The Sound of Music History Part 3 - Climb Every Mountain

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“The Sound of Music” film portrays the von Trapps as fleeing from Austria only weeks after their marriage. In actuality, however, they enjoyed ten years of relative peace and safety before the Anschluss occurred. During this period Maria gave birth to two children of her own, a daughter named Rosmarie, and another baby girl they called Eleonore. Meanwhile the original children were not such youngsters themselves anymore. Rupert, the oldest son, obtained his degree in medicine, while Agathe studied English, painting, and dressmaking.
But before all the children could move out on their own, a series of remarkable events occurred which bonded the family together for the next twenty years. In 1933, as political trouble loomed large on the horizon, Georg withdrew the family’s fortune from the safety of a British banking system and entrusted it to an Austrian firm which was in dire circumstances. This local bank was suffering the effects of Hitler’s complete shut-down of Austria’s tourist industry, a situation that threatened to destroy the nation. As an ever-loyal citizen, von Trapp showed his support for his homeland in hopes that the economy would not collapse. But it was to no avail, for before long the Trapps were notified that the bank was gone, as were their life savings.
The family still had the house and a small amount of money, but their living style changed instantly. Their car and most of the servants were relinquished, and the family moved into smaller rooms in order to rent out the larger ones to boarders. One of these boarders brought a young priest along named Father Wasner. When he heard the family singing together as they did every day, he critiqued their performance and quickly became their choral leader. As their repertoire increased, so did their enthusiasm for singing. The von Trapps’ practices grew to six hours at a time, and by the middle of 1936 they were persuaded to perform for the Salzburg Folk Festival. To their great astonishment, this first time of singing in public was rewarded with the title of first prize, and the Trapps were bombarded with offers to give concert tours throughout Europe.
While Georg was opposed to the idea of his family singing for a living, he gradually gave in to the fervent requests of tour managers, and the “Salzburg Trapp Choir” was born. During the following months their fame grew exponentially, and as the political problems intensified, their singing was a rare and much needed solace for Europe’s disconsolate citizens. The von Trapps’ audiences included Pope Pius XI, Queen Mary of England, and Mussolini himself. Unfortunately, the Trapp family soon grew too famous for their own good when Hitler took a liking to their style and asked them to sing for his birthday celebration. By this time the Nazi dictator had taken control of Austria, and the Captain himself was “requested” to become a naval officer in the Third Reich’s army. Rupert received an offer from the Nazis to take a Jewish doctor’s place in a Vienna hospital, and as the von Trapps were highly opposed to Hitler’s regime and his unthinkable treatment of the Jewish people, they firmly turned down all three offers.
The family realized that it was no longer safe to stay in Austria. After much prayer, each family member left their beloved house with only one bag per person, hiked through their property till they came to the train station, and crossed over the border into Italy. Sam von Trapp, a grandson of Georg and Maria, reflects, “I think one of the reasons that the story is so popular is because the Trapps were one of the only families that said, ‘No,’ to Hitler and got away with it.” The family had a long way to go before reaching their final destination of America, but they had successfully escaped Hitler’s clutches.

Katrina Casey is the owner of Edelweiss Patterns, an online company specializing in Sound of Music costumes. Her life-long love of The Sound of Music has led to much research of the von Trapp family's history, including a lecture from daughter Rosmarie von Trapp and a visit to the Trapp Family Lodge. An avid seamstress, Katrina has studied historical costume in England and has had her work featured by PBS show host Martha Pullen. She resides in Oregon where she sews, designs patterns, and spends time with her family. Visit her website at for Sound of Music costumes and von Trapp related links.

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