The Austrian government has announced plans to repurpose Adolf Hitler’s birth house in Braunau am Inn. The controversial building, which has been a subject of debate for years, will be transformed into a training center for police officers focusing on human rights. The decision comes after extensive discussions on how to handle the historically significant site and its potential impact on Austria’s past.
Adolf Hitler, the genocidal dictator, was born in a rented room on the top floor of the house in 1889. Over the years, opinions on what to do with the building have varied. Some Austrians have called for its demolition to prevent it from becoming a neo-Nazi gathering place, while others argue that erasing the house would mean denying Austria’s historical responsibility. Alternative proposals have included using the site for reconciliation purposes or as a base for charitable organizations.
After acquiring the house through a compulsory purchase order in 2016, the Austrian government decided to convert it into a police training center dedicated to human rights. Construction work is expected to begin in the autumn, with completion anticipated by 2025. Austrian broadcaster ORF reports that the police force is set to occupy the renovated premises by the following year.
During the Nazi regime, the house became a shrine dedicated to Hitler, attracting tourists to the town. However, as the regime’s power waned in 1944, the building was boarded up. To deter far-right tourism, the Austrian government rented the house from its previous owner, Gerlinde Pommer, who had been operating it as a daycare center for individuals with special needs. However, future renovations were halted due to Pommer’s objections.
In 2016, the government enacted a law enabling the seizure of the property from Pommer, compensating her with over €800,000 (£694,000). Three years later, the interior ministry announced its plans to repurpose the 17th-century house into a police station and training facility. This decision signifies Austria’s evolving acknowledgment of its complicity in Nazi crimes and its commitment to confronting its complex history.
Austria, which was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938, has long portrayed itself as a victim of the regime. However, the country has increasingly recognized its own involvement in Nazi crimes, leading to discussions about its historical legacy. The decision to repurpose Hitler’s birth house reflects Austria’s dedication to addressing its past while utilizing the site to educate law enforcement officials on the importance of upholding human rights.
Austria’s decision to repurpose Adolf Hitler’s birth house as a police training center for human rights marks a significant step in its efforts to confront its past and promote a more inclusive future. By transforming a historically significant site associated with Hitler into a place of learning and awareness, Austria aims to ensure that law enforcement officials are equipped with the necessary knowledge to protect human rights. This move reflects Austria’s commitment to acknowledging its historical responsibility while utilizing the lessons learned to shape a more tolerant and just society.