Where Is Elisabeth Fritzl After Escaping Her Incestuous Father?

Published February 14, 2024
Updated February 19, 2024

Following her 2008 escape from the clutches of her father Josef, Elisabeth Fritzl now lives in a remote Austrian hamlet known only as "Village X" with her six children and new husband, Thomas Wagner.

From 1984 to 2008, a young Austrian woman named Elisabeth Fritzl was held captive as a sex slave by her own father Josef. Imprisoned in Josef’s cellar at age 18, Elisabeth would be trapped there until she was 42, enduring near-constant rape and torture at her father’s hands.

But then, in 2008, she made a daring escape, and she was able to send Josef to prison. So what happened to her afterward and where is Elisabeth Fritzl now?

After fleeing her father’s homemade prison, Elisabeth was sent to live under police protection in an unidentified Austrian town known only as “Village X.” But she wasn’t sent there alone. Her six children — all of whom had been fathered by Josef in the basement — came along with her.

Since then, Austrian authorities and residents of Village X have made great efforts to protect the family’s privacy. Elisabeth Fritzl and her children all have new identities now, and their exact whereabouts remain a mystery. However, some details about their new lives have emerged over the years, and what is known about them seems very promising.

Here’s everything we know about Elisabeth Fritzl’s courageous escape from her father’s captivity — and what her life is like now.

The Horrific Abduction Of Elisabeth Fritzl And Her Daring Escape

Elisabeth Fritzl Now

60 Minutes Australia/YouTubeElisabeth Fritzl was held captive by her father for 24 years.

Josef Fritzl first began abusing his daughter Elisabeth when she was just 11 or 12 years old. When Elisabeth became a teenager, she started running away from her Amstetten home for short periods of time. She did this so often that few were surprised when she disappeared again at age 18 in 1984.

Her father told police and others that she had probably run away to join a cult. But in reality, she’d been lured by Josef into a new, elaborate cellar that he had built for the sole purpose of imprisoning Elisabeth. Josef told Elisabeth he needed help with a new door in the basement, and when she was distracted, he subdued her with ether before tying her to a bed.

From there, Elisabeth’s captivity began. She was held prisoner in Josef’s cellar for 24 years, experiencing constant rape, physical abuse, and psychological torture. Josef’s rapes led to Elisabeth falling pregnant numerous times, and she gave birth to seven children, six of whom survived.

Josef decided that three of the surviving kids would live “downstairs” with Elisabeth in the basement, and that the other three would live “upstairs” with Josef and his wife Rosemarie in their house. To arrange this, Josef secretly placed the three children he wanted to raise “upstairs” with Rosemarie on the family’s doorstep, acting as if they’d been left there by Elisabeth, who was unable to properly raise them while in the “cult.”

(Rosemarie would later claim that she was oblivious to her husband’s imprisonment of Elisabeth and that she believed all of Josef’s stories, a claim that many have expressed skepticism about.)

Elisabeth Fritzl's Father

Public DomainJosef Fritzl is now serving a life sentence for the enslavement of his daughter Elisabeth in his Amstetten home.

It wasn’t until 2008 that Elisabeth and her children were finally able to escape. The then 42-year-old Elisabeth grew concerned about her oldest daughter, Kerstin, who’d fallen dangerously ill. To make matters worse, Kerstin was one of the “downstairs” children who had no access to professional medical care in the basement. Elisabeth begged Josef to take Kerstin to the hospital so that the 19-year-old wouldn’t die.

Josef eventually agreed, and doctors were stunned when they saw the terrible condition that Kerstin was in. Since they had zero medical records for the mysterious, sickly teen, they requested a visit from the girl’s mother. Amazingly, Josef eventually agreed to this as well, taking Elisabeth to the hospital and claiming that she’d apparently “escaped” from the “cult” who’d been holding her captive for over two decades.

But as soon as Elisabeth was separated from her father, she told authorities that he was the one who’d been holding her prisoner, raping her, and fathering his own grandchildren — including Kerstin. Josef was arrested and later put on trial in 2009. He was convicted of numerous crimes, including enslavement, rape, and incest, and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Elisabeth Fritzl was finally free — but what happened to her next?

Elisabeth Fritzl’s Recovery After Her Escape — And Her New Life Now In “Village X”

Ybbsstrasse 40

SID Lower Austria/Getty ImagesThe Fritzls’ old home in Amstetten, Austria, where Josef imprisoned his daughter.

