Latest Incest/Torture Dungeon Case Raises Question: What's Wrong With You, Austria?

In April 2008, an Austrian woman named Elisabeth Fritzl revealed to police that her father, Josef, had locked her in a basement for the preceding 24 years and raped her more than 3,000 times. Now comes yet another horrific case involving an Austrian man sexually abusing, torturing, and imprisoning his children over the course of many years.

In this latest instance, two sisters—Christine, 53, and Erika, 45—spent 41 years trapped in a disgusting, dark, barren basement with nothing but filth, a rudimentary toilet, and just "a wooden shelf" to use for a bed. Their father, 80-year-old Gottfried W., beat his daughters (and their mother, who died in 2008) with a stick, poked them with a pitchfork, and "systematically raped and abused" them. Because of the torture, the sisters became mentally ill.

In May, Christina "finally snapped"—cracking a jug over her father's head and causing him to fall. He smacked his head on the floor and couldn't move, which enabled the women to call a social worker and finally reveal their decades-long nightmare. Their father was arrested and tried; he'll be sentenced on September 9. The sisters are in a rehabilitation facility.

There are obvious parallels to be drawn between this story and that of Elisabeth Fritzl, who in 1984, at age 18, was lured by her father into a dark, moldy, dungeon-like cellar located underneath the family's apartment building. The cellar had been rigged up with electronic doors so that she could not escape, and Josef Fritzl had made his daughter write a letter to her mother stating she'd run away with a cult. Over the following 24 years Elisabeth remained trapped and served as a sex slave of sorts to her father—giving birth to seven children fathered by him and delivering the babies without receiving any medical care. (She had also suffered one miscarriage.) At his criminal trial for rape, incest, and murder, Josef Fritzl admitted to murdering one of the children.

Elisabeth Fritzl won her freedom at age 42, after her father took one of their children to the hospital and claimed "to have found the young woman and a note from her mother." Hospital authorities didn't believe the story, called police, and triggered the reopening of a missing-persons report filed by Elisabeth's mother upon her at the time of her disappearance with the "cult." Elisabeth described her ordeal to investigators and her father was arrested, tried, and sentenced to life imprisonment.

We're not going to call "caging up your kids and committing incest with them over several decades" an Austrian trend, but these two cases—combined with that of Natascha Kampusch, who for eight years was also imprisoned in a dungeon by a man who had kidnapped her when she was 10—certainly don't suggest that the landlocked Alpine nation has a healthy attitude toward sex or personal boundaries. Consider these other disturbing facts:

Other ways in which Austria is screwed up include its history of virulent anti-Semitism that has continued into recent times. Nineteenth-century Viennese mayor Karl Lueger, an outspoken anti-Semite, served as one of Hitler's inspirations.

This is not to suggest that every Austrian person is a sadistic, sex-creep weirdo. Just the country itself.

[Daily Beast, Daily Mail, image of Gottfried W.'s dungeon via Daily Mail]