Court orders Austria to pay €1.5 million for Hitler house

A court has told the Austrian government to pay more than a million euros to the former owner of the house where Adolf Hitler was born. It had bought the building at a knockdown price using a compulsory purchase order.

The Austrian state should substantially increase the amount of compensation it paid to the owner of the house where Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was born in 1889, a court ruled on Wednesday.

The district court in the northern Austrian town of Ried im Innkreis decided that the government had substantially short-changed the property owner with its compulsory purchase order.

It ordered the government to pay the owner, Gerlinde Pommer, €1.5 million ($1.7 million), matching the amount that the owner's legal team had been looking for after commissioning a valuation of the property in Braunau am Inn.

So far, the state has only paid out €310,000.

Concern about neo-Nazis

The Pommer family had owned the building before it was bought by Martin Bormann, a close aide of Hitler, in 1938. The building was placed under state protection and returned to the Pommers after World War II.

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Hitler's house in Austria

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Gerlinde Pommer inherited the property in 1977.

Concerned that neo-Nazis might erect some type of shrine to Hitler, the Austrian government took over the lease shortly thereafter.

Refusal to renovate

Until 2011, it was home to a center for disabled people, but Pommer terminated the agreement when the government wanted to make it more wheelchair accessible. 

In 2016, the Austrian state ordered the compulsory purchase of the three-story building and car park after several failed attempts to buy it from Pommer. She had refused to sell the building or carry out essential renovation works.

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Pommer had challenged the seizure, saying it was unconstitutional, but a court ruled in the state's favor.

The men who led Nazi Germany

Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945)

As Hitler's Propaganda Minister, the virulently anti-Semitic Goebbels was responsible for making sure a single, iron-clad Nazi message reached every citizen of the Third Reich. He strangled freedom of the press, controlled all media, arts, and information, and pushed Hitler to declare "Total War." He and his wife committed suicide in 1945, after poisoning their six children.

The men who led Nazi Germany

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)

The leader of the German National Socialist Workers' Party (Nazi) developed his anti-Semitic, anti-communist and racist ideology well before coming to power as Chancellor in 1933. He undermined political institutions to transform Germany into a totalitarian state. From 1939 to 1945, he led Germany in World War II while overseeing the Holocaust. He committed suicide in April 1945.

The men who led Nazi Germany

Heinrich Himmler (1900-1945)

As leader of the Nazi paramilitary SS ("Schutzstaffel"), Himmler was one of the Nazi party members most directly responsible for the Holocaust. He also served as Chief of Police and Minister of the Interior, thereby controlling all of the Third Reich's security forces. He oversaw the construction and operations of all extermination camps, in which more than 6 million Jews were murdered.

The men who led Nazi Germany

Rudolf Hess (1894-1987)

Hess joined the Nazi party in 1920 and took part in the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, a failed Nazi attempt to gain power. While in prison, he helped Hitler write "Mein Kampf." Hess flew to Scotland in 1941 to attempt a peace negotiation, where he was arrested and held until the war's end. In 1946, he stood trial in Nuremberg and was sentenced to life in prison, where he died.

The men who led Nazi Germany

Adolf Eichmann (1906-1962)

Alongside Himmler, Eichmann was one of the chief organizers of the Holocaust. As an SS Lieutenant colonel, he managed the mass deportations of Jews to Nazi extermination camps in Eastern Europe. After Germany's defeat, Eichmann fled to Austria and then to Argentina, where he was captured by the Israeli Mossad in 1960. Tried and found guilty of crimes against humanity, he was executed in 1962.

The men who led Nazi Germany

Hermann Göring (1893-1946)

A participant in the failed Beer Hall Putsch, Göring became the second-most powerful man in Germany once the Nazis took power. He founded the Gestapo, the Secret State Police, and served as Luftwaffe commander until just before the war's end, though he increasingly lost favor with Hitler. Göring was sentenced to death at Nuremberg but committed suicide the night before it was enacted.

Hitler's birth home has attracted neo-Nazis and other extremists for years, with a number of extremists making the trip to Braunau am Inn to take a picture in front of the building.

In 2016, then Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said the building would be torn down to its foundation and new building would be erected. Critics said, however, that the state would sweep away its uncomfortable connection with the Third Reich if it proceeded with the proposal.

rc/amp (dpa, AFP)

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