Europe

German town to strip Hitler of honorary citizenship

Hindenburg and Hitler in a car
Image caption Reich President Paul von Hindenburg (left) and Adolf Hitler (right) have been stripped of their honorary citizenship

Dietramszell in southern Germany has become the latest town to strip Adolf Hitler of his citizenship following a public outcry.

Last week councillors in the Bavarian town were deadlocked in a vote and declined to rescind the award.

"It would be a distortion of history, the whole debate is laughable," said councillor Traudi Frostl at the time.

But on Wednesday members issued an apology and voted unanimously to adopt the resolution.

They also stripped Reich President, Paul von Hindenburg, who appointed Hitler, of his honorary citizenship.

A town official said the testimony of a woman who had lost her family in the Holocaust had helped sway those who had originally opposed the move.

Over 4,000 cities, towns and communities awarded honorary titles to Hitler during his time in power - many to mark his 44th birthday in 1933.

Some towns also awarded the same honour to Paul von Hindenburg.

But following the defeat of the Nazis in 1945, many towns and cities immediately rescinded the title.

However, many did not.

In the last few years better research techniques have helped historians and archivists to discover those places that still list Hitler as an honorary citizen.

They believe there are many more cases to come to light.

According to The Times newspaper, on average five municipalities a month make this discovery and vote to remove Hitler from their books.

Culture of denial

Analysts say towns that became part of Eastern Europe have less of an issue with having Hitler on their list, arguing that having made a fresh start, past events had no bearing on their new status.

The German news magazine, Der Spiegel, cites the example of Bad Doberan and Aschersleben which fell under the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR).

Their decision to strip Hitler of his citizenship in 2006 only came about after a neighbouring town, Bitterfeld, caused a scandal when it listed Hitler among its honorary citizens on the official city website.

For some, the reluctance to remove Hitler's name shows an unwillingness to correct historic misdeeds, while for others stripping the former dictator of his citizenship equates to denial of the past.

Germany's new Vice Chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, said in August that he felt "it was almost wrong" to remove Hitler from the citizenship list.

"It is an attempt to whitewash something that can't be whitewashed," he said as his home town of Goslar debated the issue.

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