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Row Over Plans For Hitler's Birthplace
The house where Adolf Hitler was born has become the subject of a fierce debate after the mayor of the dictator's home town suggested turning it into apartments.
Johannes Waidbacher sparked criticism in Austria by saying he wanted the vacant building in Braunau to become a living space rather than an anti-Nazi memorial.
"We are already stigmatised," he told the Austrian daily Der Standard.
"We, as the town of Braunau, are not ready to assume responsibility for the outbreak of the Second World War."
Mr Waidbacher has since been accused of trying to bury memories of the Nazi past.
The 500-year-old building, which has thick walls, a huge arched doorway and deep-set windows, was most recently used as a workshop for people with learning difficulties, before that tenant moved out last year for more modern quarters.
And anger at Mr Waidbachers comments has been particularly acute because Braunau's town council only withdrew honorary citizenship from Hitler last year, 78 years after he was given the accolade.
The mayor has since stepped back, saying he can conceive of "all possible uses" for the building.
But fears persist among many in the town that any flats could be filled by admirers of Hitler.
Town council member Harry Buchmayr said most visitors were not normal tourists but neo-Nazis stopping to pay homage, even though the dictator spent only the first few months of his life in the building.
"These are certainly people we don't want here," he said.
One resident, 19-year-old Susanne Duerr, said: "I wouldn't want to live there. I think I would have a bad conscience."
And another town resident, Georg Hoedl, 88, said: "There should be something else inside, something cultural. But apartments - I'm not for that."
His wife Erika, 73, added: "(It) 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 - and has been careful to sublet only to tenants with no history of admiring Hitler.
Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sonja Jell said the ministry remained "particularly sensitive" about the future uses of the building considering its legacy.
Its fate will ultimately be decided by the owner, who is known to be opposed to turning it into a Holocaust memorial - meaning there is still a chance it could be converted into apartments.
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.
The tombstone marking the grave of Adolf Hitler's parents in that graveyard, a place of pilgrimage for neo-Nazis, was removed last year at the request of a descendant.