Secrets in the Cellar

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Josef Fritzl was a 73-year-old retired engineer in Austria. He seemed to be living a normal life with his wife, Rosemarie, and their family—though one daughter, Elisabeth, had decades earlier been “lost” to a religious cult. Throughout the years, three of Elisabeth’s children mysteriously appeared on the Fritzls’ doorstep; Josef and Rosemarie raised them as their own. But only Josef knew the truth about Elisabeth’s disappearance…

For twenty-seven years, Josef had imprisoned and molested Elisabeth in his man-made basement dungeon, complete with sound-proof paneling and code-protected electric locks. There, she would eventually give birth to a total of seven of Josef’s children. One died in infancy—and the other three were raised alongside Elisabeth, never to see the light of day.

Then, in 2008, one of Elisabeth’s children became seriously ill, and was taken to the hospital. It was the first time the nineteen-year-old girl had ever gone outside—and soon, the truth about her background, her family’s captivity, and Josef’s unspeakable crimes would come to light.

Customer Reviews:

  • Josef Fritz is profoundly evil!
    Josef Fritz is profoundly evil! The writer presents this horrific case in a must read manner because it is beyond the scope of understanding. John Glatt understands that people are horrified but they want to try to understand what happened as well. He provides a "unique perspective" on this bewildering story. This book is gripping and his nuanced and skilled writing really brings this terrible story to life and helps you understand not just the practical detail but the human suffering that Elizabeth and her children have endured. ...more info
    On the morning of August 28, 1984, in the small market town of Amstetten, Austria, eighteen year old Elisabeth Fritzl, at the request of her then forty-nine year old father, Josef, accompanied him to the cellar of their house, ostensibly to assist him in some mundane chore. Little did she know that she would not see the light of day again for nearly twenty-four years.

    This is the story that gripped the world when it first came to light. It was a story as bizarre as it was unbelievable. Josef Fritzl had kept his beautiful daughter Elisabeth trapped in a soundproofed concrete and steel reinforced cellar for twenty-four years. During that time, he made her into his sex slave and fathered seven children with her. Meanwhile, Elisabeth's mother, Rosemarie, lived upstairs with her husband, having been led to believe that her daughter had runaway to live with a religious cult, never knowing that Elisabeth still lived at home, albeit in the cellar.

    Over time, three of Elisabeth's children would appear in infancy on the Fritzls' doorstep, ostensibly having been abandoned by Elisabeth, who was supposedly still living in a religious cult. These three children would be brought up by Rosemarie and Josef, while three others continued living in the cellar, a fourth having died shortly after birth. The three children living upstairs had no memory of their brief life below in the cellar.

    In April 2008, Elisabeth's nineteen year old daughter, Kerstin, became so ill that she was close to death and taken to the hospital, after Elisabeth pleaded with Josef to save her life. This was the first time that Kerstin had ever left the cellar in her entire life. It was shortly thereafter that Elisabeth and her family were freed, and the truth that shocked the world came to light, resulting in the arrest of the now seventy-three year old Josef Fritzl.

    The book explores the lives of those involved in this shocking story, as well as the events that led to Elisabeth's eventual imprisonment in the cellar, the lives that were lived below ground, and the aftermath with its many problems and issues. While this book is not well written, the story is so unusual and shocking that the reader cannot help but be gripped by its inherent pathos and horror. There is certainly a place in hell for Josef Fritzl. ...more info
  • Disturbing
    What can one say about this true story, except that it probably surpasses horror movies. This read was so disturbing on so many levels. That being said, I got through the book in one sitting. ...more info
  • What a monster...
    How anyone can plan and carry out the things this man did without anyone knowing is shocking! This book is written very well and keeps you interested through the whole book, I finished it in two sessions only because I had to sleep. I also loaned the book to two co-workers who thought it was very good. We actually read it at the perfect time, Mr. Fritzl was sentenced just the other day!...more info
  • Monsters Are Real
    My wife read this book and then asked me to read it. I had heard of this case on the news, in newspapers, and the internet, but I just did not fathom the cruelty and evil Josef Fritzl displayed to his family. As a father, I cannot imagine what possesses a person to so thoroughly plan out and perform such despicable deeds as imprisoning, raping, torturing and siring children with your own daughter for over 27 years!

