Austrian government to seize Adolf Hitler’s birthplace to stop it becoming a neo-Nazi shrine

July 13, 2016 8:30 am

Adolf
Hitler’s birth house. The government has sought ownership so it can
take measures to lessen its attraction as a shrine for the Nazi
dictator’s admirers. Photo / AP

’s government on Wednesday moved to seize Hitler’s birthplace
by compulsory purchase to prevent it becoming a shrine for neo-Nazis,
amid warnings of its growing attraction for far Right “tourism”.
The country’s interior minister called for the historic building in the town of Braunau am Inn to be demolished.
“It’s my vision to tear down the house,” Wolfgang Sobotka said. “For me, demolition is the cleanest solution.”
The
Austrian government on Tuesday finalised a draft law to expropriate the
house from its current owner after years of wrangling over its use.
“The
decision is necessary because the Republic would like to prevent this
house from becoming a ‘cult site’ for neo-Nazis in any way, which it has
been repeatedly in the past, when people gathered there to shout
slogans,” Mr Sobotka said.

The move comes amid a surge by far Right parties and movements
across . In Austria, the far Right Freedom Party is hoping to win
a September rerun of the recent presidential election after
successfully challenging its narrow loss on the basis of voting
irregularities.
The house’s eventual fate remains undecided, with
Mr Sobotka’s spokesman stressing that his call for it to be demolished
is just a “personal opinion”.
Reinhold Mitterlehner, the Austrian
vice-chancellor, called for the house to be used for something of
“educational value”, such as a museum.
Demolishing the house would not prevent the site becoming a shrine, the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance warned.
Gerhard Baumgartner, the organisation’s head, said
that the building should be “completely depoliticised” to stop what he
said was the site’s growing attraction among neo-Nazis.
“We are
seeing that a kind of European tourism. Last year there was a bus trip
from Hungary visiting, this year different prominent far-right figures
stopped on their way through,” Mr Baumgartner told Oe1 public radio.
“It
should be turned into something that nobody wants to be photographed in
front of… a supermarket, a Humana (second-hand clothes shop) or a
fire station – a sensible usage.”
The Austrian government has been locked in negotiations with the building’s owner for years.
Gerlinde
Pommer-Angloher, a retired local woman, bought the property in 1977,
and has steadfastly refused to allow the building to be renovated.
The
interior ministry has rented the building since 1972 to prevent it
being used as a far-Right shrine, paying around €4,800 (£4,000) a month.
It
was used as a daycare centre for people with learning difficulties
until 2011, when the charity moved out, reportedly after Ms
Pommer-Angloher blocked renovations to make it accessible for the
handicapped.
She has also blocked moves to install a plaque
commemorating the victims of Nazism on the house – prompting the town
authorities to put one up on the pavement outside instead.
Ms
Pommer-Angloher reportedly attempted to evict the government as a tenant
in 2014. Though the move was ruled unlawful, it raised concerns over
the future of the house.

Hitler’s birthplace could become a “cult site” for fans of Nazism, the government warned. Photo / Supplied
She failed to respond an offer by the ministry to buy the
building, and the government decided it had no choice but to expropriate
it.
Rather than relying on Austria’s standard compulsory
purchase legislation, the government has drawn up a special law for the
unique case, to prevent setting a precedent of seizing property for
political reasons.
The new law still has to be approved by parliament, but that is considered a formality given the government’s majority.
Hitler
was born on April 20, 1889 in the building, where his father, a minor
customs official, had rented rooms, but only lived there a few weeks
before the family moved to another house.
He spent the first
three years of his life in Braunau am Inn, a tiny backwater near Linz,
before his father was transferred to Passau, across the border in
Germany.
In 1938, after the Anschluss with Austria, huge crowds watched as Hitler returned to Braunau in triumph.
His
private secretary, Martin Bormann, bought the house for four times its
market value, with the intention of turning it into a shrine.
In 1954, the former owner bought it back for a fraction of the price.

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