Austrian parliament votes to seize Hitler′s birthplace | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 15.12.2016
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Austrian parliament votes to seize Hitler's birthplace

A bill aims to drastically renovate the site where Hitler was born and stop neo-Nazis from visiting. But not everyone supports a demolition of the property as currently planned.

Austria's parliament voted Wednesday to seize the house where Adolf Hitler was born, but plans of an overhaul designed to stop neo-Nazis from visiting or aggrandizing the site.

The lower house approved the enforced purchase of the dilapidated, yellow, corner house in the historic center of Braunau am Inn. Upper house approval was expected to follow. 

Local retiree Gerlinde Pommer, whose family have owned the 800-square-meter (8,600 foot) house for most of the last century, would have no legal recourse but would be paid for the property under the act. Since 2011 she had been locked in a dispute with federal authorities over the property, refusing a string of offers from the government to purchase it.

The government used the house as a disability center since the 1970s, renting it for about 4,800 euros a month. But the deal ended five years ago when Pommer refused to allow much-needed renovation works. She then rejected offers to buy the three-level property. A large majority of parliament approved the law, which was submitted by the government earlier this year. Opponents included some members of the small, liberal Neos party, according to a statement by parliament.

Opponents of the bill wanted more specifics on the planned overhaul of the building.

Adolf Hitler as a child (picture-alliance/dpa)

The Hitler family rented an apartment in the building for the first year after Adolf Hitler's birth in 1889

Demolition not the answer

Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka had said the government supported a planned "thorough architectural rearrangement," possibly including the demolition of the house where Hitler was born in 1889.

He said the building could be used by the town of Braunau for "charitable or official purposes" after its conversion.

An expert committee advising on the project said they did not support demolishing the birthplace of the Nazi leader entirely.

"A demolition would amount to negating Austria's Nazi past," the experts said in a joint statement in October.

The government's argument differs: the current draft law's text said that demolishing the building would "prevent the cultivation, promotion or propagation of Nationalist Socialist ideology."

Nazi-sympathisers started visiting the site when it was abandoned in 2011.

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.

aw/msh (dpa, AFP, Reuters)