Hitler's Birth House to Be Demolished to Prevent neo-Nazi Pilgrimage

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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Adolf Hitler, 1943.Credit: AP
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

The house where Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was born in the Austrian town of Braunau will be demolished and a new building will be constructed at the site, Austria’s interior minister, Wolfgang Sobotka announced yesterday. The decision has put an end to a long-running controversy in Austria over the fate of the building, which is privately owned. 

Sobotka, who disclosed the decision in an interview with the Austrian daily Die Presse, noted that the government was adopting the recommendations of a panel of experts appointed to examine what should be done with the historically charged site. The decision to demolish the building is being taken against the backdrop of concerns that it would become a neo-Nazi pilgrimage site.

The committee was comprised of senior historians who recently submitted a summary report on the matter. The future building on the site will be used for charitable purposes or for other community functions, the interior minister said.

Adolf Hitler's birth house in Braunau am Inn, Austria.Credit: AP

This week the Austrian parliament is also undertaking the legislative action necessary to implement the decision, which requires the appropriation of the building by the government and also needs to address the fact that the building is currently subject to historic preservation protection. 

Opponents of the decision to demolish the building argue that it should be preserved and turned into an education center, which they say will give it symbolic significance. Sobotka said, however, that there are sufficient numbers of memorial sites from World War II in Austria, including the Mauthausen concentration camp. 

Hitler was born in the three-story building on April 20, 1889. His family rented an apartment in the building, but left Braunau when the future German Nazi leader was three. In 1938, after Austria was annexed to Germany, the Nazis renovated the building, turning it into a cultural center and gallery. In 1952, after the war, it was returned to its original owners, the family that had been Hitler’s family’s landlords. It was then leased for various purposes, as a library, a school, a bank and to a technology institute. From the 1970s, it was rented to the government for use as a home for people with disabilities. 

Since 2012, however, the building has been the subject of a dispute between its owners and the Austrian government related to repairs to the building and making it handicapped-accessible, and over the government’s intention to purchase the property. It has been standing empty even as the national government and city administration continue to pay about 4,700 euros (about $5,200) a month in rent to the owners.

The building is subject to historic preservation protection in part because it is in the historic heart of Braunau. A marker was installed opposite the building in 1989 condemning fascism and the war, and in support of peace, democracy and freedom.

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