Frederick S. Litten

(Freddy Litten)

Cover Notes on the Trapp Family in Austria

Notes on the Trapp Family in Austria

From Maria's grandparents to summer 1939

Norderstedt: Books on Demand, (April) 2023. xi, 319 p. ISBN: 978-3-7528-3507-6.
€ 29,- (fixed price in Germany)

Available at the BoD Shop (free shipping to many European countries possible) and from other online shops (e.g., amazon.com).

brief description

This study examines the real Trapp family in Austria until 1939. Using scores of contemporaneous sources, this fully referenced book introduces Maria (von) Trapp's own, hitherto unknown, family: the Kutscheras, the Reiners (Rainers), and her foster family, the Kramers. (None of them came from Tyrol.) Moreover, the first chapter critically analyzes Maria's tales about her childhood and youth up to her wedding with Georg (von) Trapp in 1927.
The second chapter covers Georg, his family, his activities in war and business, as well as the family choir started in 1934. Several misconceptions, from Georg having been a baron to his alleged anti-fascism, get corrected here, too.
The third chapter overturns the central myth of the Trapp family story: there is no evidence that the Trapps ever received offers from the Nazis, or resisted them; on the contrary, Georg unsuccessfully tried to solicit business in Nazi Germany. Nor were the Trapps in danger of persecution, or "escaped" from Austria.
Filled with details as well as context—and based on a very broad range of sources and literature—these three "notes" present a history of the Trapp family different from and much more reliable than anything available up to now, including the family members' memoirs.
(But please note that this book is not about the adaptations of the family's stories, such as "The Sound of Music", nor does it contain illustrations.)


Errata and supplemental information

Table of Contents

Preface v
0 Introduction 1
1 Maria – from her grandparents to her wedding 7
1.1 Maria's ancestors, paternal line 7
1.1.1 Josef Kutschera, Maria's paternal grandfather 7
1.1.2 Anna Rittner, Maria's paternal grandmother 12
1.1.3 Josef, Anna, and family – 1852 to 1867 13
1.1.4 Anna and family – 1869 to 1887 16
1.1.5 Karl Kutschera and Clara, née Reiner – 1887 to 1888 19
1.1.6 Jacques, Anna, and Maria Deininger – 1891 to 1902 23
1.1.7 Karl again – 1903 25
1.2 Maria's ancestors, maternal line 28
1.2.1 Katharina Hatzmann, Maria's maternal grandmother 28
1.2.2 Karl Reiner and his ancestors 30
1.2.3 Katharina Hatzmann – 1870 to 1873 38
1.2.4 Karl Reiner's ancestors, once more 39
1.2.5 Karl and Katharina Reiner and their daughters – 1873 to 1903 44
1.3 Maria – 1905 to 1915 48
1.3.1 Karl Kutschera and Augusta Reiner – 1903 48
1.3.2 Maria Reiner and Franz Mayer – 1904 49
1.3.3 Maria's birth – 1905 50
1.3.4 Digression: Maria and Tyrol 54
1.3.5 Augusta's death and the family – 1905 to 1906 56
1.3.6 The Kramer-Kutschera connection 59
1.3.7 The Kramer family 60
1.3.8 Maria's childhood and the Kramers – 1906 to 1914 64
1.3.9 Maria and her father – 1906 to 1915 68
1.4 Maria – 1916 to 1927 74
1.4.1 "Uncle Franz" and school – 1916 to 1919 74
1.4.2 Farewell to the Kramers and to Karl Kutschera jr. 77
1.4.3 Becoming a teacher – 1919 to 1924 80
1.4.4 And becoming religious again? – 19XX to 1924 86
1.4.5 Coming to Salzburg and Nonnberg Abbey school – 1924 to 1925 91
1.4.6 From Nonnberg to the Trapps – 1926 to 1927 97
1.5 Maria – the streamlined version 105
2 The Trapp family until early 1938 119
2.1 Family 119
2.2 War 127
2.3 Citizenship and titles 132
2.4 Business and finance 137
2.5 Music 145
2.6 Father Franz Wasner 154
2.7 Politics and patriotism 157
2.8 Summary: The Trapps until early 1938 165
3 The Trapps and Austria/Germany in 1938/1939 175
3.1 March to September 1938 – Maria's recollections 176
3.2 March to October 1938 – other family recollections 181
3.3 Analysis 187
3.3.1 The "flag incident" 187
3.3.2 The visit to Munich 188
3.3.3 The Vienna "invitation" to Rupert 190
3.3.4 The German Navy's "invitation" to Georg 194
3.3.5 Singing for Hitler? – The Trapps and Germany 198
3.3.6 Leaving "Austria" in 1938 211
3.4 Digression: The Villa Trapp – 1938 to 1948 219
3.5 1939: USA – "Austria" – USA 223
3.6 Synthesis 232
4 Afterword 239
References 241

