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Other townsfolk old enough 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

His 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.”

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 remained “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: “Never again fascism, never again war.”

The building still has the initials MB in the iron grillwork above the massive wooden doorway. It stands 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. At that graveyard, the tombstone marking the grave of Hitler’s parents, a place of pilgrimage for neo-Nazis, was removed last year at the request of a descendant. A school that Hitler attended in Fischlham, also near Braunau, displays a plaque condemning his crimes against humanity.

The underground bunker in Berlin where Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945, was demolished after the war. It was left vacant until the East German government built an apartment complex around the site in the late 1980s. The apartments, which are still occupied, overlook the German capital’s monument to victims of the Holocaust.

Ultimately, it’s the owner who will decide the Branau building’s fate. She’s known to be opposed to turning it into a Holocaust memorial, meaning there’s still a chance it could be converted into apartments.

That’s a nightmare scenario for Mr. Buchmayr, a member of Austria’s Socialist Party, which has done much over the past four decades to sensitize citizens to their country’s Nazi past.

“You can’t simply wish it away,” Mr. Buchmayr said of the house. “Unfortunately, we have it here.

Hitler was born here.”