In a small town in Austria on the border of Germany sits a structure with a notorious past. It was here, in a nondescript building downtown called the Braunau am Inn, that Adolf Hitler was born on April 20, 1889.
The building has been used as a school and a library over the years, but it has also been a magnet for neo-Nazis who view it as a shrine to Hitler. People have been coming since all the way back in the 1940s just after World War II ended, when Austrian and German veterans would flock to the house on Hitler’s birthday.
In 1972, the interior ministry of Austria took over the main lease from the family that owned the building so that the government could eventually have the final say about what the building would be used for. In 1984, the Austrian government tried to acquire the building outright from Gerlinde Pommer, who had sole possession of the building, but she refused to sell. Pommer also refused to renovate the structure so the government could not find a good tenant for the property.
Finally, in 2017, the Austrian government seized the building from Pommer and the dispute ended. Authorities have decided to turn Hitler’s birthplace into a police station to hopefully deter neo-Nazis from visiting the site.
In 1989, a stone was put in place in front of the building that reads, “For peace, freedom and democracy. Never again fascism. Millions dead are a warning.”
There will be an international architectural competition to redesign the building for its future police tenants.
Wolfgang Peschorn, the interior minister of Austria, said, “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.”
And it’s about time.