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Austria Constitutional Court: okay for government to seize Hitler’s birth-home
Austria Constitutional Court: okay for government to seize Hitler’s birth-home

The Austria Constitutional Court [official website, in German] on Friday ruled [opinion, PDF; in German] that the government seizure of the apartment complex where Nazi leader Adolf Hitler [Britannica profile] was born is constitutional. The Court elaborated [press release, PDF; German and English] that “the expropriation of Adolf Hitler’s birthplace in Braunau (Upper Austria) by law was in the public interest, commensurate and not without compensation, and therefore not unconstitutional.” The government felt it was necessary to seize the property to ensure that it did not become a pilgrimage site for neo-nazis, who have turned it into a meeting place in recent years. The Court agreed and added:

Nobody—not even the legal counsel of the applicant—denies the public interest in measures taken to that effect. However, the measures recommended by the [expert] commissions [of the Federal Minister of the Interior] as necessary to prevent the identification of the property and, thus, deprive it of its symbolic power, can only be taken if the Republic of Austria obtains full power of disposal of the property.

The property, a few hundred meters away from the border with Germany was owned by Gerlinde Pommer-Angloher, and was seized through Austria’s expropriation law. Pommer-Angloher rejected several offers [DW report] from the government to purchase the property from her, which was bought back by her mother post World War II after Nazi-Germany forced Pommer-Angloher’s grandparents to sell it to the government. This was a constitutional challenge brought forth by Pommer-Angloher to Austria’s expropriation law.

Efforts to seek justice and restitution for the victims of the Nazi Germany era are still underway, over 70 years after the close of World War II. In May, Romania enacted legislation [JURIST report] enabling restitution for Holocaust survivors. In November 2016, the Germany Federal Court of Justice [official website, in German] upheld [JURIST report] the conviction of former Nazi SS Officer Oskar Groening [BBC profile], known as the “accountant of Auschwitz,” for his role in the deaths of over 300,000 people during the Holocaust. Two months earlier, the Neubrandenburg state court in Germany started the trial of a 95-year-old former SS medic [JURIST report] who served at the Auschwitz camp. The same month, a court in Kiel, Germany, ruled that a 92-year-old woman charged with Nazi crimes was unfit to stand trial [JURIST report]. Prior to 2011, German prosecutors often chose not to charge individuals they regarded as “cogs” in, rather than active members of, the Nazi war machine. The 2011 conviction [JURIST report] of former Nazi guard John Demjanjuk [BBC profile] may have emboldened German prosecutors to pursue cases against all those who materially helped Nazi Germany function.