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Austrian court: State seizure of Hitler's home lawful

June 30, 2017

Austria's constitutional court has ruled government seizure of Adolf Hitler's childhood home in Braunau am Inn was lawful. The Austrian government had seized the home because it was a meeting place for neo-Nazis.

Österreich Hitler-Haus in Braunau am Inn
Image: picture alliance/AA/E. Vlasopoulos

Austria's constitutional court (the VFGH) ruled against Gerlinde Pommer-Angloher's legal challenge that the government had unlawfully seized the building Adolf Hitler's parents inhabited when he was born.

"The expropriation by law of the house of Adolf Hitler's birth in Braunau was carried out in the public interest, proportionately and not without [financial] compensation, so it was not unconstitutional," the court said in its ruling.

The Austrian government ultimately seized the three-floor building in December after Pommer-Angloher refused several offers from the government to buy it from her. With a few interruptions, the Austrian government had been leaseholder of the property for decades. Pommer-Angloher terminated the rental agreement in 2011 when the government wanted to renovate it for wheelchair access.

Pommer-Angloher's lawyer, Gerhard Lebitsch, said on Thursday that the expropriation of the property was unconstitutional, seeking annulment of a law which allowed the state to seize the building.

The fate of the building is not yet clear as arguments for renovation and demolition persist, but the government's main priority is to reduce its appeal to neo-Nazis, who often visit the property just a few hundred meters from the German border.

Long-time owner

Hitler, who led Nazi Germany into a global war that killed more than 50 million people, was born in an apartment on the top floor of the building in 1889. His stay there was short as his family moved to Passau, across the border in Germany, when he was three.

Hitler's house in Austria

Pommer-Angloher's grandparents purchased the building in 1913 but were forced to sell it in 1938 to the Nazi state. Her mother bought it back after World War II.

The building has been a gathering place for neo-Nazis. Earlier this year, an Adolf Hitler look-alike was arrested in front of the building. The owner's lawyer, Lebitsch, said the fact that the house was still a meeting point for neo-Nazis has nothing to do with Pommer-Angloher.

"Mrs. Pommer-Angloher has always had an interest in a neutral use of the house," Lebitsch said. "She thinks that nothing is achieved with the expropriation."

dv/msh (dpa, Reuters)