Errata and supplemental information:
p. 87, line 4: the reference "[BL:250]" should read "[B40:250]".
p. 96: About three months after Maria had begun at Nonnberg school, she enrolled on 16 February 1925 at the Mozarteum in Salzburg (see also p. 145f.) in a preparatory course in lute playing, which she had to pay for. (Her "accomodation" is given as "female teacher, Nonnberg Abbey.") No grades or leaving date were noted on her student's registration sheet, so we do not know whether she completed what was technically the second semester of the 1924/25 school year. (Source: Universität Mozarteum – Archiv (Kunst-ARCHIV-Raum): Matrikel-Nr. 2508: Studienblatt Maria Gusti Kutschera. See also this press release in German.)
p. 101, footnote 131: (Baroness) Margarete "Reta" Antonie Maria von Mandelsloh was born on 27 February 1879 in Salzburg and died on 4 May 1963 in Neumarkt-Sankt Veit (Upper Bavaria). (Source: Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels. Vol. 69. (= Freiherrliche Häuser A, vol. 11.) Limburg an der Lahn: C. A. Starke Verlag, 1979, p. 168.) According to a personal communication by one of her grand-nephews (4 March 2024), she worked for the Trapps at some stage, but possibly more as a governess than as a housekeeper. (After the second world war the Trapps sent care packages and letters to her.) Maria's and Agathe's claim that she had been an "elderly lady" clashes with the fact that she was only about one year older than Georg.
p. 120, line 10: According to the birth register entries of her three children [M176; M177; M178], Emilie Friederike Hedwig Wepler, Georg's mother, came from Eisenach, in the Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. However, just as has often been claimed–including in my book–she was born in Schloss Wildeck near Obersuhl (located in Hesse-Cassel a.k.a. the Electorate of Hesse, not in the Grand Duchy of Hesse) as Emilie Friedericke[!] Hedwig Wepler. (For confirmation see (Evangelische Kirche von Kurhessen-Waldeck): Tauf-Buch für die Gemeinde Obersuhl nebst Wildeck, Blumenstein, Libenz, Almushof und Schildhof [baptism register for the parish of Obersuhl, including Wildeck, Blumenstein, Libenz, Almushof and Schildhof], vol. 2, 1850-1869, p. 71, 1855, nr. 343.) While Hedwig's father worked in Erfurt at the time of her birth, the family later lived in Eisenach, which likely explains the claim in the birth register entries of her children.
p. 178, footnote 232: Concerning Maria's alleged antisemitism, Saul Jay Singer has published a letter by Maria, dated 21 August 1944, and a reply by her publicist, Alix S. Williamson, dated 23 August 1944. According to Singer, "[r]eading between the lines of Williamson's missive, Maria's antisemitic animus is evident [...]." (Singer, Saul Jay: Maria von Tropp[!] and The Sound of Music: The 'Jewish Angle'. In: JewishPress.com, 13 March 2024, www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/features-on-jewish-world/maria-von-tropp-and-the-sound-of-music-the-jewish-angle/2024/03/13/.) I leave it to the reader to appraise Maria's letter and Singer's interpretation.
p. 180, note 234: I now have proof that Georg did get a military pension in Italy, even as late as 1941, which was taxed and paid into an escrow account there. Also, Rupert and Werner received rent in the same way for their shares in houses in Fiume (see also p. 142, middle of the page).
p. 221, middle of the page: the Villa Trapp was not called "Alpenquartier", and not renamed "Feldkommandostelle Bergwald" in mid-November 1942. The first claim was due to a misunderstanding of mine of [B207:36], the second is more complicated because there existed a "Feldkommandostelle Bergwald" since 14 November 1942, but this name was not (yet) referring to the Villa Trapp.
