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Hitler’s Austrian birthplace to become human rights training center

<i>AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>Hitler in 1939
AFP/Getty Images
Hitler in 1939

By Amarachi Orie and Chris Stern, CNN

(CNN) — The house in Austria where Adolf Hitler was born will be converted into a human rights training center for police officers, Austria’s Interior Ministry announced Wednesday.

The building in the northwestern town of Braunau am Inn will accommodate the facility along with a police station, for which the Austrian government disclosed plans in 2019.

The decision was made based on the recommendations of an interdisciplinary expert commission concerned with depriving the property of its “mythical appeal to extremist circles,” the ministry said in a statement.

“We have to face our past and give this historically burdened place a life-affirming perspective,” historian Oliver Rathkolb, a professor at the Institute of Contemporary History at the University of Vienna, said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

Hitler was born in an apartment in the building on April 20, 1889 and lived there until his family left when he was three years old.

The building belonged to Gerlinde Pommer, whose family owned the building before Hitler’s birth, for decades until the Interior Ministry began renting the site from her in 1972.

It was sublet to various charities. However, the three-story house has been empty since 2011, when the tenant, a disability center, vacated the premises.

The government said in 2016 that the property would be demolished. It then set about forcibly acquiring it from Pommer, with the interior ministry invoking “special legal authorization” to expropriate the property.

Legal wrangling over the seizure and compensation followed, during which time plans to tear the building down were shelved.

After securing the site, the Austrian government remained concerned that it might attract neo-Nazis and others sympathetic to Hitler’s ideology. When announcing the decision to transform it into a police station in 2019, Austria’s then-Interior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn, said that “the future use of the house by the police will be an unmistakable signal that this building will never serve to commemorate National Socialism.”

“It will be an office for the largest human rights organization in Austria – the police – and it will also be a center for training in this fundamentally important topic,” commission member Hermann Feiner, the former head of construction and real estate projects at the Ministry of the Interior, said in the statement Wednesday.

The conversion – which will cost an estimated €20 million ($21.5 million) – is expected to be completed in 2025, with the police moving in the following year.

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CNN’s Oscar Holland contributed to this story.

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