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Austria mulls law to seize Hitler birthplace

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Austria mulls law to seize Hitler birthplace
Cheering crowds in Austria welcoming Hitler in 1938. (photo credit: CC BY-SA German Federal Archives. Wikimedia commons)
23:52 CEST+02:00
The Austrian interior ministry announced on Saturday that it is considering expropriation of a house that was Hitler's birthplace, to avoid its exploitation by Nazi sympathizers.

The house, which is currently in private ownership, has long been a thorn in the side of the Austrian government, as controversy has raged among proponents for alternative uses of the building.

Each of the proposals, including turning the building into a school or a reception center for refugees, have fallen at the legal hurdle, as the house's owner has refused each of the options.

Now the Interior Ministry has mooted expropriation of the house, which will require lawmakers to legislate a solution, forcing the owner to sell the house to the state for a fair price.

According to Interior Ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck, “We are currently examining the creation of a law, which would force a change of ownership and pass the property to the Republic of Austria.”

“We have come to the conclusion over the past few years that expropriation is the only way to avoid the building being used for the purposes of Nazi sympathizers," he said.

The building has been empty since 2011, although the owner, Gerlinde Pommer, receives rent from the government to keep it unused.  The building has been in her family for more than a century.  The Austro-German dictator Adolph Hitler was born there on April 20th, 1889.
 
The latest round of legal problems began five years ago, when Pommer refused to allow renovations to the building, in a dispute over its use.  She also turned down offers by the government to buy the house.
 
Prior to the dispute, the house had been used for many years as a centre for people with mental disabilities.  The Interior Ministry has been the main tenant of the building since 1972, subletting it to various charitable organisations. 

The approximately 800 square metre property currently costs the state €4,800 a month. The tenancy agreement states that it may not be used as a museum, or in any historical context, and that the owner must consent to any new tenant.

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