Hitler's birthplace to be demolished

The Austrian government wants to end years of wrangling over the future of Adolf Hitler's birth house in Braunau by demolishing or at least repurposing the building. With these plans the minister of the interior, Wolfgang Sobotka, is following the recommendation of a commission of experts. The wrecking ball is hardly the best way to confront the past, Europe's press warns.

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Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

We must face history, not forget it

This is not the way to encourage a critical approach to history, the Süddeutsche Zeitung warns:

“Hitler lived only briefly in the house where he was born, and Braunau is tired of the stigma of being 'Hitler town' in history books. But the pragmatic argument that there are plenty of other places and opportunities in Austria to deal with Nazi terror is beside the point. The mere fact that the argument over what to do with the house has been dragging on for years shows that you can't order people to forget things. Braunau wants some peace and quiet? This isn't going to happen. Hitler's crimes are just too monstrous. The bravest and most forward-looking solution would be to turn the site into a community centre, a youth forum or a research institute. An indication, at least, of some regard for the sign in front of the house: Never again fascism.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Hitler part of Austrian history

Austria should look to Germany for guidance on how to deal with Hitler's past, suggests historian Sergio Romano in Corriere della Sera:

“It's hard to confront the past if you erase its traces. You can't just remember the acceptable parts and brush aside the awkward ones. Hitler is part of Austria. The years he spent in Vienna were bitter, and yet they informed his worldview and his proclivities more than his time in Berlin or Munich. It was here that his anti-Semitism was born. It was here that he was greeted triumphantly by cheering masses in 1938. Paradoxically the decision to tear down his birth house in Braunau came shortly after the publication of a new, critical edition of Hitler's Mein Kampf in Germany. ... German academics have not burned the remaining copies of Hitler's book, as those hungry for demolition in Braunau might have done. Instead they are hitting him with the best of German philology.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Put off for decades

Why has this decision been delayed for so long, Lidové noviny asks:

“If the house had been torn down immediately after the war, there would have been a logic to it. A logic of retribution by the victorious allies or a logic of alibi by the defeated Nazis. The Austrians famously cast themselves as the 'first victims' of Hitler's Germany. ... In Austria's defence it should be said that across three generations the house never became a pilgrimage site for old Nazis or neo-Nazis. Unlike Spandau prison, which had to be torn down after the death of the last prisoner sentenced in Nuremberg. ... The fact that it took so long to reach a decision about the house in Braunau all comes down to one thing: Hitler is a huge taboo.”