Austrian government wins court case to buy ‘Hitler House’

After a three-year legal battle, Austria’s Supreme Court rules that the government may requisition the house Hitler was born in and pay less compensation than the owner demanded.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Austria’s Supreme Court of Justice has ruled in favor of the government gaining possession of the home in which Adolf Hitler was born in exchange for fair, but not exorbitant, compensation to its longtime owner.

A lower court had ruled that Gerlinde Pommer, whose family owned the three-story building in Braunau am Inn since the late-19th century, should be paid $1.7 million for the house. The government appealed the decision and in June, the Supreme Court set the compensation at $908,000 (812,000 Euro), which it said was the fair market price for the property.

The authorities had tried to purchase the structure for a long time before making the decision to expropriate it three years ago and embarking on the legal journey. The motive was purely to stop the phenomenon of thousands of neo-Nazis visiting the site in homage, although there is no mention of Hitler’s name there.

The only hint to its connection to the leader of the Third Reich is a stone memorial on the sidewalk that says, “For peace, freedom and democracy. Never again fascism. Millions dead are a warning.”

The building at Salzburger Vorstadt 15 had a pub on the ground floor and apartments above in 1889, when Hitler was born to one of the tenant families. Since the end of World War II, it has housed several renters, including the government itself, which used it for decades as a center for those with special needs.

But after Pommer refused to make much-needed renovations in 2012, the contract was not extended, and the building has stood vacant ever since.

Pommer, who has lived in the small medieval town all her life, had also tried fighting the expropriation in both the Austrian Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights. She lost in both cases, as the expropriation was ruled constitutional and the European court declared her complaint inadmissible.

An Austrian Interior Ministry spokesman told NPR on Tuesday that the government will now hold “an open competition for architects to see what they propose for the so-called Hitler house.” The possibility that the authorities will decide to destroy the building has not yet been completely ruled out either.