South Bend, Indiana, September 27, 2000
House where Hitler grew up haunts
residents of Austrian town
is being renovated as coffin warehouse
By GEORGE JAHN
Associated Press Writer
FOR decades, few people outside
Leonding knew the Nazi dictator spent his boyhood in this
picture-pretty town near the west Austrian city of Linz.
In a country that is still struggling to own up to its
past, Leonding would have preferred to keep its
Hitler connection out of the public
But this year, the house where Hitler lived for six
years until age 15 was becoming a safety hazard and a
decision had to be made: to renovate it or tear it down?
That, in turn, spawned a painful dispute.
LEONDING, Austria -- Word
is spreading: Hitler lived here.
Construction workers are busy May 29 at the
house where Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler lived
between 1898 and 1904 in Leonding, Austria. AP
Some in the town of 22,000 wanted the empty house
designated as a memorial to infamy, while others demanded
it be razed -- both ideas too radical for Mayor
Herbert Sperl, a self-described man of consensus.
Instead, he got the town council to approve a plan to
renovate the house, leave it unidentified and use it to
warehouse coffins for the nearby cemetery.
"Rededicating it for this function is one way of
making sure Hitler isn't being glorified," he says.
Although renovation work already has begun, others
They point out that other buildings -- Hitler's
birthplace in Braunau to the west and a school he
attended in Fischlham to the south, display memorials or
plaques condemning his crimes against humanity. And most
Austrians today acknowledge that their country was not
only a victim but a perpetrator during the Nazi era.
"I suggested that we should make it a monument, a
memorial to the millions of Jews killed in the
Holocaust," says Dr. Claudia
Mueller-Wechselberger, a 42-year-old physician at the
local hospital. "Turning the house into something it
never was won't change history.
David Irving comments:
I VISITED this tiny house in Leonding late in
1981 when re-researching Hitler's
War. Students from the nearby University
of Linz, where I had spoken the night before,
took me on a guided tour. The unmarked and
anonymous house was at that time used as an
office for gravediggers -- the cemetery where
Hitler's parent's lie is just across the road.
The parents' gravestone is a simple stone slab,
ordained however in the Austrian style with a
photograph of the two incumbents; the tomb was
covered with fresh flowers, and votive candles
guttered all around it, a sign that these two,
the Customs official Alois and his patient,
cancer-ridden wife Klara, were held in somewhat
greater esteem than was their famous son -- at
least in the eyes of the public media.
"It's time people here stopped turning away and
started facing facts -- Hitler lived here, among us."
In March  she wrote to the regional
newspaper, the Oberoesterreichische Nachrichten,
complaining that the estimated $300,000 cost of
renovation would be better spent turning the building
into a memorial.
Reaction was quick -- and in
some cases scary. People accused her of casting their
community in a negative light by publicizing its links
"I started getting anonymous calls, nasty cursing,"
she says. "Some of them asked if I had children."
A town councilwoman stopped greeting her. So did
neighbors, and "One of them said that if I ever write
another letter to the paper, I should make sure I don't
list my address again," Mueller-Wechselberger said.
Hitler was born in Braunau, an Austrian town on the
German border, and lived there until the age of 3.
As Germany's fuehrer, or leader, he paid triumphant
visits to Braunau, Leonding and other boyhood haunts
after Nazi Germany absorbed Austria in 1938.
Although Braunau's "Hitler House" has long been used
as a workshop for the mentally disabled, it remains a
place of pilgrimage for admirers and a venue for
Hitler's shadow is bound to go on looming over
In the cemetery beside the house, his mother,
Klara, lies in a grave by her husband,
Alois, surrounded by burned-out stumps of votive
candles that attest to frequent visitors.
Related item on this
Rohringer grew up in Linz and visited Hitler's
parental home often
Berghof. Hitler's Mountain home, in the Bavarian Alps,
profiled by Homes & Gardens, Nov