The Trapp family story is an immigrant success story filled with overcoming adversity and adjusting to the realities of a new country and culture. While the true story of the Trapp family coincides with The Sound of Music, the film This ended when the family's immigration journey to the United States began.
Maria von Trapp, played by Julie Andrews in the film, worked and fell in love with children, married a captain, and the family left Austria. However, Hollywood movies and real life are not the same. The family did not like the portrayal of George, the father/captain, who was seen by Maria and the children as loving and open, and not as stern and distant as portrayed in the film.
Maria was a nun, as shown in the film. "The only thing that matters to us on earth is knowing what God's will is and putting it into practice," he wrote in his diary . Maria remembers saying these words to her priest mother shortly before she was appointed tutor to Baron von Trapp, who would become her future husband. Contrary to the film's description, Maria was not the babysitter of all the children and married George more than a decade before World War II. She wrote in her diary that her love of children inspired her to marry George. There were 10 children instead of the seven depicted in the film.
The family became singers and toured in Paris, London, Brussels and elsewhere, even singing to the Pope. The war interrupted their musical ambitions in Austria.
On March 11, 1938, the family celebrated their daughter Agatha's birthday. On the radio, they heard the Austrian chancellor say: “I give myself up by force. My Austria, God bless you! The next morning, Maria saw German soldiers "at every corner."
Trapp's children were influenced by the Nazi conquest of Austria. Children were forbidden to sing songs at school with the word "Christ" or "Christmas" in the title. Shortly after the purchase, her daughter Lorelei told Maria that her first-grade son wanted to talk to her. "Yesterday, while we were learning our new hymn, Lorelei didn't say anything," Maria's teacher said. I should report it. Lorli also refused to raise his hand in the "Heil Hitler" salute. Maria feared that the family would be locked up in a concentration camp.
The Austrian Ministry of the Navy asked Georg to retire and command a submarine. Shortly after, the Trapp family was invited to sing at Adolf Hitler's birthday celebration. In any case, George's answer was no.
After this rejection, George reunites the family at a turning point in their lives. “Children, now we have a choice: do we want to keep the material goods we still have, our house with old furniture, our friends and everything we love? dignity. We can no longer have both. We can all make that much money now, but I doubt it will make us happy. I prefer to see you poor but honest. If we choose, we must go.
The children replied: “Yes, father.
"Let's get out of here as soon as possible," said George. "You can't say no to Hitler three times."
Real life was different from Smiles and Tears. "The family did not secretly flee across the Alps to freedom in Switzerland, carrying their bags and musical instruments," wrote Joan Guerin , archivist at the National Archives and Records. As his daughter Maria said in an interview with Opera News in 2003: “They told us that we were going to sing in America. And we haven't climbed mountains with all our heavy bags and tools. We left on the train without doing anything.
Gern points out that the family went to Italy, not Switzerland. Giorgio, Maria's husband, was an Italian citizen by birth. "When the family was leaving Austria, they signed a contract with an American booking agent," Gern writes. "I called an agent in Italy and asked for a ticket to America."
Maria describes her first impressions of America. Stunned, utterly stunned, that's what we were doing when three cabs dropped us off on 7th Avenue at 55th Street… all records in suitcases… large suitcases with party costumes and our personal belongings. We took the elevator to the 19th floor, we couldn't believe it.
The family started a series of concerts, but her agent, Mr. Wagner, canceled other tours when he learned that Maria was eight months pregnant. "What a hit! Fewer carts means less money and we needed every penny," Maria writes. Around Christmas she gave birth to a son, Johannes.
Money became an issue because what the family earned was used primarily to compensate Mr. Wagner for the cost of boat tickets that he had already paid for in advance. His tourist visa expired in March. The visa said that they could only earn money from concerts. Fortunately, the family agent had other dates for the party. However, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) foiled these plans.
"One morning a fatal letter arrived," writes Maria. “The IND informed us that our application for a temporary residence extension was unsuccessful and that we must leave the United States before March 4. It was a hit. We burned all the bridges behind us and never dared to come home, now America will. That we don't stay here… One thing was clear: we had to leave.
The family sailed around Europe and gave small concerts in Sweden and other countries. The German invasion of Poland in September 1939 interrupted their concert plans.
His agent, Mr. Wagner, made another advance on tickets to the United States, which meant that the family would return to the United States. Arriving at a Brooklyn pier, Maria makes a mistake that nearly costs her family asylum. When an immigration officer asked Maria how long she planned to stay in the United States, instead of "six months," Maria replied, "I'm very happy to be here and I don't want to leave again!"
This mistake led to the family being placed in immigration detention. Reporters and photographers came to Ellis Island and told stories about the Trapp family's arrest. On the fourth day, the family was questioned at an immigration court hearing focused on their intention to leave. Looking at the judge's tone, Maria was pessimistic after the hearing. The family was released, possibly due to outside pressure and publicity.
During their second US tour, the family learned the harsh reality of the show. Their agent, Mr. Wagner, made appointments for them at large concert halls, but did not adequately cover the events. Wagner told the family that he felt they were not attractive enough to American audiences and decided not to renew his contract to film them. Without representation, the Trapp family had no chance of success or ability to survive in America. The family has reached another critical moment.
With great difficulty, they found another potential agent. However, he said his performance hinges on changing the mood of the family to appeal to a broader American audience, not just those primarily interested in choral or classical music. He told them that he would need $5,000 up front for commercials and advertisements. At the time, the family only had $250 in their bank account. The enterprising family began to act. They met a wealthy couple who, after listening to their story and hearing them sing, promised to lend them half the money. The Trapp family found another sponsor for the remaining $2,500. They went back to work.
His new agent renamed the Trapp Family Choir, which he considered "too religious", the Trapp Family Singers. To earn money before the new round started, the family made handicrafts such as children's furniture, wooden bowls, and leather goods.
The family's entrepreneurial spirit continued when they bought a farm in Vermont and built a music field there. During World War II, the family clashed with government regulatory authorities at the War Production Board, who claimed that the family used "new" and "unused" wood in violation of the law. Maria thought she would go to jail until the organizers relented by showing them the wood they bought 18 months ago. The Governor of Vermont attended the opening of the camp, where the Trapp family sang "The Stars and Stripes". Today the farm and inn are still tourist attractions.
Two members of the Trapp family returned to Europe, where they fought in the United States Army during World War II. It was a ridiculous misrepresentation. Instead of lobbying their father as a submarine commander in the German war effort, the sons fought against Germany in Western Europe. After the war, the family bought back their Austrian house, which was confiscated and became the residence of (Reich SS leader) Heinrich Himmler. The family sold the house to a religious group and raised funds to help Austrians suffering from poverty due to the war and German occupation.
The Trapp family survived a tragedy in the United States. In 1947 George's husband, Mariah, died. He died of pneumonia surrounded by his family.
The Trapp family continued to perform, eventually hiring outside artists to replace some of the children working in America in other jobs, including medicine. Mary and George's grandchildren continue to sing in the United States.
Maria von Trapp's proudest day in America was in 1948 when she became an American citizen. "The important day of May arrived when we were summoned to the Montpellier court: a five-year wait," writes Maria. “What a mixed group I was expecting in the classroom: Italians, Croats, Syrians, English, Irish, Poles, us Austrians. The writer called the queue. Then the judge entered the room. He asked us to raise our right hands and repeat the oath of fidelity to the Constitution of the United States of America. After finishing “God help me”, the judge asked us all fellow citizens to sit down and look at each other. He talked about us and now we are Americans.