Owner Sues to Keep House Where Hitler Was Born-The Saga Continues

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BERLIN — The seemingly endless saga of the house in which Adolf Hitler was born has taken a new turn, with the owner challenging an Austrian law that allows the government to seize ownership and, possibly, demolish the property.

The house in the town of Braunau, just across the Inn River from Bavaria, has been in limbo for decades. The Austrian government took over the main lease in 1972 in an effort to ensure that the property would not fall into the hands of someone seeking to glorify its link to a dark history. Hitler was born in the building on April 20, 1889, in an apartment that his parents had rented above a tavern on the ground level.

The Austrian government offered to buy the building in 1984 from Gerlinde Pommer, who is a descendant of the original owners. For decades, she refused to sell.

Protracted negotiations collapsed last year, and the government in Vienna submitted a bill to Parliament to expropriate the building in the national interest, given that “no other historical property exists in Austria that holds such a special, global and political meaning.”

Parliament approved the measure, which took effect in mid-January, said Gerhard Lebitsch, a lawyer for Ms. Pommer. He said he waited until the measure was in effect before filing suit with the Constitutional Court to declare the law unconstitutional.

A spokesman for the court, Wolfgang Sablatnig, confirmed that the petition had been filed and said the court, which meets in quarterly sessions usually lasting about three weeks, was likely to act on it in coming months.

Karl-Heinz Grundböck, a spokesman for the Austrian Interior Ministry, said the government had been waiting only for a final agreement with Ms. Pommer on her compensation to gain full ownership of the building.

According to the government, she has received 50,023 euros, or about $54,000, in rent from the Austrian government each year since it took over the lease. The last tenants left in 2011 after a dispute with Ms. Pommer, who refused to allow renovations.

Mr. Lebitsch, her lawyer, said she did not want to speak to reporters. If the Constitutional Court strikes down the law stripping her of ownership, he predicted that it would be difficult for the government to gain control of the property. Neither the court nor the Interior Ministry would comment.

Last year, Austria’s interior minister, Wolfgang Sobotka, lobbied for the house to be torn down and replaced with an entirely new structure that would have no links to the Nazi era.

A historical commission appointed by the Austrian government had previously recommended “a thorough architectural remodeling.”

The mayor of Braunau, Johannes Waidbacher, supported the remodeling and urged that the site be used by a social or municipal institution to underscore the rejection of Nazi ideology.

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Published in: on February 3, 2017 at 9:45 am  Leave a Comment  

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