‘The Sound of Music’: The Real Way the Von Trapp Family Fled Austria 1 Day Before Adolf Hitler Closed Borders
It has been well over half a century since The Sound of Music touched the hearts of an entire generation with beautiful music and a compelling story of love, war, and survival. The movie tells the story of the von Trapp Family Singers of Austria and how they escaped the Nazis.
The young and talented Julie Andrews and the debonair Christopher Plummer played the leading roles as Maria and Captain von Trapp. The movie tells a very interesting story, but was it historically accurate? There are a few key times the movie veers away from what really happened.
The von Trapps didn’t cross the Alps
It is probably the most famous scene in The Sound of Music when the family is courageously and triumphantly crossing over the Alps on foot toward their freedom in Switzerland. Emotions run high as you watch the family walk into victory and a new life.
But, the truth is that if they really crossed over the mountains from Salzburg, they would have ended up in Nazi Germany. Switzerland is actually about 200 miles away from Salzburg. Ironically, Adolf Hitler’s mountain retreat was close to where the von Trapp’s would have entered Germany if they really crossed the mountains close to Salzburg, according to History.
The von Trapps didn’t do a lot of walking
Instead of escaping in the dark and hiking over the Swiss Alps, the real departure from Salzburg was much less dramatic. It was in the broad daylight the family made their escape. The truth is that they left through the back gate of their villa and crossed over the railroad tracks that ran behind their property.
From there, the von Trapps boarded a train that took them to Italy where the family had citizenship because the Captain’s birthplace became Italian territory in 1920.
The Von Trapps left right in time
The movie depiction of The Sound of Music shows the Nazis arriving in Salzburg while Georg von Trapp and Maria enjoyed their honeymoon after a grand wedding. The Captain dramatically yanks the Nazi flag off his house and embraces his children after his return. From there they plan their escape after the Salzburg Music Festival.
While the real escape wasn’t quite as dramatic as shown in the movie, the von Trapp’s did get out of Austria right in the nick of time. Adolf Hitler ordered the borders of Austria closed one day after the von Trapps got out.
Heinrich Himmler, Hitler’s right-hand man, even took over the von Trapp family residence as his own. Himmler even hosted Adolf Hitler in the home on several occasions.
The director was a bit concerned about filming
The director of The Sound of Music, William Wyler was a bit concerned about filming in Salzburg a mere 25 years after the real events surrounding the story. He was worried the residents of Salzburg would be taken aback by seeing Nazi flags draping the buildings and actors dressed as Nazi soldiers marching in the streets.
He met with Maria von Trapp and the Mayor of Salzburg to discuss his concerns during his research. The Mayor assured Wyler that the residents survived the Anschluss one time, and they were strong enough to survive it again. While the Mayor was comfortable with the filming, other Salzburg officials were not quite as comfortable having Nazi colors painting their city again.
They resisted the movie until Wyler was able to assure them he would use historical footage instead.
The von Trapp family had more members
In the movie, the Captain and Maria get married as the annexation of Austria is looming right behind them. In reality, 22-year-old Maria married 47-year-old Georg on November 26, 1927. The couple then went on to have three children between them to add to the seven children the Captain had with his first wife.
When the von Trapp’s left Austria, two of these three children were already born and Maria was pregnant with the third. So, two adults, nine children, and one baby on the way left Salzburg to board the train for Italy and ultimately for the United States one day before Adolf Hitler closed the borders of Austria.