He wasn’t expected to find it vacant as he walked through the dusty attic of his old house. The furnishings and personal items had all been taken throughout the years by a succession of new residents.
In the 1920s, his father had built the house. But if only Rudi knew where to look, he had something concealed inside. His realization that he had located it came when he noticed a piece of string dangling from the ceiling.
Forced To Leave
When his family was forced to leave Czechoslovakia, Rudi Schlattner was only a small boy. All people of German ancestry were instructed to move back to Germany after World War II ended in 1945.
Rudi’s family house was taken into custody and turned over to the government. But even after 70 years, Rudi was still remembering what his father had told him.
Goodbye To Everything
Now in his 80s, Rudi has his own family. After his parents established a new life for themselves in Germany, he had established connections there. Yet it had not been simple.
In order to protect his family, Rudi’s father left behind his career, friends, house, and essentially his entire existence. But he had more than that still there. The walls of that old house, which he had so lovingly constructed using his own two hands, were home to a family secret. Rudi was now returning.
Finally, Rudi had enough money to go back to his native country. He had toiled hard to build up a tiny savings account for himself as well as enough money to support his children.
However, he had been constrained for a long time by more than just money. He had been eluding the unpleasant recollections that were housed there. But he was aware that time was of the essence.
The Final Opportunity
Rudi thought he still had a few good years in him even though time had passed in the blink of an eye. He decided to go back to the Czech Republic after speaking with his kids about it.
It was most likely going to be his final journey. Now was the only option. But his family wasn’t going to let him travel by himself.
Rudi was in wonder as the Schlattner family arrived at their destination and saw his hometown. All of the old memories resurfaced.
There was the public library he had used frequently as a youngster and the school he had attended. It appeared as though he had never left because all the things that had been taken from him were still there. They approached the location he had come to see—his old house—slowly, and it seemed unreal.
In Good Condition
The house that was centered on the expansive green lawn appeared exactly as he remembered it to! The wall still maintained the molded design that his father had sculpted into it, along with the stone front stairs, awnings, and other features.
He had the impression that he was having an odd dream this time, only it was real. He had to get permission from the caretaker to enter the house because it had been turned into an institution for elderly care.
Was It Still There?
Rudi headed straight into the attic, as though his feet had decided to lead the way. He hoped that his father’s stash of cash would still be there.
He learned that the historic house had undergone various restorations throughout the years from speaking with the caretaker. Had anybody previously discovered it? But was it too late?
He ascended the stairs to the dusty attic of his childhood home with his family following behind him. When he noticed that every item of furniture that had been there when they had left had been taken out and was now lost forever, he had a feeling of sorrow.
He took a time to process it all before moving on with his search. His pulse skipped a beat as he started tapping on the wooden panels that slanted downward to form the A-frame ceiling.
Rudi was fully aware of what he was looking for. He merely hoped that the ceiling had not been completely destroyed during the home’s renovation.
He was aware that the likelihood of discovering his father’s covert location was remote, but then he thought back to his father’s final words. His search was for any indications of a loose board. Then he noticed it.
Pulling The String
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.
A Secret Compartment
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.
The Authorities Arrive
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. What did they find?
Some Were Everyday Items
“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 couldn’t believe it. Then, there were the paintings.
Not His To Keep
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 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 treasures, 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.
These rare time capsules are destined to reside in a local museum, 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?
A Glimpse Into The Past
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.
Animosity And Expulsions
In total, Rudi had found 70 packages of priceless artifacts and provided rare glimpses into the everyday life of the Czech citizens before WWII had started.
When the war broke out, it caused enormous animosity from the Czech population toward the ethnic German population and the government. 1.6 million ethnic Germans were forcibly expelled from their homes into the American zone, West Germany.
A Terrible Time In History
Thousands of people perished during this time. The lucky ones were the ones who were expelled into the American zone.
Another 800,000 were sent to the Soviet Zone. Rudi and his family were fortunate enough to be sent to the American zone, and his father had time to hide he and his family’s possessions.
Imagine being Rudi’s family members during that time in history – going about your daily life as best you can, and then suddenly having your entire life uprooted and being forced to leave because of your nationality.
Well, that’s exactly what happened. Rudi’s family had to leave everything. After going through all that, was it really fair that the government claimed the treasure?
The museum posted dozens of pictures of all Rudi’s family treasures on their Facebook page, with a long caption explaining the circumstances of the objects.
It says: “The unique discovery of the cache from 1945 took place on Tuesday, July 28 in Libouchec in Ústeck. Local resident Rudi Schlattner informed the municipal office that the objects his family had left behind after the end of the war were hidden under the roof of the kindergarten building.”
Stirring Up Controversy
“With the participation of the mayor of Libouche, the headmistress of the kindergarten, an archaeologist from the Archaeological Institute of the Academy of Sciences and two employees of the Museum of the City of Ústí nad Labem, the objects were picked up and taken to the Ústí Museum,” the caption continues.
But Netizens from all around the world were not impressed with the story. Instead of marveling at the rare items, they took issue with the way the entire situation was dealt with and began to give the museum a piece of their mind.
Some English-speaking Facebook users thought that it was entirely unfair for the state to claim Rudi’s family’s priceless antiques for their own after they had been through such hardships.
One annoyed Facebook user wrote: “The Czech state expelled his family and stole his house. Couldn’t they at least give him these souvenirs after 70 years?”
The Objects’ Fate
“Their further fate will be discussed in the coming days. The house in which the kindergarten is located today was built in 1928-1929 as a family villa by Rudi Schlattner’s father, who was a wealthy businessman,” the museum’s Facebook post continues – translated from Czech.
“After the end of World War II, when the deportation of the German population began, the Schlattner family hid a large number of objects in a hiding place under the roof of the house. Thirteen-year-old Rudi was also present during the hiding.”
“It’s a shame the state can claim the property that clearly belonged to Rudi Schlattner. Governments are the cause of so many people’s abuse,” one angry Facebook user wrote in English.
Another user wrote: “It’s nice, but I would let the gentleman choose what he wants and he will decide for himself ehat to do with the objects. I think they are the most valuable to him,” in Czeck.
Is It Theft?
“Does this really seem normal to anyone? Stealing is theft, even if the state sanctifies it a hundred times,” another user commented. And another: “I would give nothing to the state. What will the state give me?”
“I’m finding this horrible. They are things and memories of his loved ones and should belong to that gentleman. Let him decide what to keep. Not confiscation. As if the expulsion of Czechs from the border and then the forced removal of the Germans wasn’t terrible enough. I think enough wrong has been done,” another person chimed in.
Their New Home
But, no matter how much Rudi protested, he had no choice but to give the artifacts up to the state. Now, their home is in the museum, where other people can see them and understand what everyday life was like at that time. “The value of the find is incalculable – mainly for Mr. Schlattner – and for us and other generations of knowledge, personal story and irreplaceable memories,” one user observed.
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.