The “Incest-Beast” of Amstetten

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 12:45 PM
Room: 303
Oral Presentation
Marco GERSTER , History and Sociology, Konstanz University, Konstanz, Germany
Kim-Claude MEYER , History and Sociology, Konstanz University, Konstanz, Germany
Durkheim has shown that the atonement of crime creates solidarity among those who condemn it. Therefore, crime contributes to sustain the social and moral order, although and because the deed questions them. Nevertheless, there are violent acts that transcend this order in a way that makes it impossible to classify them as acts of “normal violence”. Cannibalism, incest and senseless cruelty not only evoke refusal but strong emotions such as disgust and hatred. We want to argue that crime becomes polluting and unclassifiable when it “amalgamates” different kinds of violence – for example imprisonment, incest and cruelty (Jan Philipp Reemtsma termed them “locative”, “raptive” and “autotelic” violence). If there is “only” one transgression the crime is more likely to be integrated into society. In this paper we want to address the case of incest committed in Austria in 2009 by Joseph Fritzl. He held his daughter captive for 24 years in a self-made cellar in the house he lived in with his wife, telling her, the daughter had run off to join a religious sect. He abused and raped his daughter thousands of times fathering seven children. Some lived with their mother in the cellar, the others lived with their “grandparents” as Fritzl told his wife, his daughter had left them at their doorstep. The case of the “incest monster” was of international interest. At the end of the conviction in March 2009 Fritzl was found guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was thought to be both sane and mentally abnormal. In this paper we want to analyze the case of the "Incest-Beast Fritzl” as a deeply polluting act of violence that was scandalized throughout the media. Transcending the notion of "normal violence" by combining various transgressions the crime had to be framed as an extraordinary, monstrous act.