p. 221, footnote 285: I have revised my opinion that "the Villa Trapp played only a marginal role in Himmler's activities, and certainly none in the planning of the Endlösung [...]." From March to July 1944 Himmler often stayed at "Bergwald", which now designated the Villa Trapp, and during that time the deportation and murder of the Hungarian Jews and other crimes were orchestrated. I will cover this in a more thoroughly researched article (in German) on the Villa Trapp between 1937 and 1948, which will be put up on this website and linked from here when finished. My apologies for not getting this right in my book.
p. 225f., for quite some time now, Dutch media have been reporting that the Trapps stayed in a villa in Loenen, owned by the banker Menten, in the province of Gelderland in the Netherlands in 1938 and 1939 for one and a half years (https://www.destentor.nl/apeldoorn/hier-woonde-de-familie-von-trapp~a4c13d98/, https://www.ad.nl/apeldoorn/loenen-en-von-trapp~a35b4e3c/, https://www.gld.nl/nieuws/2051765/sound-of-music-familie-zong-op-plein-in-loenen, https://www.gld.nl/nieuws/8113624/sound-of-music-familie-von-trapp-dook-onder-in-loenen). Of course, except for the stay in the Netherlands in June 1939, the confirmed whereabouts of the Trapps leave no opening for any extended time in that country – let alone an impossible one and a half years. It is possible that they had been in Loenen for a few days in December 1937, around the time they gave a concert in The Hague on 15 December,[W70] and again in summer 1939, either in June (see also [W70]), or briefly at the end of July when they met up in Amsterdam, according to Agathe.[B176:153] However, the Trapps certainly stayed in a villa owned by Menten in Warmond in June 1939 (see also [B197:166], which shows a handwritten entry of "Warmond" in Wasner's passport), so they could have been in Loenen for only part of June, if they were there at all in that month.
Incidentally, there is no explanation for how the songs in the movie "The Sound of Music", written by Rodgers and Hammerstein in the 1950s in the US and very different in type from what the Trapps themselves had sung, could have reminded the man quoted in the first article of the Trapps' concert in Loenen in 1939. Nor is any source given for the claim in the second article that the Trapps, while still in Austria, had regularily received financial support from Menten, whom they allegedly knew from a shared interest in anthroposophy. The third article claims that it was Menten who enabled the Trapps to emigrate, on their second attempt, to the US. (Of course, no source is given; nor is this claim credible.) The fourth, very recent, article claims that Georg had learned cello at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, played it there in the 1930s, and sang the tenor part in the family choir – obviously the author, or her source, confused Georg with his second son, Werner. That article, too, spreads the nonsense that the Trapps had stayed in Loenen for one and a half years.
p. 240, middle of second paragraph should read: "In this context Georg and Maria were, sad to say, like rather ordinary Austrians, [...]".
p. 240, last paragraph: It would have been fair to mention the "Trapp Family Austrian Relief" here again, without Winter's criticism. (See p. 79, footnote 105.)

Notice (10 January 2024):
Church register entries on Maria and her paternal family, listed for the first time in my book, have been used by someone in early January 2024 to make changes to the English Wikipedia article on Maria von Trapp, without my book being mentioned. However, that article and other Wikipedia articles (regardless of language) concerning the historical Trapps and the adaptations of their stories still contain quite a lot of erroneous, or dubious, information. (A minor example: Although reference is made to the birth and baptism register in the English Wikipedia text on Maria, she was baptized as Maria Auguste, not Maria Augusta as claimed in the text and in the info box.)

23.4.2024