Austria highest court ends row over Hitler birth house

Vienna (AFP) –


Austria's highest court has put an end to a row over the house where Adolf Hitler was born, rejecting the amount the former owner had demanded in compensation, the interior ministry said on Monday.

Gerlinde Pommer's family owned the yellow corner house in the northern town of Braunau on the border with Germany for nearly a century.

The government took control of the dilapidated building in December 2016 after years of legal wrangling with Pommer.

Austrian authorities have been keen to prevent the premises, where Hitler was born on April 20, 1889, from becoming a neo-Nazi shrine.

Although he only spent a short time at the property, it continues to draw Nazi sympathisers from around the world.

In January, a regional court ruled that the state should pay Pommer 1.5 million euros ($1.7 million) in compensation, much more than the 310,000 euros she had been originally offered.

But another tribunal overturned this verdict in April, finding that the current market price -- set by a court-appointed expert at 810,000 euros excluding any rental income -- would constitute an appropriate amount of compensation.

Austria's highest court has now upheld the April ruling, meaning Pommer will receive less compensation than she sought but still more than she had been originally offered.

"After the court's decision on compensation, a use for Hitler's birth house can now be found within the framework of the law to prevent any sort of Nazi-related activity," Interior Minister Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

Authorities will invite submissions from architects about the future of the site, the statement said without giving further details.

Pommer had been renting the 800-square-metre (8,600-square-feet) property -- which also has several garages and parking spaces located behind the main building -- to the interior ministry since the 1970s.

The government paid her around 4,800 euros a month and used it as a centre for people with disabilities.

But this arrangement fell apart in 2011 when Pommer refused to carry out essential renovation work and also declined to sell it.

Since then, the building has lain empty.

At one point, the interior ministry was pushing to have it torn down but the plans ran into angry resistance from politicians and historians.

Every year on Hitler's birthday, anti-fascist protesters organise a rally outside the building.