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Court orders Austria to pay for Hitler house

February 7, 2019

A court has told the Austrian government to pay more than a million euros to the former owner of the house where Adolf Hitler was born. It had bought the building at a knockdown price using a compulsory purchase order.

Exterior view of Adolf Hitler's birth house in Braunau am Inn, Austria
Image: dapd

The Austrian state should substantially increase the amount of compensation it paid to the owner of the house where Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was born in 1889, a court ruled on Wednesday.

The district court in the northern Austrian town of Ried im Innkreis decided that the government had substantially short-changed the property owner with its compulsory purchase order.

It ordered the government to pay the owner, Gerlinde Pommer, €1.5 million ($1.7 million), matching the amount that the owner's legal team had been looking for after commissioning a valuation of the property in Braunau am Inn.

So far, the state has only paid out €310,000.

Concern about neo-Nazis

The Pommer family had owned the building before it was bought by Martin Bormann, a close aide of Hitler, in 1938. The building was placed under state protection and returned to the Pommers after World War II.

Hitler's house in Austria

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Gerlinde Pommer inherited the property in 1977.

Concerned that neo-Nazis might erect some type of shrine to Hitler, the Austrian government took over the lease shortly thereafter.

Refusal to renovate

Until 2011, it was home to a center for disabled people, but Pommer terminated the agreement when the government wanted to make it more wheelchair accessible. 

In 2016, the Austrian state ordered the compulsory purchase of the three-story building and car park after several failed attempts to buy it from Pommer. She had refused to sell the building or carry out essential renovation works.

Pommer had challenged the seizure, saying it was unconstitutional, but a court ruled in the state's favor.

Hitler's birth home has attracted neo-Nazis and other extremists for years, with a number of extremists making the trip to Braunau am Inn to take a picture in front of the building.

In 2016, then Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said the building would be torn down to its foundation and new building would be erected. Critics said, however, that the state would sweep away its uncomfortable connection with the Third Reich if it proceeded with the proposal.

rc/amp (dpa, AFP)

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