Archives for: April 2006, 24
The real Von Trapp family had a somewhat different history than that described in The Sound Of Music. For one thing, Maria married Georg Von Trapp in 1927, years (rather than weeks) before Anschluss (Nazi Invasion of Austria, March, 1938); for another, Von Trapp lost a huge fortune when, a couple of years after his marriage, the Austrian bank collapsed, a bank he had generously shown his good will as it faltered, by transferring ALL of his millions into it from safety in England!
Suddenly, Baron Von Trapp owned only real estate: Substantial, yes, but entirely earmarked for his children's future; his liquidity was gone. The children went from being privileged progeny of the nobility to responsible and enthusiastic pitchers-in: "Aren't we lucky, Georg," said the real Maria, "that we lost that money! How would we ever have found out what fine fellows the children are?"
She began to experience a strange elation. "What's the matter with you?" exclaimed her husband. "You act as if you had made a million dollars!" "Oh, much more," [she] said. "I have just found out that we were not really rich; we just happened to have alot of money. That's why we can never be poor. I'm so happy to know that we don't belong to those for whom it is so hard to enter the Kingdom of God."
Georg was tense and angry throughout the early days of their austerity, and Maria only upset him more with her insistence that he was, in fact, fortunate: "For all the money in the world, you couldn't have found out who your real friends are, and now you know." This made him, finally, laugh heartily, as, indeed, his aristocratic "friends", distancing themselves from him, wanted nothing to do with him, dreading his need.
The summer following Anschluss, Maria was ill and pregnant, refusing, against the Munich (Nazi) specialist's prescription, to have an abortion; he'd told her assuredly that the baby would certainly not survive and that her own life, too, was in grave jeopardy (as, for political reasons, her husband's was about to be)... The Doctor ordered "a very strict diet" (ALAS: I don't know of what it consisted!), to bring down her blood pressure. The whole family observed a "diet" of constant prayer, as well.
So: Here was Maria, in Munich, entering her second trimester, ordered to rest, take it very easy, and maintain a rigid, specialized diet. She and Georg left the Doctor's office and strolled to the nearby Nazi Art Exhibit, which all schoolchildren would be required to attend. The display being very upsetting to them, they afterwards retired for refreshment to an adjacent Biergarten, where, to their shock, one of the men at the next table was: Der Fuhrer.
- On that same day, Georg opened a letter from the Reich, commissioning his service to establish a submarine base "eventually" in the Mediterranean Sea. - On the same day (!), his son Rupert (who had graduated from Medical School two days before the invasion) also received an official government letter, offering him a prestigious medical position in Vienna. - Later that week came this announcement: The Family had been chosen to represent the "Ostmark" (Nazi appellation for Austria), singing at Hitler's birthday party the following April.
Each of these "opportunities" meant huge financial rewards, not to mention restoration to social prominence, after several years of being poor, shunned, and humiliated.
The family conferred:
- "Will we have to say 'Heil Hitler'?"
- "Will we have to sing the Nazi anthem?"
- "Will we be forbidden to sing any songs with 'Christ' in them?"
- "Can we remain anti-Nazi while we accept their money and praise?"
Georg concluded: "You can't say no to Hitler three times -- It's getting dangerous." And here are his words, as quoted by his wife, when, days later, the Archbishop counseled the family to flee Austria AT ONCE: "We have now the precious opportunity to find out for ourselves whether the words we have heard and read so often can be taken literally: 'Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His justice; and all these things shall be added unto you." [Matthew 6:23].
The VERY DAY AFTER the family had fled over the Italian border, the Austrian borders were closed: No one could leave the country anymore.
From Italy, the Von Trapps went to England, where, in September, they obtained tickets, as an advance against promised vocal performances in the US, to sail to New York. The Atlantic passage was choppy and uncomfortable. The pregnant Maria, on no diet in particular, dedicated herself to learning the most basic English.
Once in America, the refugee family immediately went on tour (via bus - and I don't mean "Air Conditioned Motor Coach"!). So much for "rest...diet...". They consumed plenty of insipid American "coffee" and diner food.
Again, Maria learned: "It was even beautiful at times to be regarded as poor, because one discovered such riches in one's neighbor's heart, and there was so much genuine love around."
Insisting on a home-birth (as, in Europe, hospitals were only for the seriously ill and wounded, nor would an American hospital permit her husband to hold her hand throughout labor, nor -- get this -- the entire family to sing chorales and to pray in an adjacent room!), Maria gave birth to Johannes Georg (10 lbs, 2oz), the first American Von Trapp, at a new friend's house in Germantown, Pennsylvania, during Christmastide: The Doktor in Munich was wrong: Mother and baby had survived an unimaginably stressful pregnancy.
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Especially for spiritual reasons, I love these, and other, stories, taken from Maria's book, The Story of the Von Trapp Family Singers [NY, Dell, 1949]. Her faith was great enough to entrust her life, and that of her unborn child, to God, rather than to endanger this huge and principled family's liberty and moral integrity by following doctor's orders and staying put.
The American food Maria ate during the last months of her pregnancy was...pretty junky. And perhaps at times our own dietary decisions can and should be based on many, or other, considerations. Often, in real life, we cannot afford to scruple about diet at all and must bow to more urgent priorities; in these cases, we mustn't be afraid to "let go and let God":
"Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?" [Matthew 6:25-26]
And, a few verses down from these (v.33), we find the verse Baron Von Trapp decided to test, on the day he, his precariously pregnant wife, and their children, fled Austria with, literally (can you imagine?!), only the (Tyrolean hiking) clothes on their backs:
"Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."
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Our Father: "Give us this day our daily bread"...and may it be blessed to our nourishment, as we receive it with thanksgiving:
"For every creature of God [is] good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer." [I Tim. 4:4,5]
He fed John the Baptist in the desert, on locusts and wild honey; Elijah had to subsist, in the wilderness, on whatever was miraculously brought to him by ravens! If we depend upon God, and He provides us with food, any food, in Him it is utterly pure, and nothing to be..."Avoided!"