The story of the real von Trapp family's home is far more sinister than what's portrayed in the iconic 'The Sound of Music' musical.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on June 21, 2021
In late 2019, the legendary Julie Andrews published "Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years," the follow-up to her critically acclaimed memoir, "Home." Co-written with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, the New York Times bestseller took readers through the story of the star's phenomenal rise to fame through some of her earliest movies like "Mary Poppins" and "The Sound of Music." Speaking to BuzzFeed News at the time of the book's release, Andrews reflected on some of the stories connected to these films. "It was a fine, wonderful film to begin learning about film in general," she said of "Mary Poppins," her first film.
After her breakthrough in “Mary Poppins,” Julie Andrews worried that taking the role of Maria in “The Sound of Music” might lead to being typecast as a nanny, according to her memoir “Home Work.” https://t.co/hlZPgHsdzx— L.A. Times Books (@latimesbooks) October 31, 2019
"There were so many tricks and special effects and animation and a lot of waiting around. It taught me the essence of patience, too," Andrews added. The icon also spoke about her time on The Sound of Music set, revealing that the movie's film hadn't taken place in the real von Trapp family's actual home. However, Andrews did visit the von Trapp house in Salzburg, Austria, later on in her life. "It wasn't until much later that I happened to visit the real villa where they actually lived," she said, recalling how she could "feel the evil that once permeated those walls."
😍 Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, and more during the making of Robert Wise's beloved classic THE SOUND OF MUSIC, which first premiered 55 years ago on this day in New York. 😍 pic.twitter.com/JoeaBS4tDY— Tribeca (@Tribeca) March 2, 2020
"Because after they fled the country, which they had to do, as in the film, [leading Nazi Heinrich] Himmler took over that villa, and the atrocities there were just terrible," Andrews added. The story of the real von Trapp family's home is far more sinister than what's portrayed in the iconic musical. According to the villa's official website, the charming 22-room structure "was built in 1863 by the Friulian Architect Valentin Ceconi. It is settled in a park with old trees in the district of Aigen, not far from the historic center of Salzburg. Soon after the erection, the proprietor, Salzburg’s governor Count Hugo Lamberg, enlarged the estate. Georg von Trapp then brought the house into its final shape."
The Trapp family lived in the residence for 15 years from 1923 to 1938. Less than two years after they fled Austria, the villa became a headquarters for the infamous Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer and head of the SS storm troopers. According to a 1998 report by the National Catholic Reporter, "more than any single member of the Third Reich, [Himmler], was responsible for Hitler’s reign of terror inside Germany and its occupied territories, as well as being one of the architects of the 'Final Solution,' the Nazi program for exterminating the Jews."
A servant who worked in the villa before, during, and after Himmler's time, later revealed that the Reichsführer conscripted slave labor to build the white wall that now surrounds the property. Himmler is said to have then had all the laborers shot out of what might perhaps have been concerns about security breaches. During his time occupying the villa, the place was surrounded by armed guards and barbed wire while barracks for the SS were placed into the garden. "One can even be seen today, serving to deliver radio messages to Berlin," states the Villa Trapp website.
"In the summer of 1947, the [Missionaries of the Precious Blood] bought the villa from the Trapp family. After a renovation in 1992, the Order moved into a nearby building, and rented the Villa to a company, which converted the villa in a hotel in 2008," the website continues." For the first time in history, exactly 70 years after the Trapps left, the public is allowed to the grounds. Today, the Villa Trapp has regained its old glory."