He looked around the attic as he walked through. It was no surprise that it was empty. His family hadn’t lived in the house for many years. Numerous people had occupied the home since his family left.
The house had been built by his father in the 1920s, and it served as the family home for years. Now he was looking for something. His father had hidden something in the house but Rudi couldn’t think where it might be. That’s when he noticed the piece of string.
When Rudi Schlattner was only a child when his family was forced to flee the country and go to Czechoslovakia. At the end of WWII in 1945, German citizens who had fled the country were ordered to return to Germany, and this included Rudi’s family.
However, their home had been claimed as property of the government. However, for 70 years Rudi held onto a secret that his father had shared with him.
Rudi was already in his 80s and had built a family of his own. He’d slowly built a life in Germany, putting down roots. This was where his parents had built a life, despite the hardships they would face. In time they were forced to abandon everything for the sake of their own safety.
It wasn’t only the hose that had been left behind, however. When they were forced to abandon their home, a secret hidden in the home was left behind too. Rudi’s father had told him about it and he knew that he had to find it.
Rudi had finally reached a point where he could go back to his home country to try and solve the mystery he’d held onto for all those years. However, it wasn’t merely his finances which had kept him from going back to his childhood home.
Rudi had also been avoiding the memories of his childhood. Memories of living in the home that his father had built with his own hands, and memories of when they had to abandon their home. However, he was getting old. It was now or never.
Life passes by so quickly, and while Rudi knew that there was still time left, he knew he had to go back now. He had the time and the money at last and he knew that this was his chance, and it may be the last chance.
He spoke to his children, explaining his decision to go back to the Czech Republic. After much deliberation, his family agreed that he should go but that it would also be the last time he travels so far. However, despite what he thought, his family was determined to accompany him.
After plenty of planning and preparation, Rudi and his family were finally at their intended destination. Rudi felt memories flooding back as he looked around his childhood home town. It had been so long.
He looked at his old school, the local library, an escape where he spent many a happy hour as a child. He felt overwhelmed by the emotions as he thought of all the things he’d been forced to give up. But now he stood before his childhood home. Ready or not, this was it.
He stood on the sidewalk and took it all in. There, sitting squarely on the green lawn, stood his childhood home. It hadn’t changed and it was just the way that he had remembered. The pater his father had molded into the walls of the house were even still there.
Rudi felt as if he was stepping into a dream. The house hadn’t changed, despite how long it had been since he last saw it. However, it wasn’t a dream. They needed to get permission from the caretaker to gain entry to the house because it had been turned into a care facility for the elderly.
Once inside, Rudi headed to the attic. He wasn’t even thinking about it as he headed to the attic. The only thing that was on his mind was wondering if his father’s secret would still be there. After all, it had been so long.
He also tried not to think about what might have happened if someone else had discovered it previously. The caretaker had confirmed that numerous renovations had been done over the years. Could he have been too late?
Rudi kept climbing to the attic, his family right on his heels. Finally, he entered the room. It was dusty, musty, but empty. Everything that had been left there when they were forced to flee the country had been removed.
He stood there as he took in the fact that everything that had been there was gone forever. However, he wasn’t going to let that deter him. Perhaps the secret was still there. He began walking around the room, tapping on the walls when he heard something that made him stop.
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.