Category Archives: Return to Austria

Who is coming to dinner? – Chapter 4

Saturday morning I arose as usual. Maria was already checking on with our manager to be sure that our guests at the lodge were being attended to in the manner in which we wanted them to; Austrian charm and the efficiency of an Austrian Navy.

Getting out of bed was getting harder to do as the years passed.  I wanted to blame it on old battle injuries, but to be honest, it was just the years catching up with me. This realization caused me to reminisce about an earlier time when I had more energy and our family was much younger. Suddenly I remembered the events of the day before, the letter from Rolf and the phone call from the Embassy. This caused a jolt of energy to race through my body as the grogginess of a good night’s rest was suddenly displaced with questions and I remembered the ambassador’s question, “Mr. Von Trapp, the Austrian government wants to know if you will be moving back to Austria. ” Just when I thought that the rest of my life was well planned, no more surprises. I wanted to push the question out of my mind, but I had a decision to make.

The requirements of the will had to be finalized. Either we were going to accept their offer or let the state take over our former home. This was not just a decision for me, this was going to have to be a family decision. We were expected to go to Brigitta’s tonight. Maybe we could get the rest of the family to show up and I could talk to everyone at once.  I found Maria in our home office, a small room that we had converted into an office away from the lodge. She had just hung up the phone with our lodge manager Bruce while I approached her, bending down to gently kiss her cheek. She still had more energy than I ever did. “Maria, I know that we are going to Brigitta’s tonight. Do you think that we could get the rest of the family to show up? I want to talk to them about the letter and phone call that I received. This is a matter that we need to talk to the rest of the family about.” I explained. “I can call the rest of the family and see if they are available. Everyone is so busy. I will let them know that we have something to discuss.” she replied. “Ok, let me know who can go. In the meantime, I want to spend some time going over the ramifications of even thinking about this.” as I headed to get a cup of coffee in the kitchen.

“Kurt, this is mom. Brigitta has asked us over for dinner tonight and I was wondering if you and Stephanie were available to…..” I was interrupted by “Mom, Brigitta has already asked us to come over, last week as a matter of fact and we plan on being there.”
Maria talking

Kurt stated. “Oh, ok we look forward to seeing you tonight.” I said as I hung up the phone.  Strange, I wonder why Brigitta had already asked Kurt and Stephanie. My next call was to Gretl. “I called her number but only received her answering machine. “Gretl, this is mom. Your dad and I were wondering if you and Brandon were available to come over.” Before I could hang up, Gretl picked up the phone. “Hi mother, sorry I was just getting ready to go to the market to pick up some things for tonight. We are going to Brigitta’s and I promised to bring something.” “You were invited too?” I asked very surprised. “Yes, she said that she and Larz had something that they wanted to talk with us about. From what she said, she said that she was going to try and get everyone to be there.” My head started to spin. Georg wanted the family together so that he could speak with them about the letter, the will and the phone call from the Austrian Embassy and here was Brigitta wanting everyone to come together so that she could talk to us about something she and Larz had been thinking about. Could it be the same thing? She couldn’t be pregnant, she was way past childbearing age and happy that their children were out on their own. “Um, ok then I guess we will see you tonight. At this point, I stopped making phone calls. It seemed as if everyone was going to be there. I got up from the chair and walked into the study with a very puzzled look on my face. Georg looked up from the desk where he was busy writing on a piece of graph paper. He continued to use graph paper to write everything on from his days at the Academy in Austria. “Maria, now it seems that you have seen a ghost. What is it?” “All of the children have already been invited to Brigitta’s tonight. It seems that you will have your audience.” Maria replied slowly and cautiously. We both looked at each other asking ourselves the exact same questions I’m sure. This was becoming more and more confusing.
Georg van Trapp

“I wonder if Brigitta received the same letter that we did? Can it be possible that Rolf has kept in touch with them all of these years? They couldn’t possibly keep that secret from me!” I said in my authoritarian and patriarchal tone.  What I didn’t know was that tonight would hold even more surprises than the day before.

