- Russian MP Frantz Klintsevich wants to buy the house where Adolf Hitler was born to destroy it
- Town mayor Hannes Waidbacher plans to renovate it into luxury apartments to 'de-stigmatise' the property
- Each apartment could sell for around £400,000
- Nazi leader was born in the pub in Braunau-am-Inn in Austria in 1889
- He lived there for three years with his parents in upstairs rooms
- Became a place of pilgrimage for loyal Nazis during the Third Reich
A Russian MP is making a bid to buy the house where Adolf Hitler was born to destroy it – thus thwarting plans by the town’s mayor to renovate it into luxury apartments. Frantz Klintsevich, a lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party, is aiming to collect £1.8m from supporters to buy the house in the Austrian town of Braunau-am-Inn. He said: ‘I would buy this property in the blink of an eye if I had that kind of money myself, but I do not. If I were to receive financial help, I would buy the house and destroy it demonstratively.’
Die-hard Communists, who still remember the 27 million Soviet citizens who died in the ‘Great Patriotic War’ against Hitler, are in favour of his plan. Vadim Solovyov, a member of the Communist Party’s State Duma fraction, said: ‘Everything that is connected to fascism should be wiped off the face of the earth. ‘No one should even know that place ever existed.
Austria’s interior ministry has rented the house since 1972 from the owner – a woman in her 60s who refuses to be identified publicly – and has been careful to sublet only to tenants with no history of admiring Hitler.
Town mayor Hannes Waidbacher opposes a Holocaust museum at the site and believes that turning over the former Gasthaus zum Pommer to become family homes would be one way of ‘de-stigmatising’ Braunau. If the plan – approved by the mayor and proposed by a local building consortium – was accepted it would mean the room where Hitler was born would become a bedroom in self-contained apartments with state-of-the-art kitchens and bathrooms that would go on the market for an estimated £400,000 each.
Such a plan, say experts, would require vigorous vetting of prospective buyers to ensure that a single flat, indeed the entire property, did not fall into the hands of neo-Nazis masking their real identities and purpose behind a shell company or individuals.
The little Austrian town separated from Germany by a short bridge over the River Inn, is still visited by hordes of far-right fanatics each year who come to pay homage at the site where the future Fuehrer was born on April 20 1889. Up until a year ago it was the ironic setting for a workshop for the mentally and physically handicapped; the sort of people Hitler deemed as ‘useless eaters’ and the first to die in the Third Reich’s secret euthanasia campaign before WWII.
But it has been empty for a year now with the state picking up the bill for the lease and a debate raging about what to do with the two-storey listed building. Mayor Waidbacher said: ‘Braunau has done much to process its history over the years. It is not necessary to build a Holocaust museum in the house as some have suggested. ‘Braunau as a town is already stigmatised enough. Hitler spent only three years of his life here, and they were certainly not the most formative years of his life. ‘Why should I or others take responsibility for him? I was born 21 years after the end of the war.’
The mayor said he was open to all suggestions, saying Braunau wants an ‘affordable solution for all. I can imagine all possibilities for the house’. But he is against turning it into a ‘House of Peace’ or a ‘House of Responsibility’ as Green Party members have advocated, believing the town has done enough atoning over the years for its most infamous son.
It was in a room on the first floor of the three-storey, 2,000 square foot house at Salzburger Vorstadt 15 that Hitler’s mother Klara gave birth to her infamous son. She and her husband Alois, a stern local customs official, rented a suite of rooms above the pub and continued to live in it until 1892 when they moved to Linz. Alois, a drunkard, often availed himself often of the beer on sale in the saloon downstairs before returning to the family home to abuse his timid wife, 24 years his junior. The house is still owned by the family after which the pub took its name. Owner Gelinde Pommer says she wants to sell because she no longer wants to have the responsibility for it. Nothing remains inside the building to indicate its link with Hitler, not even the bedroom where he was born.
The only Nazi-era relic is on an iron gate outside, the initials MB for Hitler’s party secretary Martin Bormann, who had them placed there when he declared the house a national monument after Hitler took over Austria in 1938. During the 12-year lifespan of the Third Reich it was a must-see place of pilgrimage for loyal Nazis. Bormann bought the house with Nazi funds and made it a cultural centre which displayed Nazi-approved art.
It was given back to the Pommer family in 1952 and served as the town’s public library until 1965 before becoming, in turns, a school, a bank, a technical institute and finally the home and workshop for disabled people. Those who want it turned into a site of remembrance for Hitler’s crimes are pressing central government in Vienna to compulsorily purchase the property.