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Austria Decides To Tear Hitler's House Down

Adolf Hitler's birth house in Braunau am Inn, Austria.

The Austrian government says it plans to tear down the house where Adolf Hitler was born to prevent the property from being a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis.

This comes after a long fight with the current owner, who for years has rejected the government's attempts to purchase the property located in Braunau, near the German border. Now, the government intends to confiscate it, reporter Kerry Skyring in Vienna tells our Newscast unit.

As Skyring reports, the Interior Ministry says that "only the foundations will remain and upon them government offices or a community center will be erected." He adds that it's meant to eliminate any association with Hitler.

"Neo-Nazis sometimes gather outside the yellow three-story structure," Skyring says.

A memorial stone outside the house does not mention Hitler's name; instead, it reads "For Peace, Freedom and Democracy" and "Never Again Fascism."

We've previously reported on the tense negotiations between Austrian authorities and the owner of the house, widely identified as Gerlinde Pommer:

"Local resident Gerlinde Pommer's family has owned the home since 1889, [Agence France-Presse] says. The Austrian government has rented the property since the 1970s, using it as a center for people with special needs.

"However, according to AFP, 'the arrangement came to an abrupt end five years ago when Pommer unexpectedly refused to grant permission for much-needed renovation works.'

"Florian Kotanko, a local historian, told the BBC in 2014 that Pommer 'does not allow any changing of the house, so you can't rebuild any rooms, you can't build modern bathrooms or put in a lift. It is difficult.'

"The Austrian government has paid Pommer some $5,600 every month in rent, the New York Times reported last year.

"Newsweek says Pommer is 'thought to be in her mid-60s' and 'reclusive.' The magazine adds that her reasons for blocking renovations to the property are 'unclear.' "

The demolition is reportedly supported by "Vienna's Jewish community center and a panel of historians who have advised the government," according to Skyring.

But the plan won't please everyone. Some members of the community "wanted it to become a refugee centre, others a museum dedicated to Austria's liberation from Nazi rule," as the BBC reports. Others simply thought it should remain standing for historical reasons: "a number of cultural organizations previously opposed the building's demolition because it is part of the historic city centre and therefore under heritage protection."

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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