The Mayor of Adolf Hitler’s home says he doesn’t want the building where the dictator was born to be turned into a memorial because the Fuhrer “only lived there for three years anyway”.
Mayor Hannes Waidbacher from the conservative People’s party (OVP) said that instead he was keen to see the property that was previously used by a charity for disabled people turned into flats.
The mayor added that there was already a memorial stone outside the building and said he felt that the local community had already done enough to remember the past, and there was therefore no need to feel pressurised to turn the property into something similar. He added: “There are already quite enough memorials in the region.”
The property is currently owned by local pensioner who is playing no role in the discussion about the property. The pensioner rents it to the Austrian Interior Ministry for a monthly payment of €4,700 and it is currently empty since the charity moved out more than a year ago.
Interior Ministry spokesman Sonja Jell said that the government wanted to prevent the risk that the house would become a pilgrimage site.
The previous mayor Gerhard Skiba from the social Democrats (SPO) had wanted to make a house of peace for social projects and exhibitions. In 1989 Skiba arranged for a memorial to be placed directly in front of the house on public ground. The stone for the memorial came from a quarry on the grounds of the former Mauthausen Concentration Camp, near Linz, Austria.
The inscription reads: “For Peace, Freedom and Democracy. Never Again Fascism. Millions of Dead Are Our Reminder.”
The official name of the memorial is the “Memorial Stone Against War and Fascism” and it appears as the “Mahnstein” (“Remembrance Stone”) on street maps of Braunau.
A local historian Andreas Maislinger also put forward plans in the year 2000 for a “house of remembrance” which would have acted as a memorial and a warning to future generations who could learn from the mistakes of the past. But the project was never realised.
Waidbacher however while ruling out another memorial said he is open to ideas – but prefers at the moment the idea of making the property into flats.
He added that while Hitler had only spent the first three years of his life in the city it had stigmatise the whole region.
He said: “What he experienced here was certainly not the most influential phase of his life. Therefore we in the town of Braunau are not prepared to take the responsibility for the atrocities of the Second World War.”
He said that many people in the town agreed with him and were behind him. He added: “As an example I was born 21 years after the war ended – and that applies to a lot of people now living here in Braunau.”
At the time of Hitler’s birth, the building was a local pub where Hitler’s parents rented rooms so that his dad could carry out his job as a customs official at the nearby Austrian German border.
The Hitlers left the building when Adolf was three years old and his father was transferred to Passau. After World War II, the building was rented by the Austrian Republic in 1952. Until 1965 it was the home of the public library and later a bank.
From 1970 to 1976 several classes from the technical high school were held in the house, until the school was rebuilt. The house then for many years accommodated a branch of the disabled Persons charity Lebenshilfe, and operated as a day centre and workshops for people with learning difficulties.
Lebenshilfe however moved out last year which again re-awakened debate about the future use of the building.