Austrian kidnap victim’s book launch draws large crowd, applause

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Austria kidnap victim book launch draws big crowd

VIENNA — Amid tight security and applause, an Austrian kidnap victim presented a book about her 8 1/2 year ordeal Thursday, saying she wrote it to start a new life.

Natascha Kampusch was abducted as a 10-year-old schoolgirl and held in an underground cell in a Vienna suburb until she escaped in August 2006. Her captor, Wolfgang Priklopil, committed suicide soon after she got away. The story sent shock waves around the world.

In the new account of her captivity, which is titled “3,096 Days” and went on sale earlier this week, the now 22-year-old says she was repeatedly beaten, starved and forced to do housework half-naked at the mercy of a paranoid man who admired Hitler and wanted her to call him “maestro and “my lord.”

“Enough time has passed … I just wanted to start a new life,” Kampusch told a large crowd crammed into a Vienna bookstore for the roughly one-hour event.

As people young and old listened attentively and clapped, Kampusch read excerpts depicting, among other things, her first day in the dungeon, Priklopil’s abuse and her failed attempt — during a ski trip with her captor — to seek help from a woman in a public restroom.

In a question and answer session with a moderator, a local broadcast journalist, Kampusch said she was wounded by people who react negatively towards her and sometimes even crack “stupid jokes” in her presence.

“It’s very unpleasant. … It also hurts, even if it’s difficult to admit,” she said.

People in the audience, many watching the presentation on TV monitors set up throughout the store, appeared taken by Kampusch.

“She came across as very genuine. … I think she’s a very strong person,” said 56-year-old Johann Hagmann from Lower Austria who accompanied his girlfriend to the reading.

Doris Anthis, a 52-year-old French and history teacher, said she has been fascinated with Kampusch’s story for years.

“I was totally impressed and will definitely also read the book,” she said.

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