Tag Archives: the sound of music

Chapter 7

You can’t unring a bell

“Let me know what you find out Larz,” Brigitta shouted from the top of the stairs as I headed out to the car. “You know, I will,” Larz replied as he closed the door and almost tripped over their golden retriever Max who wanted to play. “Sorry, Max, not today. I have some investigating to do.” Larz settled into his trusty Mercedes that had seen a good amount of miles. “This just doesn’t make sense. Why would the embassy and Rolf both contact us within two days of each other? Rolf had to know that Georg would find out about his involvement with the NPD.”

The traffic was heavy this morning on I-89, heading to  Burlington. The leaf peepers as we called them, were out in force, trying to experience the beautiful colors of the changing leaves in New England. I had to admit that the brush strokes that God used to paint the forests with, crimson red, golden orange, and bright yellow hues were pretty breathtaking, even if I had seen it every year for the past 40 years.
fall leaves in Vermont with car on road
I finally reached the city and headed into the parking garage to find my designated parking space. Parking garages were essential in the city during the cold Vermont winters. As I got out of the car, I noticed that my boss Bob Adler was just pulling into his parking space, a couple of spaces down from me as well. As I headed to the elevator, he called out to me, “Hey Larz, glad we arrived at the same time, I wanted to chat with you a bit about this whole property settlement with your father in laws old home in Austria. I have been thinking about this whole thing over the weekend and did a little digging. You know that Austria lost their coastline after World War 1 and the captain wasn’t needed to sail a sub with their being no need for a Navy. “I know, he has told us that he missed being on a submarine, that he had always been fascinated with them,” Larz replied. “Right, but did he ever tell you what he did after that?” Adler said with a slight grin. “No, he said that his first wife died shortly after that and that the family had to sing to help earn money after the Austrian bank went belly up with most of his deceased wife’s inheritance,” Larz responded. “Have you ever heard of Die Glocke?” Adler asked.  German bell“No I haven’t,  and my German isn’t too good. It sounds like The Clock. Am I close?” I said.  “You are close, but don’t feel bad, I didn’t know either. It’s like Glockenspiel, you know, a bell. It means The Bell.” Adler admitted. “Great, now that we have had our German lesson for the day and we are almost at our floor, what does all of this mean Bob?” I inquired. “Well, your father in law had a background in physics and was offered a chance to help a young physicist, Herman Richter develops Xerum 525, a code name for something called red mercury. Georg had no idea what it was for or why he just knew that he needed income for his family. Of course, this was before the war. Scientists are always looking to advance their fields of study. Georg agreed, and he and his fellow physicist made a good amount of progress developing the stuff. Supposedly the substance allowed for some pretty far out claims. Even though Germany which needed naval commanders told Georg that they wanted him to command a U boat, my friend within the intelligence community said that the Nazi’s probably wanted to commandeer him to work with the rest of the scientists that were coerced to work on Hitler’s secret projects.” Adler said as the elevator doors opened up. “I’ll get with you later in the day to tell you what their old home in Austria has to do with all of this,” he said as he walked down the hall to his office.

I couldn’t believe that he was just going to leave me there wondering. What the heck was Die Glocke, and what did it have to do with inheriting a house? I walked into my office just as the phone began to ring. It was Brigitta. “Hi Larz, I just got off the phone with my dad. He said that he had just been contacted by an old friend, Herman Richter. Does that name ring a bell?” she asked.  I stared at the phone speechless.

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Chapter 6

Something doesn’t make sense

The news that I wanted to share seemed not worth sharing,
now that the bombshell had been dropped about Rolf and this new movement that was gaining ground in Germany. How could I take my family back to Austria when this type of evil was starting to rear it’s ugly head? How could I even bring it up?

