Austria has unveiled plans to transform Adolf Hitler’s birthplace into a police station, following years of debates and legal discussions on the controversial site.
The three-story building of Braunau am Inn, near the German border, is expected to undergo a major renovation that authorities hope to prevent it from becoming a pilgrimage site for Nazi sympathizers.
Hitler was born in an apartment in the building on April 20, 1889, since his father worked as a customs officer in the city. The family left Braunau am Inn, which was then part of Austria-Hungary, when Hitler was three years old.
Plans to turn the site into a police station were first announced last November when the Austrian Interior Ministry launched an EU-wide design competition for its renewal. At the time, officials told CNN in a statement that the move could help discourage “National Socialist activity”.
The building in which Adolf Hitler was born, pictured in 2015. Credit: Joe Klamar / AFP / Getty Images
The winning proposal, from the Austrian firm Marte.Marte Architects, was revealed
at a press conference on Tuesday. The digital models show an extended gable roof, with the current yellow facade replaced with a white one, in line with the neighboring buildings.
According to a government press release, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer told Tuesday’s press conference that the city had become “the antithesis of everything (Hitler) represented”.
“You can recognize the democratic culture of a country by treating its history, and Austria took a long time to deal with its history”, is quoted as saying
during the announcement. “Today we are opening a new chapter in dealing with our historical responsibility,” he added.
Debate in progress
The fate of the building has long been a controversial issue in the city, where many wish to demolish Hitler’s painful short-time reminder there.
In 2012, Johannes Waidbacher, mayor of Braunau am Inn, told the Austrian newspaper Der Standard
that the city was already “stigmatized”. The three years that the Nazi dictator spent there were “certainly not the most formative” of this life, Waidbacher said, adding: “We as the city of Braunau are therefore not ready to take responsibility for the … Second World War (pause up).”
Austrian interior minister Karl Nehammer presents the plan chosen for the architectural redesign of Hitler’s birthplace Credit: JOE KLAMAR / AFP / AFP via Getty Images
Others have lobbied for the site to be turned into a community center, nicknamed “House of responsibility
, “where young people from all over the world could meet and learn about the past.
For decades, the controversial building belonged to Gerlinde Pommer, whose family owned the property before Hitler was born. The Austrian Ministry of the Interior started renting the site from her in 1972, presenting it to various charities. But the building was left empty by the last occupant, a disabled center, vacated in 2011.
Four years ago, the government announced that the facility would be demolished. He then began to acquire it by force from Pommer, with the Ministry of the Interior calling for “special legal authorization” to expropriate the property.
Legal disputes over kidnapping and compensation followed, during which plans to demolish the building were shelved.
The exterior of the building shown in digital models by the Austrian architecture studio Marte.Marte, which won a competition to renovate the site. Credit: Marte.Marte
After securing the site, the Austrian government continued to fear that it would attract neo-Nazis and others in keeping with Hitler’s ideology. Announcing the decision to turn it into a police station last year, the then Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Peschorn said that “future use of the house by the police will be an unmistakable sign that this building will never serve to commemorate National Socialism. . “
At the moment, the only physical memory of the building’s past is a commemorative plaque of the victims of fascism during the Second World War. Installed in 1989
, just before the centenary of Hitler’s birth, the stone reads: “For peace, freedom and democracy. Fascism never again. In memory of the millions of dead”.
The renovations of the building are expected to be completed in early 2023 and their cost is approximately 5 million euros (5.6 million dollars).
Other buildings associated with Hitler’s rule have been revived in the post-war era. The alpine refuge of the Nazi dictator, Eagle’s Nest, is now in restaurant and tourist destination
, while the site of its Polish bunker headquarters, Wolf’s Lair
, now contains a hotel.