Austria struggles with Hitler’s birthplace MONSTER MEMORIAL: The house where Adolf Hitler (pictured with Eva Braun) was born is causing problems for its Austrian owners. The house in which Adolf Hitler was born in Austria has stood empty for four years, and it shows. Wet stains mottle its yellow facade, and the wooden window frames are in need of a fresh coat of paint. The owner of the private building, Gerlinde Pommer, has been resisting efforts to putting it to a meaningful use, but the Austrian government is now pressuring her to help find a solution to this politically sensitive issue. The Republic of Austria and the town of Braunau have been leasing the building from the publicity-shy retiree since 1972. They had been subletting it to a workshop for disabled people – a usage with symbolic value, considering that the disabled were systematically persecuted during Hitler’s reign. “Everyone viewed this usage in a positive way,” said Florian Kotanko of the local Contemporary History Association. But when Pommer refused to adapt the building to the special needs of the craftspeople, the workshop moved out in 2011. “Her motives are not clear,” Kotanko said. “Leaving it permanently vacant is not in the interest of the interior ministry,” said Karl-Heinz Grundboeck, spokesman of the ministry that is responsible for the house where Hitler was born in 1889. One year ago, the ministry proposed using the house for an adult education centre and for a local social service institution, and it has also offered to buy the property for an undisclosed sum. But there has been no answer. “We have to broaden our options,” Grundboeck said, referring to the possibility of dispossessing Pommer. The ministry has commissioned expert legal opinions on the matter and is expecting to receive them in the coming weeks. However, it may be difficult to go this legal path, a leading Austrian law professor says, unless Pommer planned to install something offensive like a Hitler memorial, or unless parliament passed a special law. “One cannot simply expropriate,” constitutional expert Heinz Mayer told the regional daily Oberoesterreichische Nachrichten. Braunau, a town of 16,300 near the border with Germany, has worked over the years to deal with the fact that Hitler was born and lived here for the first few years of his life. Kotanko’s history association and other groups have been organising conferences, streets have been named after Nazi-era victims and resistance fighters, and a stone from the nearby Mauthausen concentration camp has been put up in front of the Hitler house as a memorial. “For peace, freedom and democracy. Never again fascism. Millions of dead admonish us,” its inscription reads. The presence of the house still plays a big role in the public consciousness of the locals, Mayor Johannes Waidbacher says. “Our main aim is to do our utmost so that the house does not become a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis,” he added. The group “Exit Germany” has proposed a plan that goes just in the opposite direction. It wants to set up a centre that helps neo-Nazis leave the far-right scene, modelled after a program that it successfully runs in Germany. However, the impasse with the owner has to be overcome before deciding what will be done with the building. Besides dispossessing Pommer, Austria could also cancel its leasing contract at the beginning of March, leaving Pommer short of her monthly rent of 4,800 euros ($A7,000) and giving the interior ministry added leverage in negotiations, people involved in the process said. There would have been one other option to prevent the building from becoming a burden for Braunau and for Austria. At the end of World War II, the US army liberated Braunau in May 1945 and fought back a remaining detachment of the German Wehrmacht. If the US soldiers had been slightly less conscientious, they would have let the Wehrmacht unit fulfil its last order: To detonate Hitler’s birthplace.
- Date 25. September 2016
- Tags Pressearchiv 2015