It witnessed the birth of one of history’s most ruthless dictators. Now the Austrian government has unveiled plans to transform Adolf Hitler’s childhood home into a police station.
The small building in the town of Braunau am Inn, close to the border with Germany, will be redesigned by an Austrian architectural firm in order to deter further neo-Nazi visitors.
With a budget of €5 million, the company Marte.Marte will change the facade of the building and instal a new roof.
Hitler was born in an upstairs room of the building on 20 April 1889, while his father Alois worked as a customs official. Just a few weeks later, his family left for another address nearby, before leaving the town permanently when the young Hitler was three.
The future Nazi leader later lived in Vienna, and then Munich, where his political career began following World War I. But the dictator never forgot his Austrian roots. As the country was annexed by Germany in the Anschluss of March 1938, the Nazi leader briefly revisited the site of his birth.
Today, there is little evidence of the building’s history, other than a rock outside commemorating the victims of fascism. This is due to be moved to a museum in Vienna as part of the renovation project.
The building was the subject of a lengthy dispute between its owner, Gerlinde Pommer, and the Austrian government, who rented it from Pommer to prevent any misuse. In its more recent history, the 17th-century former inn served as a day-care centre for the disabled, but it now lies empty and occasionally attracts unwanted attention.
In 2016, the dispute was resolved after the government issued a compulsory purchase order. The now-former owner is believed to oppose the planned renovation.
The Austrian government has stated that redesigning the building will further obscure all evidence of its history. ‘The neutralisation of this whole location was ultimately at the heart of this result’, said Hermann Feiner, a spokesperson for the Austrian interior ministry.
This article was published in the August/September 2020 issue of Military History Matters. To find out more about the magazine and how to subscribe, click here.