Austria moves to seize Hitler house to deter pilgrims

‘CULT SITE’::The Austrian government drafted a law to take ownership after the building’s landlord, a local woman, had refused to allow the state to buy it

Reuters, VIENNA

Thu, Jul 14, 2016 - Page 7

Austria’s government on Tuesday moved to seize the house where Adolf Hitler was born to prevent it becoming a site of pilgrimage for neo-Nazis, and the country’s minister of the interior said he wanted to tear it down.

Hitler’s family lived in the house in Braunau on the Inn for three years near his birth on April 20, 1889. The fate of the three-story building coated in pale yellow paint has long been the subject of controversy.

An Austrian Ministry of the Interior spokesman said the government has drawn up a draft law to take ownership after the building’s landlord, a local woman, had refused to sell it to the state.

The bill now goes before parliament.

“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,” Austrian Minister of the Interior Wolfgang Sobotka told reporters before a Cabinet meeting. “It is my vision to tear down the house.”

A commission consisting of 12 members from the fields of politics, administration, academia and civic society will ultimately decide the fate of the building.

A retired woman owns the property, which the ministry has been renting since 1972 and has sublet to Braunau. The ministry pays about 4,800 euros (US$5,303) a month in rent.

The building used to house workshops for disabled people, but has been empty since 2011, because the owner repeatedly rejected ideas for the future use of the house and purchase offers from the state, the ministry spokesman said.

Once the law has passed parliament, the owner has no right to appeal the decision or negotiate her compensation, which will be in line with the sum paid to home owners evicted in the course of railway line construction, he said.

Debate still smoulders over whether Austrians were willing accomplices to Hitler, many having cheered his return to his country of birth at the time, or the first victims of a dictatorship that cost tens of millions of lives.