Sun, Apr 01, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Austrian village removes Hitler’s parents’ headstone

ON REQUEST:An elderly descendant of Alois Hitler’s first wife asked for the removal, saying she was tired of the headstone ‘being used for manifestations of sympathy’

AP, VIENNA

The headstone marking the grave of Alois and Klara Hitler, the parents of Adolf Hitler, as seen at the cemetery of Leonding, Austria, on May 29, 2002.

Photo: Reuters

The tombstone marking the grave of Adolf Hitler’s parents, a place of pilgrimage for neo-Nazis, has been removed from an upper Austrian village cemetery at the request of a descendant, and the grave is now available to receive new mortal remains, officials said yesterday.

Walter Brunner, mayor of Leonding village, said the stone with the faded black-and-white portrait photos of Alois and Klara Hitler was taken down on Wednesday. Village priest Kurt Pitterschatscher said the rented grave was ready for a new lease.

Asked whether he would have trouble persuading people to let their loved ones share a grave with the parents of a man whose name is a universal epitome of evil, Pitterschatscher said: “I really haven’t thought about it.”

Pitterschatscher said the black marble marker was removed without ceremony by a stonemason hired by the relative, described as an elderly female descendant of Alois Hitler’s first wife, Anna. What is left at the site is a white gravel square and a tree.

He said he did not know the woman personally and did not identify her by name, but cited her request for termination of the grave lease as saying she was too old to care for it and tired of it “being used for manifestations of sympathy” for Hitler.

Hitler’s roots are in Braunau, near Leonding, which is commonly identified as his hometown after the village that he was born in was incorporated into Braunau in 1938. However, he and his family moved to Leonding in 1898 when he was nine years old and lived there until age 15.

Leonding itself first assumed cult status for his followers after Hitler visited his parents’ grave and the nearby family house following the 1938 annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany.

The house now warehouses coffins for the cemetery and Brunner said in a telephone interview that — unlike the more than 100-year-old grave — it did not draw Hitler fans.

Anti-extremist groups say neo-Nazis, sometimes coming in groups, placed flowers and Nazi symbols on the grave.

Robert Eiter, with the Upper Austrian Network Against Racism and Right-Extremism, said the latest incident was on All Saints Day on Nov. 1, when an urn was left with the inscription “UnvergeSSlich” — German for “unforgettable” and alluding to Hitler’s SS shock troops.

“A lot of flowers and wreaths were deposited there from people who clearly were admirers,” he said. “It had to do with the son and not the parents.”

Brunner, the mayor, said he was “happy with the decision,” and Eiter said most Leonding residents also supported it.

Hitler himself committed suicide in his Berlin bunker in 1945. Attempts to burn his body were only partially successful and his remains were recovered by the Soviets. The find was kept secret, allowing Stalin to perpetuate a Cold War myth that Hitler survived and was hidden in the West.

After decades of uncertainty and disinformation, the demise of the Soviet Union has allowed researchers to establish what they believe is the truth about what happened to the body.

Hitler’s jaws and skull were later rediscovered in secret archives in Moscow and went on display in Russia’s Federal Archives Service in 2000. The rest of him turned out to have been buried beneath a Soviet army parade ground in the former East German city of Magdeburg.

His remains were exhumed in the 1970s and incinerated. The ashes were flushed into the city’s sewage system.

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