He knew exactly what he was looking for, but the chances of finding what secrets were hidden there were slim. He tapped the boards one by one, looking for any inconsistencies.
He sighed. Nothing. But just when he was about to give up, he saw a piece of string hanging tantalizingly in front of him. When he pulled on it, all of his darkest family secrets came tumbling out.
Rudi Schlattner had been a young boy when he and his family had to flee Czechoslovakia. After WWII had ended in 1945, all citizens of German descent were ordered to return to Germany.
Rudi’s family home was seized and it became the property of the government. But now, 70 years later, Rudi hadn’t forgotten what his father had confided in him all those years ago.
Rudi, now in his 80s, had a family of his own. He had put down roots in Germany after his parents had built a new life there for themselves. But it hadn’t been easy. Rudi’s father had left his job, friends, home and indeed his entire life behind for the sake of his family’s safety.
But that wasn’t all he had left there. There was a family secret hidden in the walls of that old house… that house that his father had built with his own two hands. And now, Rudi knew he had to go back.
Rudi was finally financially stable enough to return to his home country. He had worked hard to make sure that he had enough money to support his children and had accumulated a small nest egg for himself.
But money wasn’t the only thing that had been holding him back all these years. He had been running away from the painful memories that lived inside that house. But he knew that time was running out.
Time had flown in the blink of an eye, but Rudi knew that he still had a few good years left in him yet. After discussing it with his children, he resolved to return to the Czech Republic.
It would probably be the last trip he would ever make. It was now or never. He had to know. But his family wasn’t about to let him make the journey alone.
When the Schlattner family arrived at their destination, Rudi looked at his hometown in awe. The memories all came flooding back. There was the school he had attended, and the public library he had spent so much time in as a boy.
All the things that had been taken from him were still there — as if he’d never left. It felt surreal as they slowly pulled up to what he had come to see: his old house. But was he ready to see the secrets inside?
The house that sat squarely on the rolling green lawn looked just as he’d remembered. The stone front steps, awnings, and even the molded pattern his father had cemented into the wall was still there.
He felt like he was living a strange dream, only this time it was real. Since the house had been converted into a care facility for the elderly, he had to ask the caretaker’s permission before he was allowed inside.
Rudi made a beeline for the attic, his feet taking him there as if of their own accord. He prayed that his father’s secret stash was still there. Lord knows what would happen if someone else had found it.
After chatting with the caretaker, he knew that there had been numerous renovations done on the old house throughout the years. He dare to think that he was already too late.
With his family walking behind him, he climbed the stairs to the dusty attic of his childhood home. He felt a pang of sadness when he saw that all the furniture that had been there when they had left had been removed – gone forever.
After pausing for a few moments to let it all sink in, he continued his search. He began tapping on the wooden panels of wood that sloped down to form the A-frame ceiling and his heart skipped a beat.
Rudi knew exactly what he was looking for. He just hoped that the ceiling hadn’t been gutted when the house was renovated. He knew the chances of finding his father’s secret hiding place were slim – but then he remembered his father’s last words.
He was looking for any signs of a loose board… and then he saw it.
There was a short piece of string hanging from one of the pieces of wood – if he hadn’t known to look for it he would have missed it. He grasped the end of the string and pulled.
The wooden board came tumbling down, revealing a secret compartment that had been hidden in the eaves of the house. When Rudi peered inside, he couldn’t hold back his tears.
The secret compartment was packed neatly with boxes and meticulously wrapped packages – he couldn’t believe it! He’d found his father’s treasure. With his family’s help, they began to move the items out of the compartment.
But Rudi knew that there were some logistics to deal with before he began unpacking. With trembling fingers, he called the authorities.
Representatives from a museum in the nearby town of Usti nad Labem arrived and began the massive task of unpacking, categorizing, and dating the artifacts.
What Rudi had found was astonishing – a treasure trove of WWII memorabilia. Although some items appeared to be of little value, others were worth a fortune. Just what had they unearthed?
“We were surprised that so many ordinary things were hidden there,” said museum employee Tomas Okura. “Thanks to the circumstances, these objects have a very high historical value.”
There were everyday items that offered a rare glimpse into the 1940s, such as old sewing boxes. Others were priceless. Rudi inspected each item in his hands and knew he would cherish this moment forever. Each item held its own story.
There were old toys that Rudi and his siblings had played with – a bittersweet reminder of his childhood before they had to abandon their lives and home.
There was an umbrella, paperweights, badges, hats, and books. The manager of the museum was dumbfounded by the rare and historical find. Among the items were some small and mysterious metal objects.
The museum representatives speculated that the tiny pieces of metal probably belonged to some kind of old piece of machinery that Rudi’s father owned, but they were manufactured in Czechoslovakia – at a factory that no longer existed.
Next, they found an old scale and were taken aback by its condition. All its parts were still working and there was hardly any rust – they were incredulous. Then, there were the paintings.
Rudi had loved his parents’ paintings when he was a boy. Of all the items in the secret stash that his father had left behind, he wanted to keep these and sister’s dolls the most.
But there was one problem: all these items technically belonged to the Czech government. That meant that he couldn’t keep any of it.
Although Rudi had to come to grips with the fact that, by law, he had been required to report his find to the authorities, he still walked away a happy man.
Even though he couldn’t keep any of his father’s treasure, he was happy to have seen all the items that he had known when he was a boy. He’s just happy to have some closure.
This rare time capsule is destined to reside in a local museum in its entirety, where others will be able to view these fascinating relics and learn about what life was like in the 1940s.
Rudi’s father had even packed puzzles, socks, and baby clothes – creating a complete picture of everyday family life. But what makes Rudi’s find so valuable to historians?
Museum manager Vaclav Houfek said, “Such a complete finding of objects hidden by German citizens after the war is very rare in this region.”
It seemed as if Rudi’s father had anticipated his family’s return to their home much sooner than anyone had anticipated. But Rudi is not bitter about his family’s treasures being seized by the museum – in fact, he has promised to help identify each item himself.