Hitler’s Birthplace in Austria to Become a Police Station – The New York Times

The authorities decided to turn the house in Braunau into a law enforcement hub to deter neo-Nazi pilgrims.

The home where Hitler was born, right, in the downtown area of Braunau am Inn, near Austria’s border with Germany.Credit…Laetitia Vancon for The New York Times

BERLIN — After years of wrangling over the future of the butter-yellow house in Austria where Hitler was born, the authorities have decided to turn the building into a police station, in a bid make it less of a magnet for neo-Nazis.

With the move, announced by the interior minister on Tuesday, the Austrian authorities hope to send a clear message to supporters of far-right extremism that the three-story building in downtown Braunau am Inn, near Austria’s border with Germany, will not be a shrine to Hitler.

“The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis been permanently revoked,” Wolfgang Peschorn, the interior minister of Austria, said in a statement.

The building has posed a problem for the authorities for the past seven decades. The building’s owner had refused for years to renovate it, making tenants hard to find. Admirers of Hitler, born there in 1889, kept returning.

The Interior Ministry took over the main lease from the family that owned the building in 1972 to ensure it had the final say on the use of the building. In 1984, the government sought to acquire the building outright from Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners, who by that time had sole possession of the property, but she refused to sell.

At the same time, she also refused to invest in the building, making it difficult for the government to find a tenant who met the requirement to use it only for administrative, educational or social services purposes. In 2017, the government seized the building from Ms. Pommer, bringing an end to the dispute.

A redesign competition for the building’s new purpose will begin this month, with work on the building to start next year, Mr. Peschorn said.

The competition will be open to architects from across the European Union in hopes of finding a concept that will ensure the “innovative use and function of the space.” The winner will be announced in 2020, the Interior Ministry said.

Over the years, the house has served as a makeshift museum, a school and a library. For more than three decades an organization offering support and integration assistance for disabled people ran a workshop in the building, but the group moved out in 2011 because the owner refused to bring the building up to code.

After World War II, veterans from Austria and neighboring Germany flocked to the house, especially on Hitler’s birthday. Although the neo-Nazi supporters had dwindled recently, the house remained under constant surveillance for potential problems.

Fascination with Hitler continues unabated more 70 years since the end of World War II. Sales of his paintings and memorabilia continue to draw crowds and criticism. On Wednesday, the Hermann Historica auction house in Munich is putting up for sale a top hat worn by Hitler and a cocktail dress that belonged to Eva Braun, his longtime companion.

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chairman of the European Jewish Association, wrote to the owner of the auction house asking him to withdraw the sale, citing the rise of anti-Semitism across Europe and the “many millions of lives lost as a result of National Socialism,” including the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

“We believe the sale of such memorabilia has little intrinsic historical value, but instead will be bought by those who glorify and seek to justify the actions of the greatest evil to affect Europe,” he said. “The trade, therefore, in such items should simply not take place.”

Source: Hitler’s Birthplace in Austria to Become a Police Station – The New York Times

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