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Read Chapter 1
Read Chapter 2
Read Chapter 3

 

I Do Hope Someday – Chapter 3

I had barely hung up the phone with Maria when the phone rang again. I picked up the phone, “Von Trapp here.” I answered in my usual formal tone. “Mr. Von Trapp, this is Henry Grunwald,  U.S. Ambassador to Austria. I’ve been asked to call you on behalf of the Austrian government. I know that you and your family moved to the United States many years ago. Since you left Austria and later sold your home to the “Missionaries of the Precious Blood,” we thought that would be the end of your involvement with Austria, but the missionary society moved into a nearby building, selling the home to a Viennese family, the Torbergs. They did not have any children and decided to leave the property to you and your family in their will.

It was true, what was in Rolf’s letter was confirmed. Just then, Maria walked in with a puzzled look on her face. I held up my hand to let her know that I was on an urgent call. She put her bags down and waited for me to finish the call. “Mr. Von Trapp, the Austrian government wants to know if you will be moving back to Austria. ” I was shocked at the question. Move back to Austria? We had been in the United States for over 50 years. We were settled. Would Maria even consider it? “Mr. Grunwald, I will have to discuss this with my wife and family. This is very sudden. I need to let this sink in.” I replied. “Ok, I will let the Austrian government know that I have spoken with you and that you will get back to them. Have a good day sir.” He hung up, and I just sat there holding the phone. “What is it, Georg? You look as if you have seen a ghost.” Maria said.

Georg holding Rolfs letter - I Do Hope Someday

“You are not going to believe what has happened today.” I handed her Rolf’s letter to let her read it. She opened it and started reading. With only reading the first few lines she seemed to lose strength in her legs and quickly took a seat on the couch to continue reading. “Can you believe this Maria? A letter from Rolf and the explanation that we have been asking questions about for half a century.” As she finished reading the letter, I could see that her eyes were moist from tears that had welled up over the words she had just read. “Georg, is this true? Could this be even possible?” I looked at her with a blank stare. “To top this, I just got off the phone with a Mr. Grunwald, U.S. Ambassador to Austria confirming what you just read. He said that the Austrian government wants to know if we plan on moving back to Austria!” Instead of being shocked, Maria hugged me with tears streaming down her cheeks. “Georg, I hope this is not a cruel joke. This is what I have been hoping and dreaming for since we fled Austria and let the home go to the Mission. I know that you were so upset with what happened during the war that I never even brought it up all these years. Our home is where I met you and the children. I feel as if the mountains have been calling me home for fifty years.” “Yes, I was upset to put it lightly, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t ever think about Austria. We have a business here in Vermont. We have grandchildren, roots here in America. How can we pack up and leave?” I replied. “Oh Georg, can’t we at least go to Austria, settle the will and go visit our home? I would love to take the children back. It’s been so long since they were there. I want to call them and tell them what has just happened.” Maria said excitedly. “NO! I shouted. This is not a nice little family vacation. This opens up deep wounds for all of us. How can I even look at Rolf after what I believed about him all these years? The pain is too great.” as I walked out of the room into my study. Move back to Austria. Was he out of his mind? The memories of a half-century ago flooded my mind as I remember sneaking out of my home that evening long ago. I thought that we would never see our home again.

Liesl - I Do Hope Someday

As I sat there with my thoughts, I gazed upon Liesl’s picture on my desk. Just then I remembered her question to me that evening, “Will we be coming back here?” My answer to her cut me deeply, “Someday Liesl, I do hope someday.” Now that someday had returned, and I had a tough decision to make. Looking at her picture, missing her so much, I spoke to her as if she was in the room. “Liesl, I don’t know if I can do this.” as tears began to well up in my eyes.

