This Attic String Reveals A 70-Year-Old Family Secret

Pic shows: Rudi Schlattner in the attics. This is the moment an elderly man was temporarily reunited with family property that had been hidden when he was a 13-years-old and his family were evicted in one of largest mass expulsions the world has ever seen. Rudi Schlattner was forced to flee the family home that had been built by his merchant father after the end of World War II as part of a mass expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II. The destruction of World War II had caused enormous hatred in Czechoslovakia of its ethnic German population, and the government under Czechoslovak President Edvard Benes ordered the "final solution of the German question" by evicting all ethnic Germans from the country. Thousands died during the forced expulsions of 1.6 million ethnic Germans their homes and into the American zone West Germany. These were the fortunate ones, and a further 800,000 were sent to the Soviet zone. Rudi and his family were among those that ended up in the American zone, and before they left they had time to hide their property in the attic of the family home. He said "We thought we would one day return, and that would find a property there." Now in his 80s, he realised that this would now never happen and has now returned to make sure that even if he is not allowed to have the family property back, at least it will not be forgotten and wanted to make sure people understood who it once belonged to and why it was there. He contacted municipal officials in the village of Libouch in north-western Czech Republic who used the family home now as a kindergarten, and where it was a revelation that the items had been hidden in the roof of the refurbishments carried out including the roof. But Rudi's father had done such a good job of hiding it, that nobody had discovered them. He said: "My father built the villa in 1928 and 1929. He always thought that one day we would return and get it back." He was accompanied on the visit to the building by employees of a museum in the nearby town of Usti nad Labem together with the mayor of Libouch, manager of the kindergarten, archeologist and employees of the museum. After 70 years it was hard for him to find the exact hiding place, but the 70 packages were eventually found under the roof. Museum assignee Tomas Okurka told Czech daily newspaper Blesk: "Mr Schlattner was tapping the roofís boards with a small hammer. All of them had the same sound. Then he tried to find a string which was supposed to detach the boards which was a system set up by his father. "He told his son that he would only have to pull the string in order to detach the boards and suddenly he found the string, and when he pulled it two boards detached and the shelter full of objects untouched for 70 years appeared. "It took too long and we thought that the shelter had perhaps been discovered and the items removed during the roof reconstruction and we would not find anything. But suddenly he found the string." He added: "The packages were very skilfully hidden in the vault of a skylight. It was incredible how many things fitted in such a small space. It took more than one hour until we put everything out." There were some packages wrapped in brown paper and some unwrapped objects such as skis, hats, clothes-hangers, newspapers and paintings by Josef Stegl who also lived in the house during WWII. Mr Okurka said: "We were surprised that so many ordinary things were hidden there. Thanks to the circumstances these objects have a very high historical value." Because when the Germans were expelled all of their property was also confiscated, the items in the attic remain under the ownership of the Czech government. All the packages were taken to a museum in the town of Usti nad Labem where they have been unpacked, analyzed and filed. So far several packages have been unpacked. Some umbrellas, hats, badges, paper weights, paintings, pens, school tables, unpacked cigarettes, socks, books, sewing kits and much more. Everything was in very good condition according to the historians. Manager of the museum Vaclav Houfek said: "Such a complete finding of objects hidden by German citizens after the war is very rare in this region." Because they are the property of the Czech Republic their previous owner cannot claim them back. It is not yet been decided which institution will take the objects. Mr Schlattner is reportedly not bitter over the fact that his family's treasures cannot be returned to him and promised to help with identification of the objects, although his health is not good. Tomas Okurka said: "We can get details and a very strong personal story by talking to him about them." (ends)

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There have been many stories told of secret, hidden possessions that were buried away during years of war or turmoil.

Though they remained still and unseen for decades, theireventual unearthing is always suspenseful.

One man has returned “home” to search for family possessions that his father once hid away right before they were forced to evacuate the country.

His father had taught him a special way of finding the hidden objects, but it wasn’t easy to retrieve them. Seven decades after he last saw them, it was hard to tell whether the items had survived through years of wear and tear.

Thankfully, the objects, which had remained untouched since the years after World War II, were recovered and found to be intact. The Daily Mail spoke with some of those who were involved in the discovery.

Right After World War II, Rudi Schlattner and his family fled their home in Czechoslovakia. They were forced to evacuate their home due to an act of mass eviction of ethnic Germans by the Czech government.

Schlattner, now in his 80s, wanted to return to his childhood home. He reached out to government officials in Libouch, a village in northwest Czech Republic, where his old home has since been used as a kindergarten.



  1. How beautiful and sad, the memories and injustice of the times past and present. This man and his family she have their things back and all who were forced out should be given their houses, possessions, etc back if possible or restitution. Just my opinion.

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