Elisabeth Fritzl and her six surviving children underwent extensive medical and psychological care after their escape from Josef. Fortunately, Kerstin was able to recover from her serious illness and was eventually reunited with her family members. But despite the fact that they were finally freed from their captor, they still faced numerous challenges.

The “downstairs” children had to be slowly introduced to sunlight, space, and nutritious food, as they experienced none of that in the basement. Nineteen-year-old Kerstin required extensive dental treatment, as she had lost all her teeth. Eighteen-year-old Stefan walked with a stoop because he was too tall to walk upright in the basement. Five-year-old Felix preferred crawling over walking. And they were all traumatized by their imprisonment in the cellar.

The “upstairs” children — 16-year-old Lisa, 14-year-old Monika, and 12-year-old Alexander — had been raised in comparatively normal conditions by Josef and Rosemarie, but they were horrified to learn what Josef had done to their mother and their other siblings. They suffered from guilt that their family members faced far worse conditions than they did.

Despite the many physical and psychological difficulties that the family faced, they eventually showed progress that was encouraging enough for them to leave a medical setting and start a new life.

Amstetten House

YouTubeA layout of Josef Fritzl’s homemade prison, where Elisabeth and the “downstairs” children were held captive.

Every member of the family was given a new identity and was sent to a small hamlet in the Austrian countryside known only as “Village X.” Along with continued access to therapists and other medical experts, they were provided police protection as well as bodyguards to keep them safe. Their new home was equipped with CCTV surveillance, meant to run 24/7.

Now, Elisabeth Fritzl and her children are also fiercely protected by their neighbors, who are determined to preserve the family’s privacy. They reveal few details about their new life to outsiders who visit the village. One resident said, “Everyone knows the backstory, but no one talks about the past — they have a new life and people respect that.”

Another local in the village remarked, “Given what they have been through, they are very polite, happy, and smile a lot.”

Indeed, what’s known about Elisabeth Fritzl’s life now seems positive. One local restaurant owner said, “The family is doing more than fine. They come often to my venue and we treat them like any other guests. Everybody in the village knows them.” It’s said that Elisabeth likes going out to restaurants in the area and sometimes even attends local dances.

One of Elisabeth’s relatives offered another encouraging update about her newfound freedom: “Elisabeth likes to go shopping a lot. She couldn’t do that while she was locked in the cellar for those 24 years. She loves jeans with glitter pockets and she passed her driving test without difficulty.”

Clearly, Elisabeth Fritzl and her children have now succeeded in making many new friends and acquaintances in their new town. And reports state that Elisabeth has even found love in the village.

A Fresh Start Full Of Love And Happiness

Elisabeth Fritzl

YouTubeThough much remains mysterious about Elisabeth Fritzl’s life now, it’s believed that she’s happy and fulfilled.

Despite the trauma that Elisabeth Fritzl faced for much of her life, she eventually found herself able to open herself up to the possibility of love.

She reportedly found it with a young man named Thomas Wagner, who was actually one of the bodyguards assigned to protect her in Village X. One source who knows the pair well said, “Everyone saw from the beginning how secure she felt with him.”

Reports state that the couple married in 2019, when Fritzl was 52, and Wagner was 29. The pair is said to be happy together, and they are still married today. Wagner has also reportedly bonded with Fritzl’s children. A source familiar with the situation said, “It may seem remarkable but they are still together. Thomas has become a big brother to the children.”

The relationship has also reportedly helped Elisabeth heal from the trauma that she suffered while in her father’s basement. Though Josef has attempted notoriety a few times while behind bars, giving interviews claiming that he’ll “definitely” see his family again and that he wants to “experience freedom one day,” Elisabeth has never engaged with his statements and has clearly set her sights on enjoying the present.

After learning about Elisabeth Fritzl’s new life, read the story of Lisa McVey, the teen who escaped a serial killer and then led police to his door. Then, discover more of history’s most incredible survival stories.

Rivy Lyon
True crime expert Rivy Lyon holds a Bachelor's degree in criminology, psychology, and sociology. A former private investigator, she has also worked with CrimeStoppers, the Innocence Project, and disaster response agencies across the U.S. She transitioned into investigative journalism in 2020, focusing primarily on unsolved homicides and missing persons.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.