Buried In The Past

Brothers Discover Long-Lost Family In Austria

This story originally aired on Nov. 12, 2003.

Imagine waking up one morning to find that almost everything you knew about yourself was wrong -- your religion, your family history, even your bank account.

As 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley first reported in 2003, that's what happened to Chris and Rich Andrews, brothers who were raised on welfare by a single mother suffering from mental illness. When she died, they were left with nothing, or so they thought.

It took 30 years before they learned that the truth about them had been buried in the past.

Chris and Rich Andrews knew that their mother loved them, but they knew very little about her past.

Born in Austria into a family of privilege, Elizabeth was, by all accounts, a happy, carefree child. But the fairy tale ended in California when Elizabeth, at the age of 45, committed suicide. She was penniless, divorced, and the mother of two teenage sons.

"My most vivid memory is sitting there with a priest in a very small room and him saying to the two of us, 'You're gonna have to grow up.' And I remember thinking, 'Well, sure,'" says Chris.

And so they did. The brothers married, had children, and pursued careers - Rich as a tennis pro and Chris as an entrepreneur.

Then on July 2, 2001, 30 years after their mother's death, a letter arrived from the Hoerner Bank in Germany, stating that it specialized "in the search for missing and unknown heirs." They also informed Chris and Rich they had inherited some unclaimed property, real estate valued at more than $400,000, which they later found out was in Vienna.

"I thought this was kind of like the place we grew up in ... Home or apartment. You know, tiny. Modest at that," says Chris. "We found, I don't know, they call it a palace there."

It's not really a palace, but it's close: a princely edifice located at Schmidgasse 14, in one of Vienna's most fashionable districts.

Rich said that they asked the guard if they could have a look around inside the building, but were denied access. Although they later got in, it wasn't the Austrians who were keeping them out at the time. It was somebody much closer to home.

The building's tenant is the United States government. In fact, a section of the American embassy is there.