Europe

Austria plans to seize house where Hitler was born

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Media captionBethany Bell visits the house where Adolf Hitler was born

The Austrian government says it plans to seize the house where Adolf Hitler was born to stop it being a focal point for Nazi sympathisers.

Officials say the decision was taken after several years of discussion about how to prevent neo-Nazi interest.

Hitler was born in the house in the town of Braunau am Inn in April, 1889.

The property has been leased from its owner by the government since 1972, and it was used for many years as a centre for people with disabilities.

But it fell empty in 2011 following a dispute between the government and the owner, Gerlinde Pommer, who refused to grant permission for renovation.

The new plan would include an offer of compensation from the state to her, interior ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck told AFP news agency.

"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 [sympathisers]."

He did not say what the government might then do with the property.

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Image copyright AFP
Image caption House has been at the centre of a row between the Austrian government and its owner

Locals say the property still attracts some neo-Nazi sympathisers, despite the house being unmarked.

The only link to its past is a stone outside inscribed with the words: "For peace, freedom and democracy. Never again Fascism. Millions of dead remind us." Hitler's name does not appear.

Various proposals have been put forward about how to use the house, including turning it into flats, a centre for adult education, a museum or a centre designed to confront the Nazi past.

There have also been calls for its demolition, with one Russian MP offering to buy the house and blow it up.

Image copyright BBC / Bethany Bell
Image caption A stone plaque outside Hitler's birthplace honours the victims of fascism

Adolf Hitler lived on Salzburger Vorstadt for only a few weeks, before his family moved to another address in Braunau. They left the town for good when Hitler was three years old.

Hitler went on to rule Nazi Germany from 1933 until his death at the end of World War Two in 1945.

The Nazi regime, which triggered the war with the invasion of Poland in 1939, killed millions of people, mainly Jews, in the Holocaust.

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