Earlier this year, in an act of misguided apologism, the animal rights organization PETA petitioned to have the home of serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer turned into a vegan restaurant. While PETA’s ambitions never panned out, it seems the Austrian interior ministry shares a similar notion of irony: He approved an Austrian historian’s proposal to turn Adolf Hitler’s childhood home into a museum.
This museum may indeed be the only reasonable fate for the house in Braunau am Inn, Austria, which Hitler’s parents sold soon after he was born. According to Haaretz has since World War II served as a library, bank, school, home for the disabled, and pub.
One of the obvious problems with this museum is its name. Hitler’s former home will be known as a “House of Responsibility,” which suggests one of two things: first, that somehow ‘irresponsible’ is an apt description of Hitler’s behavior, or, that the museum’s purpose is to cultivate a sense of moral responsibility over the Holocaust among Europeans. The latter seems improbable, considering the fact that Hitler’s autobiography was officially repressed in Germany after the end of World War II, and that if last month’s anti-Israel demonstrations are any indication, some Germans clearly haven’t gotten all that anti-Semitism out of their systems.
Perhaps the greatest problem is that Hitler’s house remains a site of neo-Nazi pilgrimages every year on Hitler’s birthday.
There may be no perfect way of dealing with problematic historical sites. This considered, Austria is strangely deficient in the way of Holocaust memorials and museums. This House of Responsibility, problematic though it may be, could be the best way to rob Hitler’s home of any neo-Nazi significance.
For those after a more hands-on way to study the Führer, you can still find Hitler’s toilet in New Jersey.
Alexander Aciman is a writer living in New York. His work has appeared in, among other publications, The New York Times, Vox, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic.