetten was to blame for what happened.
No journalist would have ever stepped foot in the tranquil Amstetten if it wasn’t for Fritzl. The town is boring and clean, and the people are beaming and bursting at the seams like overfed tomatoes. Many are willing to give their two cents about the incidents.
“I won’t tell you if Fritzl was my client,” said a hairdresser in the neighboring building. “Because that would be unethical. And also because my uncle raped me when I was 13 years old.”
“When I rented an apartment from Fritzl, I often heard strange sounds coming from the cellar,” Elizabeth’s schoolmate Alfred Dubanovskiy told journalists.
But it isn’t easy to get an inside look into how the investigation is unfolding. The police monitor Fritzl’s home 24/7. When people get too close to the property, the police run over and say that they can’t proceed any further and have been told not to comment on the incident. Trying to interrogate the neighbors to get details is also pointless. Austrians don’t like poking their noses in others’ affairs.
Interestingly, it seems that no one knew anything about Fritzl’s crime during Elizabeth’s captivity. This includes the whole Fritzl family (6 children besides Elizabeth) and all the tenants living in their home. One reason why is that they used the front door of the premises to enter and leave the house. Fritzl, however, pulled his vehicle into the covered garage where he had access to a secret, locked entrance to the basement. As a result, no one saw him taking the washing machine downstairs or regularly bringing up garbage.
Viktor Mokhov wasn’t at all concerned with the design. His prisoners had to decorate the walls themselves with gouache.
But there are doubts about the involvement of Fritzl’s wife. Did Rosemary really not know what was going on all that time? Oddly enough the entire street says, “No.”
“She’s such a kind, generous woman!” they say. “She takes her kids to study music and play sports. And her husband is a fop. So spic and span… He acted more like a minister than an electrician!”
Fritzl’s neighbors Ingrid and Gertruda, two elderly women, defended Rosemary on camera.
“He was such a tyrant!” they said. “But Rosemary is a good woman who got married at 17!”
The question about what to do with the unfortunate home weighs heavy on the minds of Amstetten residents. The basement can be turned into a museum of horrors, or the past can simply be laid to rest.
“You’ll see. Soon something worse will happen and they’ll forget all about us!” a pharmacist told us near Fritzl’s home.
“This is private property,” said Hermann Hruber, an employee at the local mayor’s office. “The home has an owner. That individual needs to decide what will happen to the property.” So it seems that Fritzl will keep control of the situation even in prison. In Austria, breaching rights to personal property is just as severe an offense as infringing someone’s personal freedom. READ MORE