Hitler’s home saved - but will be turned into memorial to his crimes

Politicians have argued bitterly about its fate for decades

Berlin

Austria is set to end an embarrassing row over the future of Adolf Hitler’s birthplace by turning the provincial town house in which the Nazi leader was born into a “House of Responsibility” dedicated to recalling the crimes against humanity committed during the Third Reich.

The two-storey “Hitler house” is in the centre of Braunau am Inn on Austria’s border with Germany. It has been empty for the past two years, but politicians have argued bitterly about its fate for decades. Critics insisted that demolition was the only way of dispelling the stigma attached to the building.

However, Braunau’s influential town association, which rules on municipal projects, is now due to approve an ambitious scheme to turn the empty ochre-coloured house into a centre dedicated to the memory of Nazi crimes. The project is expected to receive financial backing from Hollywood.

Andreas Maislinger, the Austrian historian behind the “House of Responsibility” project told The Independent: “I have been told by leading Braunau town association members that they will back the scheme. This is a major step towards realising the project.”

Braunau am Inn’s mayor, Johannes Waidbacher, who had earlier provoked outrage with a plan to turn the Hitler house into luxury flats, told Germany’s Bild newspaper that he now approved of Mr Maislinger’s project.

Austria’s Interior Ministry is expected to give its final approval to the “House of Responsibility” later this year. The project is being backed by Branko Lustig, the Hollywood producer of Steven Spielberg’s award-winning Holocaust film Schindler’s List. Mr Lustig was said to have agreed to raise money for the scheme.

US soldiers write their names on Hitler’s bedroom wall in 1945 US soldiers write their names on Hitler’s bedroom wall in 1945 (AP)
Hitler was born in 1889 in what at the time was a public house called the Gasthaus zum Pommer. He spent only the first two weeks of his life there before his parents moved, but the house has served as an embarrassing and unwanted tourist attraction for decades.

During the Third Reich, the building was purchased by the Nazi party and turned into a “cultural centre” and Hitler shrine. Invading US troops managed to prevent fanatical Nazis from blowing up the house in 1945. After the war the building housed first a library, then a school, then a bank and finally a workshop for the disabled.

Despite its various guises, Braunau’s “Hitler house” continued to attract considerable and unwanted tourist interest. Last year the owner of a shop opposite was reported to have become so irritated by tourists’ inquires that he resorted to telling them: “Come back at half past one: he normally looks out of the window around then.”

The “Hitler house” hit the headlines again last year after a Russian MP offered to buy and “demonstratively” demolish the building. Russian politicians were quoted as saying: “No one should even know that that place existed.”

In 2001 Braunau’s city council banned weddings in the town on the date of Hitler’s birthday (20 April) after a leading neo-Nazi announced his intention to marry there on that day. Hundreds of tourists are reported to have cut chunks of plaster off the building and taken them as souvenirs.

Today a stone inscribed with the words “Fascism Never Again” is the only indication that the building was Hitler’s birthplace. Earlier this year neo-Nazis attacked the stone with paint bombs.

“The property will only lose its attraction for right-wing extremists when a clear anti-Nazi message is sent out from the site,” Mr Maislinger said. He said he hoped historical institutes worldwide would use the “House of Responsibility” for just that purpose.

Auschwitz prosecutions bringing guards to justice

Germany’s belated attempt to bring the last surviving Nazi guards at the Auschwitz extermination camp to  justice is likely to end in near-total failure with only two out of 30 suspects being prosecuted.

State prosecutors are reported to have dropped proceedings against 28 out of 30 elderly former guards deployed at Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland during the Second World War. Several of the suspects have died and others have been judged too ill or mentally unbalanced to stand trial for being accomplices to mass murder during the Holocaust.

The German agency responsible  for tracking down the last Nazi war criminals announced this year that files on nearly three dozen former guards from Auschwitz (pictured)  had been passed on to state  prosecutors.

However, Der Spiegel magazine reported that prosecutors’ “active” investigations involve only a handful of former guards and that only two are likely to face charges which could result in prosecution.

One of those judged to be too  mentally unfit to stand trial is  94-year-old Hans Lipschis, who was said to have herded men, women and children into the gas chambers of  the camp.

Another is Gisela S, 91, who is alleged to have beaten Auschwitz inmates. She is said to have been in charge of brutal “standing cells” where prisoners were forced to stand upright for days on end.

Tony Paterson

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living