VIENNA — The house in Austria where Adolf Hitler was born is to be torn down to stop it from becoming a neo-Nazi shrine, authorities said Monday after years of bitter legal wrangling.
Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said Monday that “a thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building.”
Sobotka said he wants to ensure that any association with Hitler be eliminated at the site, now an occasional place of neo-Nazi pilgrimage.
He said the decision was based on the recommendations of an expert committee tasked with deciding what to do with the controversial building in the quaint northern town of Braunau am Inn.
Ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck said that means that except for its foundations, nothing will be left of the house and a new structure will be erected in its place.
The plan still has to be formalized in legislation and voted on in Parliament. But with the Social Democratic and centrist People’s Party in the majority, and most opposition parties expected to support the plan, passage was likely no more than a formality.
The huge yellow house has been empty since 2011 when the government became embroiled in a dispute with owner and local resident Gerlinde Pommer.
For more than a century, her family has owned the large corner house where Hitler was born on April 20, 1889.
In the early 1970s, the Austrian government signed a lease with Pommer and turned the premises into a center for people with disabilities.
But the arrangement came to an abrupt end five years ago when Pommer unexpectedly refused to grant permission for much-needed renovation works.
She also rejected a purchase offer made by the increasingly exasperated interior ministry.
In July, the government approved legislation to seize the house from Pommer.
Interior ministry spokesman Grundboeck told AFP on Monday that the law amendment was still “under way” — meaning that parliament has yet to approve the demolition.
“But there is now a clear perspective regarding the future of the building under the ownership of the Austrian republic,” Grundboeck said.
The issue has sparked heated debate among Braunau’s 17,000 residents. Some wanted it to become a refugee center, others a museum dedicated to Austria’s liberation from Nazi rule.
A number of cultural organisations previously opposed the building’s demolition because it is part of the historic city center and therefore under heritage protection.