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Austria Seizes Hitler's Birthplace, Will Offer It to Charity

FILE - This is an exterior view of Adolf Hitler's birth house in Braunau am Inn, Austria. It will be turned into a base for a charity.

The Austrian government on Thursday approved the seizure of the house where Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was born. It will be turned into a base for a charity, rather than torn down.

The decision came a day after lawmakers overwhelmingly approved an Interior Ministry bill to dispossess the owner of the house. She had refused to sell the empty building in Braunau am Inn, a town on Austria's border with Germany. The move ended years of bitter legal wrangling over the property.

Provincial Governor Josef Puehringer said destroying the structure would have fueled accusations of "tearing down a piece of burdensome history.''

Instead, officials want to remodel the property's facade to eliminate its attraction to Nazi sympathizers from around the world. They are offering it to Lebenshilfe, a charity that supports people with learning difficulties.

Hitler was born in a rented room on the top floor of the building on April 20, 1889. During Nazi rule, the house was transformed into a shrine to Hitler as the town drew a wave of tourists.

Every year on Hitler's birthday, anti-fascist protesters organize a rally outside the building, next to a memorial stone reading: "For Peace, Freedom and Democracy. Never Again Fascism, Millions of Dead Warn."

The property has been empty since 2011, when Austria became embroiled in a dispute with the owner, Gerlinde Pommer, whose family has owned the 800-square-meter building for nearly a century and has been renting it to the Austrian state. Under the legislation, she will receive an unspecified amount in compensation.