“Father?” Briggita asked,  “What did you and mother want to share with us?” Maria glanced over at me with that “Now what are we going to do?” look. I looked back at her, not sure how to reply. “I received a letter the other day from none other than Rolf. As you know, I have not communicated with him since that last night in the Abbey. In the letter, he said that our old home had fallen into disrepair and that the owners wanted to leave it to us in their will. I also received a phone call from the U.S. Ambassador to Austria asking if I would be returning to Austria as the owners of our old home had willed the home to us after their passing. This confirmed what Rolf had written in his letter. Your mother and I wanted to come to meet with all of you to ask if you would be interested in returning, if not just to visit, our old home in Austria, but what Brigitta and Larz just shared puts a whole different tone on this opportunity. Something is not making sense. It seems too much of a coincidence that Rolf and Mr. Grunwald from the Embassy would contact me almost at the same time.”
Georg von Trapp thinking

Everyone looked at me in disbelief while I explained the events of the last couple of days. “Dad, that is fantastic. We have to go back!” Gretl exclaimed. “How many people just leave you a house? I would love to go back. The issues in Germany are not in Austria……” “Don’t ever say that!” I shouted, “Don’t even think that.” You know what that kind of thinking did to Austria. We never thought that it would come to us, then friends and neighbors jumped on the bandwagon thinking that Anschluss would be a good thing for Austria.
Austrian citizens saluting Hitler
The one thing that history teaches us is that man does not learn by his past mistakes.” Gretl looked back knowing that she had hit a nerve as Kristen shrank back in her seat, hating these conversations that she had hoped would never return. “I think that we should investigate why the U.S. Ambassador is involved as well as let me do some research when I return to work on Monday” Larz said. “Sometimes when something seems too good to be true, many times it is. I’m hoping that these are just coincidences. I would also like to see what Rolf Gruber has been doing all of these years and why he felt the need to write to you knowing that you would have found out about our old home anyway through the normal channels.”

Maria spoke up, “I’m just glad that Liesl isn’t here to experience this, God rest her soul. She would have been heartbroken once again. I for one do not want to expose our children and families to any sort of danger again. Once was enough.”
“I agree Maria,” Georg said, “but something has been calling me back to that night in the Abbey and I can’t quite put my finger on why. In Rolf’s letter, he said that Leisl had contacted him right before we went on stage for the concert and that he wanted to help us escape and now you tell me that Rolf is one of the masterminds of this new movement. Something does not make sense Larz, something is missing.” “I agree with you Georg. There are just too many coincidences. Does anyone else know about this?” Larz asked. “Only your mother and the rest of you here.” I replied. “Let’s keep this to ourselves while I do some investigating. In the meantime, let’s eat dinner. Brigitta has worked hard to fix us one of our favorite Austrian meals.” Larz said with pride. “Maria, let’s have some music. We don’t want your accordian to go to waste!” I said as the younger children came in from playing football in the yard. “Oh no, not accordion music!” one of the grandkids complained. Almost on cue, everyone let out a laugh just in time to break the tension in the room.

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Chapter 5

This can’t be happening

I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to put my thoughts together so that when the family was gathered, I would sound confident and in charge as usual. The problem was that I was not feeling confident and in charge. This was an unexpected call with many questions, and I didn’t have answers at this point. This was going to be more of a discussion with the family to find out how they felt about going back to Austria if only to visit our old home. “Maria, how does this look?” as I modeled my outfit, crisply ironed, complete with my Edelweiss Miesbacher Jacket. traditional men's austrian jacket
“Georg, you look wonderful, a perfect outfit for this evening,” Maria said as she finished buttoning up her Austrian Dirndl dress. As I was admiring how beautiful she still looked in her Dirndl, I replied “Maria, you haven’t changed a bit. You wearing that takes me back to earlier times when the children were so young.” We hadn’t worn these outfits in quite a while.

austrian ladies dress

We used to wear them quite frequently when we met guests at the lodge, but now we rarely brought them out of mothballs. We both felt that tonight was an appropriate time to wear them. Neither of us had spoken much about the letter and phone call, but we must have both been feeling the same way to wear our traditional Austrian outfits to Brigitta’s house.

“Do you think that your mom and dad have a clue as to what we want to speak with them about?” Larz asked Brigitta. “No, and I don’t think that the rest of the family has any clue either.” Brigitta replied.  “I think that we should have talked to them about this earlier Larz. It’s just not right to have kept this from them since you found out, and to tell them at dinner.” “You know why I couldn’t talk to your mother and father about this, especially your father and the way that he feels about this whole thing.” Larz retorted defensively. “I know, I’m just not sure how it is going to all go down tonight. I pray that everyone keeps a level head.” Brigitta said trying to deescalate the conversation. “Well, once it is out in the open, we can at least discuss it. I am going to go downstairs and finish getting dinner ready for the family.” Brigitta said as she left the room.

