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Austria Will Seize the Home Where Hitler Was Born

The government doesn’t want the apartment complex turning into a Neo-Nazi shrine

The stone in front of the home in Braunau am Inn, Austria, where Adolf Hitler was born reads "For peace, freedom and democracy, never again fascism, millions of dead are a warning" (Christian Bruna/Corbis)
smithsonian.com
Editor's Note, December 15, 2016: On Wednesday night, Austrian officials passed the law that will allow authorities to seize the home where Adolf Hitler was born,
The Guardian reports.

The question of what to do with the apartment complex at Salzburger Vorstadt 15 in the town of Braunau am Inn on the border of Austria and Germany has been a headache for the village and the Austrian government for decades. The complex is where Adolf Hitler was born on April 20, 1889, and in order for it not to fall into the hands of Neo-Nazis, the Austrian government is now considering passing a law to force the current owner of the house to sell it the property.

According to the New York Times, the building has been in the family of local resident Gerlinde Pommer since at least 1880s, though in 1938, future Nazi party leader Martin Bormann bought and restored the property. Pommer’s family bought it back after World War II, and in 1972, the city of Braunau and the Austrian government began renting the building, using it as a center for adults with disabilities.

But in 2011, when the government requested permission to renovate the property, Pommer refused to allow any changes, and she also rebuffed an offer to purchase the site. Since then, the building has sat empty, though Nazi sympathizers still visit. “I’ve even witnessed people from Italy or from France coming here… for adoration purposes,” Josef Kogler, a teacher in Braunau, tells the BBC.

That’s the main reason the government is expected to introduce a bill this summer forcing Pommer to sell the building. “We are currently examining the creation of a law, which would force a change of ownership and pass the property to the Republic of Austria,” interior ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck tells AFP. “We have come to the conclusion over the past few years that expropriation is the only way to avoid the building being used for the purposes of Nazi sympathizers.”

The BBC reports there are suggestions that the property be turned back into flats, turned into an adult education center or a museum that confronts Austria’s Nazi past. A Russian politician even suggested that they should blow up the “Hitler House.”

Whatever happens, Austria and Braunau will be happy to get rid of the problem. Two years ago, Braunau's second deputy mayor Christian Schilcher expressed the frustration of his residents to the BBC. “This theme is a problem for the image of Braunau. We want to be a beautiful little town, with tourism and visitors. We are not the children of Hitler.”

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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