Austrian Town Wonders What to Do with Hitler's Home

"The mayor says he supports the idea, but he has been a bit hesitant," says Maislinger. "It's normal that people in Braunau don't want to think the entire time about Hitler. If you look at Berlin, people there don't always think about the fact that Hitler made his decisions there. It's a big city. But with smaller cities, like Dachau for example, it is more difficult. And Braunau is even smaller than that. One can understand it, but still, there are a lot of people that agree with my concept." 'Something Has to Happen' And the building, part of a collection of older structures which have enjoyed protected status since the early 20th century, isn't going anywhere, despite periodic proposals to simply tear it down and be done with it.

At the time of Hitler's birth, it was a boarding house, and his father Alois and mother Klara didn't stay there for long, moving to Passau in 1892. Following the German annexation of Austria, however, the Nazi party took an interest in the building. In 1938, Hitler's private secretary Martin Bormann bought it in the hopes of eventually turning it into a monument on par with the birthplaces of Stalin and Mussolini. After the war, the US wanted to turn it into an exhibition on the horrors of the Holocaust.

But in 1952, the building was bought back by the family that had sold it in 1938 -- and that remains the primary hurdle to any plans for its future today. The family, simply put, has shown no interest in selling the property. Indeed, as Maislinger admits, the current debate sparked by the mayor remains academic until the building changes hands.

Maislinger, though, is optimistic that it ultimately will. "Something has to happen with the house. It can't just sit there empty for the next 10 years," he says. "Owning property is also a responsibility. And if there is a historical connection, no matter what kind of connection it might be, that responsibility is even larger."

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