“Kurt, do you know why Brigitta invited all of us over for dinner?” Kristen asked. “No, I really don’t. She sounded excited and nervous at the same time when she invited us over. I’m sure it’s nothing. They probably have a ski trip planned and want us all to go with them.” Kurt replied, trying to hold back an uneasy feeling about it all. The last thing he wanted to do was to get Kristen nervous about the evening. She was wonderful with the family except when the times that father became irritated over something that struck a nerve. Typically that nerve had to do with any conversation regarding the politics that led up to the second World War.  I had made the mistake of reminding Georg that Adolf Hitler had been born in Linz Austria, something I dared not repeat. “Whatever it is, I’m glad they are feeding us!” I said as my stomach started growling.

Georg grabbed his jacket as he headed for the green Willy.
georg and maria von trapp in willyMaria followed Georg as she found an unknowing employee to carry her accordion for music that she hoped she could enjoy that evening. As they headed to Brigitta’s home, they both said, almost at the same time, “I think we should take the family back to Austria, if nothing else, just to visit our old home.” “Georg, I was hoping that you were going to share that news this evening. I can  barely stand the excitement!” Maria exclaimed.
The trip to Brigitta’s seemed like it took an eternity, even though they only lived 4 miles away. As we finally pulled into the driveway, I noticed that the rest of the family had already arrived. A few of the older kids were out on the front lawn throwing a football. “Hi opa, hi oma. You two look wonderful in those outfits!” Karl said as he threw the ball to Walter. “Danke Schoen Karl. Wie gehts?” I asked knowing that at least he understood a few German phrases. “Danke gut,” Karl replied knowing that I would be proud to hear him respond in my native tongue.

As I entered the house with Maria and her accordion toting “servant” close behind, I noticed that all of my children and their spouses were sitting in the large living room. It appeared that Larz had been busy scrounging around for extra chairs so that everyone could have a seat. Strange, as I figured that everyone would be in the kitchen drinking a nice glass of Gewurztraminer along with Brigitta’s signature Bavaria Blue Cheese Mousse with Gooseberry Chutney. This concerned me a bit as this put a different tenor in the evening.

“Now that father and mother are here, I figured that it would be best to let you know why we invited all of you this evening.” Brigitta began. Curious looks arose from the family with every cilia in their ears on end to finally find out what the big mystery was. Before Brigitta could finish, I jumped in, not wanting to downplay what had happened only a day or two before. “Your mother and I also have news to share as well, but Brigitta, continue.” Larz jumped in and picked up where Brigitta had left off. “As you are all well aware, my connections within international banking allows me to catch wind of anything that might affect the markets. Knowing our ties to Austria, my boss came to see me on Friday. Typically he is pretty upbeat, but this day he had a concerned look on his face as he shut the door to my office. He told me to have a seat and that he had heard from his Austrian counterpart in Vienna that there was a small grassroots movement that was beginning to gain traction within the alpine town of Berchtesgaden in Germany. “What kind of movement Larz?” I asked, almost afraid to hear the answer. “They are calling themselves the NPD or National Democratic Party of Germany.
NPD banner
It sounds nice and civil doesn’t it? My boss told me that they have been described as a neo-Nazi organization. and is referred to as the most significant neo-Nazi party to emerge after 1945.” My heart sank as my mind went back to 1937 and the rumors of what was happening in Germany started to fill the minds of fellow Austrians, thinking that being annexed by Germany was a good thing. “This can’t be happening! Surely both Germany and Austria will not put up with such a felonious group!” I shouted. “There is more.” Brigitta spoke up. “Larz has just found out that this whole movement has supposedly been spearheaded by someone that we know, or at least knew.” “Who is it, Brigitta?” Georg demanded.
His name is ……..Rolf,  Rolf Gruber.”

I sank back in my chair. The dreams that I had been having had now just become a living nightmare.

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Chapter 4

Who is coming to dinner?

Saturday morning I arose as usual. Maria was already checking in 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 astonished. “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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Chapter 2

Where there is a will, there’s a way

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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Chapter 1

Daydreams aren’t always pleasant

“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………”

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