    This book will read fast due to its compelling reporting of this tragic story. When I finished it, I couldn't believe all of the disturbing incidents I had read.

    John Glatt succeeds in writing a detailed account of this horror. Unfortunately, our society is filled with depravity like this, and I am sure more shocking things will come about. There will be other books on this case I'm sure, but this one is all you'll need to read to know what went on in this instance. The whys will come later, but there can be no explanation or understanding for Josef Fritzl's despicable acts. I hope Elisabeth and her family can somehow live a better life for their future. They certainly deserve it....more info
  • Secrets in the Cellar
    I can normally read and watch just about anything and keep it in perspective. I also normally do not throw away any books for any reason, but the contents of this book just threw me for a loop. The book itself was well written and it seems that the author did a great job. The issue for me was what this man did to his family and I absolutely had to skip around just to even read it at all. After skipping around for awhile, I felt physically sick from the revelation of all of it and simply put it in the trash. I would only recommend this one to someone with a very strong stomach for reality in the area of extreme, extreme abuse of another human. ...more info
  • The devil is to nice of a name for Jozef Fritzl!
    In my opinion and reading true crime books, there are few cases that boggle the imagination and the case of Jozef Fritzl imprisoning his teenage daughter Elisabeth for 24 years and fathering her seven children is mind blowing. Unfortunately for us, the author wasn't allowed contact with the victims who are secretly guarded against tabloid photographers and journalists all wanting her story. When the case broke out, everybody in the media preyed on the small Austrian town of Amstetten to find out how this man could be so diabolical, cruel, methodical, and truly evil. I have read about hundreds of books on true crimes and this one is truly horrifying. He showed no mercy towards his daughter or his granddaughter, Kerstin, whose deathly illness helped free them. The author does an above average job in explaining the events but it's difficult when you are unable to communicate with the victims themselves and that's not his fault in the least. He has plenty of willing and some unwilling to go on record of a man who terrorized his entire family and the community and I don't blame them. The death penalty would be too good for him. For 24 years, he didn't allow his daughter and children/grandchildren to enjoy the basic necessities of sunlight and fresh air. Elisabeth's actions and survival is amazing because I think many of us would have done ourselves in if we were ever in her shoes. I admire Elisabeth's strength and determination to help her children think of their imprisonment as a game rather than real. For Jozef Fritzl, I wanted to know more about the man's background. I felt that I didn't get enough information to analyze his motivations for imprisoning his own daughter. I hope that Austrian government puts him a jail cell smaller than his daughter's prison. Unable to act out his perverse sexual fantasies with a living partner, even prostitutes were frightened by his demands and wishes during paid sessions despite the money. Jozef Fritzl will have to answer to a higher power for his actions on earth....more info
  • Intigruing if not Well Written
    I confess to be totally obsessed with this tragic occurrence and yet another example of "man's inhumanity to man". I have been consuming as many articles as I can find. Clearly, this book was written in haste to capitalize on the sensationalism. It is very repetitive. I finished it in a day. It is lacking in a lot of details. Still the story is so horrific that the repetition somehow seems appropriate to underscore how this was "evil personified". Elisabeth must have felt like she really, really had gone to hell. In fact, when I believed in the concept of heaven and hell....this is pretty much what I thought hell would be like. It breaks my heart to see this cruel suffering. And I cannot get past the Austrian culture's past. I visited Vienna once and though it was a beautiful city architecturally, the one person I did spend time with reinforced the hubris that drove the Nazi party. He was dangerously proud of his Austrian heritage. We are less than 3 generations away from the holocaust. The energy that transformed European countries into occupied territories still have citizens alive today who were a part of this tragedy (witness Josef Fritzl). I do accept that child abuse has tenacles that reaches into areas of your life that are near impossible to get away from or supress forever. Unfortunately, though I cried through most of this book, I have a macabre fascination with this case and hope to read a more detailed account of this story. This book only skims the surface but if you are drawn to this wont find this book completely disappointing nor completely informative....more info
  • Gruesome story...good book...
    I've read all of Glatt's true crime books and this is one of his best. This is obviously a disturbing case, and he presents it in a compelling manner. Really interesting book...I couldn't put it down....more info


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