Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka has been clear from the beginning of the debate over the fate of Adolf Hitler’s birth house in Braunau am Inn that he wants it to be demolished.
“My suggestion is clear: demolition and a new statement,” he told DPA news agency.
The Austrian parliament will approve in October the expropriation of the building, ending a long-running dispute with Gerlinde Pommer, whose family has owned the house for more than a century.
Then will come debate over what to do with the building where Hitler was born on April 20, 1889.
The house has a long history. After Austria’s “Anschluss” with Germany in 1938, the Nazi regime bought the house, and after the war, it was returned to the Pommer family in 1952.
In 1972, the Austrian government signed a lease with Pommer to turn the building into a center for the disabled, but in 2011 she ended the lease due to a dispute over renovations to make it more disabled-friendly.
An undated picture of Hitler’s birth house.
Pommer has also refused to accept a buyout from the interior ministry, requiring a change in the law to allow the expropriation.
The government plans to form a 12-person commission to advise on what to do with the building once parliament grants approval for expropriation.
The building has sat empty since 2011, drawing Nazi sympathizers from around the world.
The 17,000 residents of Braunau am Inn are torn over what to do with the house.
While Sobotka wants to demolish it, others suggest that razing it to the ground won’t stop Nazis from making the pilgrimage. Its location in the historic center of the city also puts in under protection, making demolition more difficult.
Instead, an array of alternative proposals has been put forward.
The head of the archives of the Austrian Nazi Resistance, Gerhard Baumgartner, told Austria’s Radio O1 that demolishing the building could still attract neo-Nazis.
“We must put something there that nobody would want to photograph themselves in front of — a supermarket, a charity store or a fire station,” he suggested.
Florian Kotanko of the Branau History Society said turning the building into a supermarket would be an embarrassment, while demolition would not erase history.
“It doesn’t function according to the saying ‘Out of sight, out of mind,'” he said.
For years, a “House of Responsibility” has also been discussed.
Kotanko suggested historical information could be placed in the building. Others have put forward the idea of turning it into a therapy center or an integration center for refugees.
As for Mayor Johannes Waidbacher, he wants the building to be used for social and educational purposes, such as an education or welfare center.