According to various sources, Josef Fritzl’s childhood was troubled. He was born on April 9th, 1935, in Austria, and was raised as an unwanted only child. Fritzl has described his childhood as very difficult, and it is believed that he suffered abuse at the hands of his own parents.
A psychiatrist who analyzed Fritzl during his trial for imprisoning and raping his daughter, Elisabeth, suggested that Fritzl’s actions may have been a way of compensating for his loveless childhood. Fritzl himself has also blamed his troubled upbringing for his crimes.
She said that Fritzl, now 73, had struggled throughout his childhood to form a relationship with his mother but that “it was impossible to build up any sort of bond of trust with her”.
The fear he felt by her constant absences was never more intense than during second world war bombing raids on their home town of Amstetten: Fritzl’s mother refused to take refuge in the air-raid shelter near to the family home, insisting on staying in the house and sending her son into the underground shelter instead. “As a result he suffered from an overwhelming sense of anxiety, not knowing when the air raid was over whether or not the only person in the world to whom he had any relationship would still be alive,” said Kastner.
She said he developed strategies to learn to cope with life, including “pushing his feelings into the cellar of his soul”. She said there was “much of the volcano about him”, explaining that violent sex had provided the main outlet for his pent-up feelings.
His decision to lock up his daughter stemmed from a need to compensate for the years during which his mother had dominated him. “He developed an overwhelming desire to exert power – to dominate, control and possess another person. These were fantasies that grew and grew and which he managed to realise.”
She said one reason as to why he chose Elisabeth, his fourth of seven children, was because of the resistance she showed towards her father. “If you conquer someone you consider strong and stubborn, the effect is all the more gratifying.”