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Debate over value of Hitler's birth home

Vienna

IN 1889, Adolf Hitler was born in an apartment on the top floor of an inconspicuous building in Braunau am Inn, Austria, close to the border with Germany.

Since the end of World War II, the Austrian government has been eager to dissociate the house with Hitler's legacy. Two years ago, it seized the home from its long-time owner, Gerlinde Pommer, whose family owned it since before Hitler's birth, except for a short stint during the war when it belonged to Hitler's secretary. Now Ms Pommer wants as much as US$1.7 million for it.

Last week, Deutsche Welle, a German news wire, reported that Ms Pommer's lawyer is seeking a significant amount of compensation for the building after initially receiving around US$355,000 from the government.

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The house and its parking lot were recently appraised at US$915,000 to US$1.7 million, DW reported, and Ms Pommer's lawyer said the Austrian government did not adequately reimburse his client.

Austria had regularly leased the property from Ms Pommer since the 1970s, using it as a space to support disabled people. But Ms Pommer has long refused offers for them to purchase it from her. When the government wanted to renovate parts of the property in 2011, she refused and terminated the lease.

In recent years, Austrian officials have repeatedly raised concerns that the house has become a gathering spot for neo-Nazis. In July 2016, then-Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said that the government "would like to prevent this house from becoming a 'cult site' for neo-Nazis in any way, which it has been repeatedly in the past, when people gathered there to shout slogans." That was when the government moved to seize the house. Ms Pommer insisted that the move violated the Austrian Constitution, but in 2017, the country's constitutional court backed the government decision, saying it was "carried out in the public interest".

There has been debate over what will happen to the house next. There has been talk of it being used as space for charities or for a Holocaust remembrance museum. But Mr Sobotka made his intentions clear in 2016, when he said that regardless of who occupies it next, "there shall be no connection with Adolf Hitler because otherwise this legacy around the house will persist". WP