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Read Chapter 1
Read Chapter 2
Read Chapter 4

Where there is a will, there’s a way– Chapter 2

What did Rolf mean,  “I didn’t mean to pull the trigger.” ? He didn’t pull the trigger of the Luger that night in the Abbey cemetery or had he? I felt my chest as if to reassure myself that I had not been mortally wounded that night long ago. I continued to read the letter, not believing that Rolf had made it through the war. “Captain, that night in the Abbey, I knew you were probably going to be there. Leisl had contacted me earlier that evening when you performed at the concert hall in Salzberg. I also knew that there was a pretty good chance that they would catch you, you see Herr Zeller had all of your movements followed the minute you returned from your honeymoon. I told Leisl that if I were the one that found you during your attempted escape, I would do my best to put on a show almost as good as you and the children did. I replaced the bullets in my gun with blanks so that if I found you and were being watched, it would look as though I was attempting to shoot you when you tried to escape. I was so nervous that night. I quickly realized at what lengths the Nazi commanders were going to go to assure your return to naval service.rolf blowing whistle in the cemetery
You were either going to serve or die trying to escape. When I heard Leisl gasp behind the tombstone in the cemetery, I knew that you and the family were hiding there. It was better for me to find you than for my superiors. When I told you to come out, and I drew my gun, my hands were sweaty and shaking so bad. I didn’t mean to pull the trigger. I just wanted to put on a good show and let you run off with the children. I guess that my hand slipped and the gun went off. I remember the look in your eyes. You couldn’t believe that I would do such a thing. I don’t know if you didn’t realize that you had not been shot, but you took off and escaped as I hoped you would. It’s been many years. I heard about Leisl’s passing. I haven’t been able to get that night out of my mind for years. Leisl never forgave me for shooting you. She didn’t know that the gun didn’t have real bullets in it. She thought that I just missed. ”

How many years had it been? It had been 50 years since I left my home and my beloved Austria with my family in tow. We left everything behind. There were so many good memories, yet short-lived when had to leave that fateful night. Our home was taken over by the Nazis. Our friends had been dispersed throughout Europe trying to evade the evil that had come upon our little country. I turned the letter over, seeing that there was another paragraph.

von trapp home
Our home as it appeared when we were living there

“Captain von Trapp, if you can see in your heart to forgive me, I wanted to let you know that your home in Austria has fallen into disrepair. After the Nazi’s lost the war and left Austria, they left your home in a hurry. Your home was taken over by the state and sold to a Viennese family that owned it for many years. They just recently passed and they had no extended family. In their will, they stated that when their time had come, they wished to convey the property back to you and your family.”
I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Was this true or was this just some hoax and why would Rolf keep tabs on our old home? I had vowed never again to think of that boy, even though that night was etched in my memory. I almost closed the envelope when I realized that there was something else in the envelope.  Included with the letter was a copy of the will. It had the section highlighted in regards to the home and the wishes of the owners. Even if this was true, we had a new life here in Vermont. We had a successful lodge, and the grandchildren were touring the states singing like their parents used to do. I grabbed my phone and fumbled with it until I could find Maria’s number. After a few rings, Maria answered, “Hello, Georg, I’m on my way back…..” Before she could finish, I interrupted her. “Maria, you’re never going to believe this. I want to show you something I just received in the mail today. It’s from a ghost of the past.”

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Read Chapter 1

Daydreams aren’t always pleasant – Chapter 1

“Put that down.”
“Not another move or I’ll shoot.”
“You’re only a boy. You don’t belong to them.”
“Stay where you are.”
“Come away with us. Before it’s too late.”
“Not another step. I’ll kill you.”
“You give that to me, Rolf. -Did you hear me?”
“I’ll kill you.”
A Nazi soldier holding a gun.
I moved closer to grab the gun. Bang! The Luger fired right as I was grabbing the barrel. The hot molten lead pierced my chest. It was as if someone had drained all of the energy out of me as I fell to my knees. “Georg! Maria screamed.” She came running from behind the fenced in crypt area.
“I didn’t mean to…..the gun just went off!” Rolf insisted.
Everything was getting darker and darker as I felt the blood running down my chest onto the cemetery floor. How could it end this way? We were so close to escaping the horrors that were descending upon Austria.

