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In this building situated in the Upper-Austrian city of Braunau am Inn (then the Austria-Hungarian empire) Adolf Hitler was born as the third child of six on the 20th of April 1889. Father Alois Hitler and mother Klara (maiden name “Pölzl”) rented an apartment on the first floor above the former “Braugasthaus”.
It’s unlikely that Hitler would have had any clear recollection of the house as the family moved away three years later in 1892.
NSDAP Monument and Memorial
Following the so-called “Anschluss” of Austria in March 1938, when the country was annexed by Germany to form a “Greater German Empire”, the house in Braunau am Inn was declared a monument and important cultural heritage by the NSDAP as “Geburtsstätte des Führers und Reichskanzlers Adolf Hitler”, roughly translated as “Birthplace of Adolf Hitler”, under the influence of Martin Bormann.
The house was renovated and designated as a cultural center. Between 1943 en 1944 it served mainly as a galleria for paintings and sculptures of artist from the region.
In May 1945 the building became the responsibility of the US Army when they took Braunau am Inn. Starting from November of the same year an exhibition was shown to the public about the Nazi atrocities.
The building’s ownership was eventually reversed back to it’s former owners (fam. Pommer) in 1952 as part of the reinstatement of the Republic of Austria. The Republic in it’s turn took a permanent lease on the property of the Pommer family, and rented it out to various companies and organizations in the following years.
Unhappy with the lease structure and the limited power over the buildings future, the authorities tried to buy the property from it’s owner Ms. Gerlinde Pommer starting from the early 1980’s, but she rejected every offer. When in 2011 the building’s last tenant, a daycare center for disabled people, left because of the owner’s refusal of allowing required renovations, a national debate arose about the future purpose of the property. As the empty building generated a growing number of curious visitors, opinions varied on how to deal with the pilgrimage and prevent the site from becoming a Mekka for Nazi-sympathizers. One idea was to turn the complex into a war memorial center, while others rather saw the building taken down or at least strongly renovated so it no longer bared any symbolism.
Seizure of the Property
Despite all the plans and offers, Ms. Gerlinde Pommer kept unwilling to sell or give permission to renovate the property. Plans of local officials of Braunau am Inn to install a memorial stone on the buildings facade even led to a trial with Ms. Pommer, which resulted in the placing of a Memorial stone from Mauthausen on the pavement in front of the building on the right corner of the facade in 2010.
To escape from the stalemate, the Austrian Government eventually resorted in adapting a new law, to empower them to seize the property from Ms. Pommer in January of 2017. When the case was subsequently tried before the Austrian Constitutional Court in July 2017, the judge ruled that the expropriation by the authorities was lawful.
A delegation of officials has been assigned to come up with an appropriate resolution of the buildings future.
Visit the house in Braunau am Inn
When we visited the address in Braunau am Inn, Austria it was a rainy day, the streets were wet and grey clouds gathered over the city. We were certainly not the only ones taking pictures of the house, but the people there did not strike us as being nazi-sympathisers (as far as you can tell by their looks), but more like tourists visiting a place that bares it’s significance in history. Mind you, apart from it’s historical context, it’s really just a rather boring old building.
Based on the fifteen minutes spent here, I would say authorities should use the opportunity to their advantage to inform and educate this curious audience by giving the building a memorial function instead of trying to hold off pilgrimage by renovation or demolition. Berlin has a parking lot on the Wilhemstrasse near the Holocaust Memorial that draws lots of people every day, which shows just what will happen if you try to wipe out (or bury) traces of history.
You can find the house at this address: Salzburger Vorstadt 15 in Braunau am Inn, Austria. It is just a few kilometers from the German/Austrian border.