House of Hitler’s birth stirs Austrian angst

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And it’s unclear who else might want to take up residence in the house.

“I wouldn’t want to live there,” said 19-year-old Susanne Duerr, as she paused from pushing her baby carriage to gaze at the yellow stucco building. “I think I would have a bad conscience.”

Other townsfolk old enough to remember the Fuehrer echo that sentiment.

Georg Hoedl, 88, recalls Hitler as the man who dragged Depression-era Austria and Germany out of the kind of abject poverty that forced him to go begging.

But he also is aware of the evil Hitler spawned.

“There should be something else inside, something cultural. But apartments — I’m not for that,” he said.

Mr. Hoedl’s wife, Erika, 73, says that bearing the burden of the house’s legacy “wouldn’t be pleasant for the tenants — once they moved in, they would be asked about this all the time.”

‘Never again’

Austria’s Interior Ministry has rented the house since 1972 from the owner, a woman in her 60s who refuses to be identified publicly. The ministry has been careful to sublet only to tenants with no history of admiring Hitler.

Asked about the debate, Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sonja Jell said the ministry remains “particularly sensitive” about the future uses of the building, considering its legacy.

The owner refused a request by Braunau officials to let the city mount a sign on the house warning of the evils of the Nazi past.

But an inscription on a chunk of granite on public property near the building calls out to passers-by: “For peace, freedom and democracy. Never again fascism. Millions of dead remind [us].”

The building still has the initials MB in the iron grillwork above the massive wooden doorway. The initials stand for Martin Bormann, Hitler’s private secretary, who bought the house shortly before World War II with thoughts of turning it into a shrine to the dictator.

The house is one of the few remaining structures directly linked to Hitler.

A house in nearby Leonding where he spent some teenage years is now used to store coffins for the town cemetery.

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