In an attempt to neutralize the political significance of Adolf Hitler’s birthplace in Austria, authorities will transform the building into a modernized police station.
The renovation plans for the 17th-century building in Braunau am Inn, a town of 16,000 people, were unveiled on June 2 and include a new, white exterior; a redesigned roof with two peaks; and an extension at the back of the building.
According to authorities, the design is meant to be “neutral” to deter neo-Nazi sympathizers who have reportedly gathered at the space. The plan will be executed by the Austrian architecture firm Marte Marte, which won out over 11 competitors from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. According to Euronews, the renovation is expected to be finished by early 2023 at a cost of around €5 million ($5.5 million).
“We are opening a new chapter today in dealing with our historical responsibility,” Austrian interior minister Karl Nehammer said in a statement. “The house where [Hitler] was born in Braunau is becoming an antithesis to everything he stood for: a place where democracy and human rights are defended, a place that offers security from persecution and allows us to look ahead in peace and freedom.”
The Austrian Ministry did not immediately respond to questions from Artnet News about what new design features neutralized its appeal among Nazi sympathizers.
The building’s fate has been the subject of intense debate, with varying proposals put forward to transform it into an education center or even to knock it down. The decision to make it into a police headquarters was announced in November.
“There is a strong wish that the history of this building is diminished,” historian Andreas Maislinger, the founder of the Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service, tells Artnet News. “A few years ago, there was the idea to destroy the house. If the house does not exist anymore, there is no birth anymore. This is a fiction. To make it neutral is to wipe out history.”
But Maislinger is not sold on the idea of transforming the building into a police station, arguing that visitors will come with questions that police cannot answer. “A policeman or woman’s job is security,” he says. “They are not historians.”
Hitler was born in the building on April 20, 1889, but moved with his family weeks later. During the Second World War, it was a center of National Socialist activity. In 2017, it was taken by the government from a private owner following a court ruling in the state’s favor. The owner was paid €812,000 for the handover in 2019, according to Merkur.
A stone that sits outside the building, which reads “for peace, freedom, and democracy,” will be removed, and perhaps taken to a museum in Vienna, according to .