PASSAU, Germany, May 15, 2008 — -- The family of Josef Fritzl, the Austrian man who held his daughter Elisabeth captive in a small basement dungeon for 24 years and fathered her seven children, has reached out to the public for the first time since they were released from their ordeal three weeks ago.
Elisabeth, 42; five of her children, ages 5 to 18; and her mother, Rosemarie, 68, thanked the public for the support they have received in a touching handmade poster on display in a shop window in their small hometown of Amstetten.
Complete with hearts, a rainbow, smiling faces, drawings of family members' handprints and signatures, the poster reads, "We, the entire family, would like to use this occasion to express our gratitude and thank you all for your sympathy with our fate. Your empathy helps us to cope with the difficult times and shows us that there are also good and honest people. We hope that a time will come for us to lead a normal life again."
There are also individual messages.
Elisabeth writes, "I'm wishing for the love of my children, protection for my family and people with heart and understanding," while her youngest child, Felix, 5, who had spent his entire life inside the dungeon, dreams of sledding in the snow, driving a car, playing ball and swimming, playing with other children and running in the fields.
One message on the poster, apparently from the children who had been confined with their mother in the windowless cellar, says, "I like fresh air and nature," and another one reads, "I miss my sister," an apparent reference to 19-year-old sister Kerstin, who remains hospitalized under treatment for a life-threatening illness.
One of the daughters brought up by Josef Fritzl, 73, as an adopted grandchild, wrote that she hopes her sister Kerstin recovers and that soon everything will be over.
"I'm missing music school and my friends," says Monika's message.
Very touching is Rosemarie Fritzl's message, signed "Grandma." She wishes that, "With God's help I will be able to live in peace with my children. I'm missing my dear friends and my freedom."
Elisabeth, Rosemarie and five of the children are recovering from their ordeal in a psychiatric clinic in Amstetten. They are in well-protected living quarters, separated from other patients and from the media, which have been pushing to get a glimpse of them.
Kerstin is not with the family. She remains at a hospital; details of her illness have not been disclosed. Her condition is said to be stable.
It was Kerstin's hospitalization, which triggered the events that brought the family's situation to light last month.
Josef Fritzl, who has reportedly confessed to imprisoning his daughter for almost 24 years and fathering seven children with her during that time, remains in detention at a prison in St. Poelten.
A trial is expected to begin before the end of the year.
Meanwhile, the family's lawyer Christoph Herbst told reporters in Vienna that he was impressed by Elisabeth's progress.
"In fact, and with the passing of some time, I was very surprised how strong Elisabeth is, how she deals with the situation and how much she takes care of the whole family," Herbst said.
"And in some ways it was very impressive how fast the family came together," he added.
Herbst also described much of the media speculation about Elisabeth Fritzl's condition as "nonsense."
"Elisabeth is an attractive woman; she does not look old or drawn in some way, like it is always speculated in the media. She's really a very attractive woman who would not draw attention if she was sitting here," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.