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Long Battle Ends With Austria Buying Hitler's Birthplace

Government wants to prevent site becoming a neo-Nazi destination
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 6, 2019 4:18 PM CDT
Austria is buying this building in the town where Adolf Hitler was born in 1889.   (AP Photo / Kerstin Joensson, File)
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(Newser) – "For peace, freedom and democracy," reads a stone memorial outside a three-story building in a small Austrian town. "Never again fascism. Millions dead are a warning." The memorial is there because on the second floor of that building, in 1889, Adolf Hitler was born. To prevent the site from becoming a shrine to neo-Nazis, Austria has rented the building for decades. When it wanted to make changes in 2012, the owner balked. The government has been trying to take over the site since 2016, NPR reports, but the two sides couldn't agree on a price. On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that Austria will pay Gerlinde Pommer about $900,000 for the building. Her family has owned the building for generations. A local historian said that he doesn't know why Pommer kept the building for so long, but that she once told him, "Whatever you have inherited, you must not sell."

Austria hasn't been quite sure what to do with the building, which is near the German border. The Nazi Party bought it before World War II, and it was an art gallery and library during the war. German troops tried to blow it up in 1945, the historian said, but were thwarted by US troops. After the war, the building was returned to its original owners. More recently, a Russian politician wanted to buy it and blow it up, per a 2014 BBC article. It's been used as a technical school, a bank, and a care center for people with disabilities. Blowing the building up is still on the table, per Deutsche Welle. An architectural competition is planned that would develop possible uses and designs for changing the exterior to make it unrecognizable. Austria's interior minister said the goal is to "prevent any renewed form of National Socialist activities." (Some of Hitler's alleged paintings recently went up for sale.)

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