Austria may seize Hitler’s boyhood home
BERLIN — The fate of Adolf Hitler’s birthplace in the picturesque Austrian border town of Braunau has been fiercely debated at least since victorious American GIs stopped the Nazis from destroying the house at the end of World War II.
Now Austria plans to end the dispute, drafting a law that would enable the government to seize the property and decide on its final use.
Discussions continue, said Karl-Heinz Grundbock, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Vienna, but a draft law is expected to go to Parliament by summer while a commission of experts considers the building’s fate.
The boy who became Hitler was born in Braunau on April 20, 1889, in an apartment rented to his parents above what was a tavern.
After moving as a young man to Vienna and failing as an artist, Hitler went to Munich. There, he led a failed coup and spent time in prison before rising to power as head of the Nazi party, then as chancellor of Germany. He committed suicide as Allied troops were seizing Berlin in 1945.
Hitler paid no attention to Braunau, preferring instead to amass thousands of works of art and make grandiose plans for a vast museum in his honor in the northern Austrian city of Linz.
Yet Martin Bormann, a high-ranking Nazi, acquired and restored the Braunau property, which became something of a place of pilgrimage from 1938 until 1945.
The family that had owned the house bought it back after the war. A descendant, Gerlinde Pommer, has refused in recent years to sell the increasingly decrepit building to the Austrian government or to undertake repairs. The last tenant — a workshop for the disabled — moved out in 2011.
Grundbock, reached by telephone Saturday, said the future of the building was not clear. Historians have pressed for years for an exhibit that would promote peace and dispel any possibility that the site could become a shrine for neo-Nazis.
A memorial stone outside the three-story building is the only outward sign of its uniqueness. The marble slab bears an inscription: “For Peace, Freedom and Democracy/Never Again Fascism/Millions of Dead Warn.”
The Austrian government and the city of Braunau have rented the building from the owners since 1972, and still pay Pommer about 5,000 euros, or about $5,700, a month.
Grundbock confirmed a report in Der Spiegel, the German weekly newsmagazine, that Austria’s Interior Ministry was determined that the house should never represent “an affirming memory of National Socialism.”