Austrian Court: State Seizure of Hitler Birth House Lawful

Austria’s constitutional court (VFGH) has ruled that the government’s seizure of Adolf Hitler’s birth house in Braunau am Inn was lawful, ruling against former owner Gerlinde Pommer-Angloher’s legal challenge that the government had unlawfully taken over the building.

“The expropriation by law of the house of Adolf Hitler’s birth in Braunau was carried out in the public interest, proportionately and not without [financial] compensation, so it was not unconstitutional,” the court said in its ruling.

The Austrian government ultimately seized the three-floor building in December 2016 after Pommer-Angloher refused several offers from the government to buy it from her.

With a few interruptions, the Austrian government had been leaseholder of the property for decades. Pommer-Angloher terminated the rental agreement in 2011 when the government wanted to renovate it for wheelchair access.

Pommer-Angloher’s lawyer, Gerhard Lebitsch, said this week that the expropriation of the property was unconstitutional, seeking annulment of a law which allowed the state to seize the building.

“Mrs. Pommer-Angloher has always had an interest in a neutral use of the house,” Lebitsch said. “She thinks that nothing is achieved with the expropriation.”

Ironically, Pommer-Angloher’s grandparents purchased the building in 1913 but sold it to the authorities in 1938. Her mother bought it back after World War II.

The fate of the building is not yet clear as arguments for renovation and demolition persist, but the government’s main priority is to try and reduce its tourist appeal, as the town is still often visited by curiosity seekers.

In 2012, local authorities ordered the removal of the tombstone marking the site of Hitler’s parents’ grave in the village of Leonding, claiming that the marker—which had stood there for over 100 years—was a “tourist attraction.”

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