For decades there has been a governmental battle being waged over the childhood home of Adolf Hitler.
You probably have never heard of him, but he was a pretty bad guy. He killed a lot of people and if you’ve ever opposed Obamacare or welfare expansion you’ve probably been called Hitler at one point. Now you have a point of reference.
The house is in Braunau am Inn, a town located on the Austrian-German border. The building originally housed a tavern on the lower level with several apartments on the upper level. Hitler (that socialist guy who hated Jewish people) lived in one of those apartments, which his parents had rented as early as 1889.
The Austrian government has leased the building since the early seventies, a move they made in hopes of preventing it from falling into the wrong hands and becoming a sort of celebratory monument. At one point they offered to buy the building outright but the owner refused. Gerlinde Pommer recently agreed to negotiate selling terms but those talks have since collapsed.
Now the Austrian Minister of the Interior is stepping in to try to take forceful action. From the New York Times:
Parliament took the first step on Tuesday toward removing the decades-long stain on postwar Austria’s image when the home affairs committee submitted a petition to expropriate the building. The five-page bill defended the expropriation as being in the national interest, given that “no other historical property exists in Austria that holds such a special, global and political meaning.” Ms. Pommer would receive compensation, but the amount has not yet been determined.
Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka has lobbied for the house to be torn down and replaced with an entirely new structure. In a statement on Monday, he repeated that wish, citing the findings of the historical commission, which recommended that “a thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building.”
Johannes Waidbacher, the mayor of Braunau am Inn, said he fully supported the commission’s finding, noting that it had further recommended that the site be used by a social or municipal institution, to further emphasize the rejection of Nazi ideology.
Hitler was an early adopter of Social Justice Warrior techniques like segregation and banishment of people of a different ideology to their own safe spaces, called “gas chambers” at the time. The Austrian government’s worry is that the home is already a sort of pilgrimage for neo-Nazis and may continue to build its popularity as a visitation site for morbid tourists.
While we can all agree that the founder of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party was a horrible human being, the idea of erasing him from architectural and cultural history is a bit more controversial. It is understandable that the Austrian government wants to avoid the home becoming Skinhead-central but like it or not, Adolf Hitler is a very important figure in human history. His horrors taught us valuable lessons that should never be forgotten. Perhaps it is only right that the ugliness of his life’s work be allowed to exist in the public square as a reminder.
What do you think should be done with Hitler’s childhood home? Leave your thoughts in the comments.