Monday, October 26, 2020
Oct. 26, 2020

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In Austria, debate continues over value of Hitler’s birth home

Government eager to dissociate house with Hitler’s legacy

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In 1889, Adolf Hitler was born in an apartment on the top floor of an inconspicuous building in Braunau am Inn, Austria, close to the border with Germany.

Since the end of World War II, the Austrian government has been eager to dissociate the house with Hitler’s legacy. Two years ago, it seized the home from its longtime owner, Gerlinde Pommer, whose family owned it since before Hitler’s birth, except for a short stint during the war when it belonged to Hitler’s secretary.

Now Pommer wants $1.7 million for it.

This week, Deutsche Welle, a German news wire, reported that Pommer’s lawyer is seeking a significant amount of compensation for the building after initially receiving around $355,000 from the government. The house and its parking lot were recently appraised at $915,000 to $1.7 million, DW reported, and Pommer’s lawyer said the Austrian government did not adequately reimburse his client.

Austria had regularly leased the property from Pommer since the 1970s, using it as a space to support disabled people. But Pommer has long refused offers for them to purchase it from her. When the government wanted to renovate parts of the property in 2011, Pommer refused and terminated the lease.

In recent years, Austrian officials have repeatedly raised concerns that the house has become a gathering spot for neo-Nazis.

In July 2016, then-Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said that the government “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.” That’s when the government moved to seize the house.

Pommer insisted that the move violated the Austrian Constitution, but in 2017, the country’s constitutional court backed the government decision, saying it was “carried out in the public interest.”

There has been debate over what will happen to the house next: Some want it demolished, while others have suggested renovating the facade. There has been talk of it being used as space for charities or for a Holocaust remembrance museum.

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