Josef Fritzl: Is ‘The Girl in the Basement’ Based on a True Story?

josef fritzl now

Getty Josef Fritzl pictured alongside the house where he admitted to keeping his daughter and her children in captivity for 24 years.

Josef Fritzl is the Austrian father who admitted to keeping his daughter captive in his basement for 24 years while sexually abusing her. He is serving life in prison. The February 2021 Lifetime movie The Girl in the Basement is based on the true story of the Fritzl case.

Fritzl, who was born April 9, 1935, and is now 85, has served more than 10 years of a life sentence at Krems-Steins prison, the most secure psychiatric jail in Austria, according to The Mirror. The news site writes that Fritzl, “is said to be extremely unpopular with other inmates and has to be kept in solitary confinement with four guards watching him.”

According to The Guardian, Fritzl kept his daughter, Elisabeth Fritzl, locked in his basement at their home in the town of Amstetten, Austria, from just after her 18th birthday in 1984 until she escaped captivity in 2008, according to The Guardian. He sexually abused his daughter, fathering seven children, three of which he raised upstairs with his wife and three of which lived with Elisabeth below the family, according to the newspaper. One child died shortly after birth. He kept her hidden by telling his family she had run away and possibly joined a religious cult, according to The Independent.

When one of Elisabeth’s children became ill, Fritzl took the 19-year-old girl to the hospital for treatment, leading to the discovery of his crimes, The Guardian reported. He pleaded guilty in 2009 to charges of enslavement, incest, rape, coercion and false imprisonment and was sentenced to life in prison, authorities said.

The Girl in the Basement tells a similar story, but with details changed. It is set in the U.S. and not in Austria. The movie premiered on February 27, 2021.

Here’s what you need to know about the latest on where Josef Fritzl is now:


Fritzl Was Reported to Be Ill & Telling Fellow Inmates He ‘Doesn’t Want to Live Anymore’ in 2019

josef fritzl

GettyJosef Fritzl.

In 2019, Fritzl was reported to be ill, according to the British newspaper Metro. The then-84-year-old was reported to be telling fellow inmates his health was declining and he “doesn’t want to live anymore.” He was said to be suffering from dementia. The news was first reported by a local outlet, Oesterreich, which spoke to an inmate at the prison.

The inmate told the Austrian newspaper, “Fritzl was and still is separate from everyone else. He has totally withdrawn himself and barely leaves his cell. He doesn’t want contact with others, and all together is looks as though he has resigned himself to dying.” The inmate said about Fritzl, “Just hearing his name makes me nauseous.” Austrian authorities could not be reached for comment for an update on Fritzl’s health in February 2021.

According to Metro, Elisabeth Fritzl has not had any contact with her father since he has been in prison. She lives in Austria under a new alias with her six children, according to the newspaper.


Fritzl Lost His Teeth in a Prison Attack & Tried to Change His Name to Be More Anonymous While Behind Bars

josef fritzl

GettyIn this handout picture Josef Fritzl covers his face as he arrives at the second day of his trial at the country court of St. Poelten on March 17, 2009 in St. Poelten, Austria.

The nature of Fritzl’s crimes and the notoriety he has gained have made the octogenarian a target of his fellow inmates at the Austrian prison, according to reports. In 2016, it was reported he lost teeth when he was attacked in a fight over a fake dating website profile, according to Express.

The newspaper wrote, “Fritzl was reportedly furious when Austrian media discovered that he had apparently set up a dating profile. When one of those he believed to be responsible ended up with him in the solitary wing, the two used a moment when the guards were distracted to get together and argue, which ended with Fritzl being beaten. Fritzl, came off worst and had several of his teeth knocked out. Managers at Lower Austria’s Stein prison said that due to the animosity towards him, Fritzl is normally watched by four guards.

According to The Mirror, Fritzl at one point changed his name to Josef Mayrhoff, paying 545.60 euros to do so, in an effort to be more anonymous while behind bars. “Although no official statement has been released about the prisoner, who carries the official prison number of HNR 90632, unnamed prison insiders claim the incest monster wants to spend the last days of his life in ‘anonymity,'” The Mirror wrote in 2018.

According to an English language Austrian news site, The Local, there have been complaints about poor conditions, neglect and mistreatment at the Krems-Stein prison. In the 2014 report, the news site wrote, “An elderly inmate in Krems-Stein prison was held in shocking conditions for several months. The man’s legs were severely inflamed and covered with calluses, and needed medical attention. Prison officers told Falter that a ‘strong odour of decay’ was noticeable from his cell.”

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