The EveryOne Group for International Cooperation on Human Rights Culture has asked the government of Israel to purchase an unlikely property – the house where Adolf Hiter was born in 1889.
With a €2 million ($3.3m.) price tag, EveryOne Group hopes that the house can be turned into an art gallery commemorating the Holocaust.
The house on Salzburger Vorstadt Street, in the Austrian town of Braunau am Inn, has served as a library, school, bank, technical institute and workshop since the end of World War II.
If the state of Israel purchases the house, EveryOne will donate “about 200 works of art made by Jewish artists who survived the Holocaust or died in the death camps,” according to Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro and Dario Picciau, co-presidents of EveryOne.
The proposed collection was “built up year after year as we searched all over the world for traces of artists murdered by the Nazis, or by contacting the survivors,” they said.
The proposal comes to the great relief of Braunau Mayor Gerhard Skiba, who fears that the property could fall into the hands of extremists. The only visible Nazi insignia is on the iron gate outside, where Martin Bormann, Hitler’s party secretary placed his initials after declaring the house a national monument.
Currently, the building houses handicapped people who have worked and lived in the home under special care. The tenants will all be moving to a modern facility at the beginning of 2010, however, and owner Gelinde Pommer no longer wants to be responsible for the property.
EveryOne previously helped open a genocide art museum in 2007, when it set up a permanent exhibit titled “Holocaust and Genocide Art” in the Hilo Art Museum of Hawaii. The exhibit was established as an educational project aimed at informing the younger generation.
Ted Coombs, the museum’s director, believed that the exhibit would portray fragments of a fundamental part of human thought, which have been lost as a result of prejudice, intolerance and war.
Following the success of Hilo, EveryOne envisions Hitler’s birth home as a powerful location for a new Holocaust art museum.
“We believe it is of great importance that racial tolerance and the memory of the Holocaust be allowed to substitute the culture of hatred and evil in a place that is just as symbolic as Auschwitz,” co-presidents of EveryOne said. “…it would offer the fruits of peace and equality to future generations.”
The $3.3 million selling price could be covered quickly by visitors’ tickets, documentaries, publications and the like, the group said.
In 2007, after the opening of Hilo’s “Holocaust and Genocide Art” exhibit, Alfred Breitman, an artist and member of the EveryOne group wrote, “They [art pieces] are the work of artists who bore witness through their talent and courage to the darkest episode of human history, and they are portraits of witnesses who struggled, and are still struggling, to stop the millions of innocents massacred by the Nazis [from] being forgotten.”
Breitman emphasized that art has the power to create a lasting impact on its viewers, and that Holocaust and genocide art has a special way of connecting with youth. “Art is a powerful instrument for education and keeping memory alive, because it reaches the public conscience and speaks to the heart of the young,” he said.
EveryOne hopes that the Israeli government sees the potential of the museum as well, “turning the site where this evil started out, and where the seeds of the massacre took root, into an art gallery commemorating the Holocaust.”