Seizing Hitler’s birth house from its owner was legal, court says


VIENNA — The Austrian state acted within the law when it seized Adolf Hitler’s birth house from its private owner early this year, the country’s Constitutional Court ruled on Friday.

The owner had appealed the expropriation of her building in Braunau.

The state took it away from her so that authorities can completely alter its appearance, in the hopes this will stop it from being an attraction for far-right extremists who have been visiting the site.

The move was in the public interest and was not excessive, the court said in its ruling.

“The relentless rejection of national socialism has been a founding principle of the Republic of Austria since it was resurrected in 1945,” the judges wrote.

Therefore, the state has the duty to ensure that the birthplace of the Nazi dictator is not misused, they concluded.

“There is evidence that the seized property could become a site of pilgrimage or identification to foster national socialist or neo-Nazi ideology,” they said.

Extremists routinely travel to Braunau to have their pictures taken in front of the building.

The woman who had owned the house had been blocking attempts by authorities to negotiate its future, according to the government.

The future National Socialist dictator was born in the unassuming three-story house in 1889, but only lived there a few months before the family moved.

Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938. Many Austrians joined the National Socialists and became associated with war atrocities during the Holocaust. Modern Austrian therefore considers itself responsible for dealing with that legacy.