A memorial stone outside Adolf Hitler’s birthplace in Braunau Am Inn, Austria. Wikimedia
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What Should Austria do With Hitler’s Vacant Birth House?

The Austrian government has been renting Hitler’s childhood home from its owner since 1972. Now, it’s working to legally seize the empty property.

Jonathan Zalman
July 12, 2016
A memorial stone outside Adolf Hitler's birthplace in Braunau Am Inn, Austria. Wikimedia

The owner of Hitler’s birth home, a drab-yellow abode in Braunau am Inn, Austria, does not want to sell the place to the Austrian government; she hasn’t for years. So, in order to prevent the building from falling into the wrong hands (read: neo-Nazis), they’ve been paying rent on the space to a local woman named Gerlinde Pommer to the tune of over $5,500 a month. Austrian taxpayers have footed this bill since 1972, as Pommer has refused to sell the building in which baby Adolf lived with his family in 1889.

In 2014, the space was slated to become a museum to “memorializ[e] the crimes and victims of the German dictator,” reported Haaretz. Over the years the space has served as as a library, bank, school, pub, and has housed workshops for disabled people. But it’s been empty since 2011.

On Tuesday, however, the Austrian government took a decidedly more active approach to taking over the space, approving a bill to seize ownership of the place from the reluctant owner. The bill will now go before parliament, reported Reuters.

“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,” Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka told reporters before the cabinet meeting.

“It is my vision to tear down the house,” he added. A commission consisting of 12 members from the fields of politics, administration, academia and civic society will ultimately decide the fate of the building.

In 1938, when the Nazis annexed Austria, they turned turned Hitler’s home into an art gallery and a library. I think a Holocaust memorial would do just fine there; or just tear it down, which is what Austria’s Interior Minister wants to do.

Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.