Adolf Hitler 'honorary citizen' row grips Austria

By Bethany Bell
BBC News, Vienna

image captionThe debate has unsettled Austria, which is still grappling with the legacy of its Nazi past

Several towns in Austria have been checking their archives this week to see if Adolf Hitler is still an honorary citizen of their communities.

It follows an announcement by the town of Amstetten that - more than 60 years after his death - it was finally revoking Hitler's honorary title.

Hitler visited Amstetten - west of Vienna - in 1938, and was made an honorary citizen the following year.

The Green Party sponsored the move to strike his name from the honours list.

The decision was passed by a large majority in the town council.

But two members of the far-right Freedom Party abstained.

They argued the move was unnecessary, because they said the title expired with Hitler's death in 1945.

Motion filed

The debate has unsettled Austria, which is still grappling with the legacy of its Nazi past, and has sent historians and politicians rushing to check their archives.

The mayor of the southern city of Klagenfurt, Christian Scheider, did not even wait for a debate on the issue, but used emergency powers to officially strike Hitler's name from the city's roll of honour.

He said he wanted to distance Klagenfurt from the crimes of Nazism and had filed the following motion:

"If it should emerge that Adolf Hitler ever received an honorary citizenship of the provincial capital Klagenfurt from anyone - a supposition which lies before us - this is officially revoked and disallowed."

Historians in Klagenfurt have found Nazi-era newspapers that describe the ceremony honouring Hitler in 1938.

Several other Austrian towns continue to argue about whether the honorary titles of Hitler and other prominent Nazis have expired or not.

Amstetten shot to notoriety in 2008, when it was revealed that Josef Fritzl had imprisoned his daughter in a cellar in his house there and fathered seven children with her.

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