Work begins in Austria on turning Hitler’s birthplace into police station

Move approved in 2019 seeks to make site in Braunau Am Inn unattractive for admirers of the Nazi dictator

An exterior view of Adolf Hitler's birth house, front, in Braunau am Inn, Austria, on September 27, 2012. (AP Photo / Kerstin Joensson, File)
An exterior view of Adolf Hitler's birth house, front, in Braunau am Inn, Austria, on September 27, 2012. (AP Photo / Kerstin Joensson, File)

BRAUNAU AM INN, Austria — Work started Monday on turning the house in Austria where Adolf Hitler was born in 1889 into a police station, a project meant to make it unattractive as a site of pilgrimage for people who glorify the Nazi dictator.

The decision on the future of the building in Braunau am Inn, a town on Austria’s border with Germany, was made in late 2019. Plans call for a police station, the district police headquarters and a security academy branch where police officers will get human rights training.

On Monday, workers put up fencing and started taking measurements for the construction work. The police are expected to occupy the premises in early 2026.

A years-long back-and-forth over the ownership of the house preceded the overhaul project. The question was resolved in 2017 when Austria’s highest court ruled that the government was within its rights to expropriate the building after its owner refused to sell it. A suggestion it might be demolished was dropped.

The building had been rented by Austria’s Interior Ministry since 1972 to prevent its misuse, and was sublet to various charitable organizations. It stood empty after a care center for adults with disabilities moved out in 2011.

A memorial stone with the inscription “for freedom, democracy and liberty. Never again fascism. Millions of dead remind us” is to remain in place outside the house.

A memorial reading ‘For peace, freedom and democracy. Never again fascism. Millions of dead remind us’ is seen in front of Adolf Hitler’s birth house in Braunau am Inn, Austria, Thursday, September 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)

The Austrian government argues that having the police, as the guardians of civil liberties, move in is the best use for the building. But there has been criticism of the plan.

Historian Florian Kotanko complained that “there is a total lack of historical contextualization.” He argued that the Interior Ministry’s intention of removing the building’s “recognition factor” by remodeling it “is impossible to accomplish.”

“Demystification should be a key part,” he added, arguing in favor of a suggestion that an exhibition on people who saved Jews under Nazi rule should be shown in the building.

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