“Georg, I’m going into town. Do you need anything?” Maria said as she woke me from my afternoon slumber on the front porch of our Vermont home.  “No, I don’t believe so, thanks” I replied. As Maria left, I slowly came back to the present. This wasn’t the first time that I had this dream. I always woke up right after the feeling of life was leaving my body. I was getting tired of this dream, and now it seemed as though I was having this dream more often. It had been so many years since we left Austria, our home, our country and our way of life that we had known for so many years. We left Austria due to the Anschluss of the two countries and the Nazi occupation of Austria. We had never returned. Don’t ask me why. I had never even applied to become a citizen of our new home, the United States; my heart was still in Austria. Each year that passed, the more I longed to return to Austria if nothing else to see what had become of my beloved homeland since the war was long over. What happened to our home? How about the convent that my wife left? Did either of them survive that awful war? So many questions and very few answers.  It’s the answers that eluded me. I had plenty of questions. Time wasn’t on my side as I found it harder and harder to get around due to arthritis that had taken its toll on my body. I felt as though time was ticking away and my desire to return was becoming more of a recurring thought, just like this bad dream.

My phone rang, waking me from my daydreaming of Austria. “Hi, father,” Brigitta said on the other end of the phone. “We  were wondering if you and mother would be interested in coming over to our place Saturday night.” “I imagine we could. Is there a particular reason that you wanted us to come over?” I asked. “No, not really, John and I have both been discussing something, and we wanted to run it by you and mother.” “You aren’t thinking of moving to that retirement community in Florida that we visited with you last year are you?” I said thinking that was the reason for the invitation. “No, not at all. we want your opinion on something that we were going to do and wanted to see if you and mother would be interested as well.” “Oh well, ok, I will ask your mother when she returns. Love you.” I replied with relief. They had been talking about moving to Florida since both of them had retired earlier that year. They wanted to leave the cold winters of Vermont behind now that their kids were on their own. I couldn’t believe that my children had grandchildren. Where had time gone? I felt very blessed, though we had lost our beloved Liesl 3 years prior. That was a tough time for both Maria and me. I’m not sure that I would have recovered if it had not been the love and support of our other children. Maria and I were very fortunate to have such a close family. For many years we all toured the United States as the Trapp Family Singers until the children wanted to pursue their futures and not live in the shadows of another life that we once enjoyed. Our family lodge in Stowe was still going, although we had left the daily running of this to Kurt who was much younger than Maria and me. He was more than glad to answer the myriad of questions about the family.
A hotel in Austria.

Suddenly, I heard the top of the mailbox slam as the postman delivered his daily stack of junk mail with a few interspersed pieces of fan mail from those that had stayed at our lodge. I got up from the chair on the porch and walked around to where the mailbox was. With the advent of email, I wondered why people still bothered with mailing letters. It was probably due to the same reason that I went to the mailbox each day; a thing of habit. As I leafed through the mail, I tossed the junk mail in the wastebasket inside the doorway that was placed conveniently there for such things. In the middle of the stack of mail, there was an actual piece of mail that looked like a letter. The handwriting on it had a sort of strange writing on it. Some of the letters looked like the writing of friends that we still corresponded with in Austria. My heart leaped as I enjoyed anything from our homeland. I quickly turned the envelope over and tore it open. I unfolded the letter, and the first sentence hit me like a hot poker. I couldn’t read the next sentence or the next word. I fell over into the chair next to the doorway. It was as if my dream had suddenly just forced it’s way out of the recesses of my mind and grabbed me by the throat. How could this be? How could I have this dream only a little while ago and now my assailant was here again, but instead of a Luger, he had wielded a pen. My heart was racing instead of bleeding, but the mental pain was just as real as my dream. I opened the letter again, now that I was sitting down and began to read where my life had almost ended over 50 years ago.

“I never meant to pull the trigger. You have to believe me. I’m sorry Captain Von Trapp. If you will only let me explain why I am writing and why I never contacted you since that night you left Austria………”

Read Chapter 2

 

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