Austrian government to demolish house where Hitler was born

The building, which has served as an attraction for neo-Nazis, will be replaced with one that has nothing to do with the fascist dictator.

Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters/File
A stone outside the house in which Adolf Hitler was born, with the inscription 'For peace, freedom and democracy, never again fascism, millions of dead are a warning', is pictured in Braunau am Inn, Austria, in 2012.

After years of controversy, the Austrian house where Adolf Hitler was born could be torn down, Austria's government announced Monday. If sealed in legislation and voted on in Parliament, the demolition, or at least complete conversion, would be followed by the erection of a new building.

The 17th century, three-story guest house, where Hitler’s family rented an upstairs bedroom for a short period, is located in Braunau am Inn, a town in northern Austria that borders Germany. A committee of experts, including historians, officials, and the head of Austria's largest Jewish organization recommended its “thorough architectural rearrangement” to eliminate any association with Hitler from the site, which attracts neo-Nazi visitors.

"The Hitler house will be torn down,” Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka told Austrian newspaper Die Presse on Monday, according to the BBC. “The foundations can remain but a new building will be erected. It will be be used by either a charity or the local authorities."

Hitler was born at the house on April 20, 1889. The house served as a shrine to the notorious dictator during Nazi rule, drawing a flood of tourists, reports the BBC, but it was shut down after Germany began to lose World War II. In the intervening years it was used as a daycare facility for people with disabilities, although it has been empty since 2011.

Today it is owned by Gerlinde Pommer, who has refused to sell or refurbish the building. The Austrian government has rented the property from her since 1972 to prevent unsavory use of the property. This year, the government began the process of legally taking it over from Ms. Pommer. A draft law outlining the takeover will be put to a vote in Parliament by the end of the year.

Since there are few structures linked to Hitler that have survived, some historians want to see the Braunau building and the Hitler family room preserved.

A house where Hitler’s family lived when he was as a teenager, in nearby Leonding, today stores coffins for the town cemetery. But a tombstone marking the grave of his parents, another Neo-Nazi tourist destination, was removed last year at the request of a descendant. A school Hitler attended in Fischlham, near Braunau, still stands, but with a plaque condemning his atrocious crimes.

The Berlin underground bunker where Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945, was demolished and the site left vacant until the late 1980s, when the East German government built an apartment complex around it.

This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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