Among the unbearable horrors perpetrated by Josef Fritzl, for some reason, the image that sticks with me is of Elisabeth, aged 18, giving birth alone in a dark cellar, in pain, with nothing but a pair of rusty scissors and an old book on childbirth to help her. Fritzl didn’t even bother to visit her for ten days after she gave birth. She must have been absolutely terrified. Under these nightmarish circumstances, it would have been understandable if she had ignored the baby or been unable to care for it. Instead, in the confines of her prison she taught that child and the others she was ‘allowed’ to keep, to read. She told them about life outside. She somehow managed to love them and be a mother to them. Instead of wallowing in the repellent details of Fritzl’s behaviour, maybe we should also consider what an extraordinary woman Elisabeth is. He may have enslaved her for twenty four years, but he did not destroy her humanity.
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