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Austrians can't agree on what to do with the apartment where Hitler was born

Sebastian Cahill   

Austrians can't agree on what to do with the apartment where Hitler was born
  • The apartment where Adolf Hitler was born is now the subject of fierce public debate.
  • Braunau am Inn in Austria is set to become a police station.

For years now, Braunau am Inn, Austria, has been embroiled in a debate about how to deal with one of its most infamous buildings — the birthplace of dictator Adolf Hitler.

Locals and public officials have very different ideas about what should be done with the space — and ultimately about how Austria itself reckons with its role in one of history's darkest times.

Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn in 1889 and lived there for only a few months. His parents' apartment in the town was on the second floor of a building, above a local bar called the Stag, local historian Florian Kotanko told NPR.

When Hitler was in power during World War II, the apartment was used as an art gallery and library, per NPR. During the same time period, it became a pilgrimage spot for his devotees.

After being boarded up for years after the war, it was a bank and a school. Finally, before its purchase by the Austrian government in 2019, it was a center for people with special needs.

This October, the government began developing the building into a police station set to open in 2026.

But even with the plans firmly in motion, a poll showed 53% of Austrians wished the site would be turned into an educational and historical site that addressed the history of National Socialism, especially in Austria, and anti-fascist measures, per the Guardian.

Another 20% of residents worry that while the building stands, it could serve as a sort of shrine for neo-Nazis or far-right political parties, and wish it would be torn out altogether.

But a government commission worried that tearing it down would be seen as a denial of Austria's involvement with Nazis, per the Guardian.

The Austrian Commission on the Historically Correct Treatment of Adolf Hitler's Birthplace said in its final report that the building should not be associated with Hitler to deprive it of "its symbolic power," per the New York Times.

Resident Annette Pommer called the building of a police station a "missed opportunity," per the Times. "It should be about how people become Hitler. It's not a house of evil. It's just a house where a child was born. But it's right to explain what became of that child."

Another, Austrian filmmaker Günter Schwaiger, agreed, saying the site could show how Nazis came from ordinary places.

"To close the doors of the house and to change the facade means only to continue the politics of repression of the truth," he told the Times. "This house — as a symbol for a normal place in a normal little city — stands for the fact that Nazis didn't come from outside or from 'another planet.' They came from our midst."

Residents say it's important for Austrians to accept the country's role in Hitler's abuses, despite some resistance at the time.

"You should never forget the beginning — that's the thing — and be aware of when things are getting problematic, and they are nowadays," Eveline Doll, a native of the town, told the Times.




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