The shocking, disgusting and incomprehensibly cruel case of the Austrian ‘children in the cellar’ has made some commentators look for sociological causes, in some unlikely places, for what is really the individual act of a psychopath. Even Poland’s cranky, ultra-conservative anti-Semites at Radio Maryja have been dragged into the increasingly wild comment-fest.
Many commentators have tried to explain, what I believe is almost the unexplainable, by trying to find something buried deep within small town Austrian culture. And they seem to be finding it in a place even colder and darker than the cellar under Josef Fritzl’s house in Amstetten.
The locals knew something, didn't they? So why did they look away, pretend it wasn’t happening?
Apparently, it’s all to do with Austria’s anti-Semitic past. Yup! Of course it is. But not only Austria's dark past. Look at this bit from Howard Jacobson’s column in the Independent (UK).
As chance would have it – let's call it chance, anyway – the unremarkable provincial Austrian town of Amstetten has looked away before. There was a concentration camp in Amstetten. Not a big one. Just a sub-camp of Mauthausen, of which there were approximately 50 dotted around lower and upper Austria. Since Mauthausen's speciality was extermination by means of slave labour, in particular the extermination of politically educated and vocal enemies of the Reich, we might fairly assume that Amstetten's speciality was the same. It is also worth noting that Amstetten was a camp for women.
Whether it is equally worth noting that the Polish Catholic radio station Radio Maryja [my italics] – a continual embarrassment to the Vatican on account of its nationalistic and anti-Semitic utterances – has opened several bases in the Austrian Tyrol, the first of them in Amstetten, I don't know…
Well, if he doesn’t know whether it was worth pointing that out - and I would argue that it was ridiculous to point that out in the context of this story - then why bother in the first place?
It says here (under religious antisemitism) that the founder of Radio Maryja, the anti-Semite Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, decided in 1999 to expand his operations in the Tyrol region, adding to the base already set up in Amstetten, the town where the disgusting Fritzl imprisoned his daughter and children.
That said, the small town of Amstetten (eastern Austria) is not in the Tyrol region, which is in the west of Austria, as is the district of Amstetten - which is a different place. Could this be a mix up with Radio Maria International (which Rydzyk did have an involvment with back in the 1980s in Bavaria) which does have a place in Amstetten?
Whatever. What has that got to do with this case? Where is there evidence that any lingering anti-Semitism in Austria, or anywhere else, had anything to do with such a freak case such as this?
Maybe Brendan O'Niell in spiked is right. What Jacobson and others are alluding to is this: Catholic Austrians, like those Radio Maryja listening Poles, are not like us. They are from the East and so do not think and behave as we do in western Europe. They live in a denial culture, hiding from their past, deaf and blind to their present.
That the ultra-conservative loonies at Radio Maryja can be dragged into a case so shocking - because it is so unusual - maybe shows up something a little disturbing about some western European thinking about Central and Eastern Europe. It tells us nothing, however, about what caused a psychopath like Fritzl to do what he did.
Update - maybe someone can help, here.
In the Jacobson article linked in the above post it claims that Radio Maryja had a base in Amstetten and then expanded and has now many bases in the Tyrol region.
But the town where Friztl lived is in east Austria. Tyrol is in west Austria. There is also a Amstetten district in west Austria, but very far from the eastern town of the same name.
We have also failed to find evidence that Radio Maryja has bases in Austria, as is claimed in the Jacobson article and the other link I give in the original post.
What we have found is that another radio network, Radio Maria does have a base in Amstettel.
Father Rydzyk of Radio Maryja had contact with a Radio Maria in Germany in the 1980s.
Could Jacobson be mistaking Radio Maryja with Radio Maria?