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Austria to seize Hitler birthplace

BBC News BBC News 12/07/2016
Person passes house in which Adolf Hitler was born: The Austrian state has been renting the house since 1972 © Reuters The Austrian state has been renting the house since 1972

Austria's government is to seize the house where Adolf Hitler was born in 1889 to prevent it becoming a site of pilgrimage for neo-Nazis.

The owner, a retired local woman, has refused repeated offers to buy the house in Braunau am Inn in the past.

However, there is disagreement over what to do with the house next.

The interior minister wants it demolished but others say a museum or even a supermarket would more effectively "depoliticise" it.

"The decision is necessary because the Republic would like to prevent this house from becoming a 'cult site' for neo-Nazis in any way, which it has been repeatedly in the past, when people gathered there to shout slogans," Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said.

"It is my vision to tear down the house," he added.

However, Vice-Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner said a project with "educational value" such as a museum would be a better use of the site, Die Presse newspaper reported.

Growing numbers of people were travelling to the house, the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance said.

But the organisation's head Gerhard Baumgartner said demolishing the building would not solve the problem, as right-wing extremists would instead have a "Hitler Square" or "Hitler Park" to visit instead.

"The place must be fully depoliticised and something has to be there that no one will want to be photographed in front of," he told broadcaster ORF.

Locating a supermarket or fire station in the building could have the desired effect, Mr Baumgartner said.

The Austrian state has rented the house since 1972 and currently pays about €4,800 ($5,300; £4,100) a month for it.

The building has in the past housed workshops for disabled people, but has been empty since 2011 because the owner repeatedly rejected ideas for its future use as well as purchase offers from the state, an interior ministry spokesman said.

Under the new proposal, the owner will receive compensation similar to that awarded when homes are demolished to make way for railway projects.

The bill to seize the house will now go before parliament.

If it is passed, the building's fate will then be decided by a commission consisting of 12 members from the fields of politics, administration, academia and civic society.

The only obvious link to the building's past is a stone outside inscribed with the words: "For peace, freedom and democracy. Never again fascism. Millions of dead remind us." Hitler's name does not appear.

Adolf Hitler lived on the street Salzburger Vorstadt for only a few weeks before his family moved to another address in Braunau. They left the town for good when Hitler was three years old.

Hitler went on to rule Nazi Germany from 1933 until his death at the end of World War Two in 1945.

His regime was responsible for the deaths of millions of people.

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