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Austria will remodel, not destroy Hitler's birthplace, official says

This Sept. 27, 2012 file picture shows an exterior view of Adolf Hitler’s birth house, front, in Braunau am Inn, Austria. 

Kerstin Joensson, AP

VIENNA - The building where Adolf Hitler was born may be spared demolition, but emerge heavily disguised.

On Monday, Austria’s interior minister, Wolfgang Sobotka, told the daily Die Presse that “the Hitler house will be torn down.”

On Tuesday, he told reporters that the term “torn down” is debatable but the building, in the western town of Braunau, will be so thoroughly redesigned that it “will not be recognizable.”

The “house,” a large, three-story Renaissance-era structure, contains the apartment where Hitler was born.

Several members of a government-appointed commission on the future of the house said destroying it to end its attraction for admirers of the Nazi dictator would give an impression of trying erase part of Austria’s history.

Earlier, Sobotka had said that “a thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building.”

The government this year launched formal legal procedures to dispossess the home’s owner after she had repeatedly refused to sell the building or to allow renovations that would reduce its symbolic impact as Hitler’s birthplace - and its draw for admirers of the Fuhrer.

Vienna’s Jewish community and a government-supported anti-Nazi research center support tearing down the imposing three-story yellow house, where Hitler was born on April 20, 1889.

A house in nearby Leonding, where Hitler lived as a teenager, is now used to store coffins for the town cemetery. There, the tombstone marking the grave of Hitler’s parents, another pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis, was removed last year at the request of a descendant.

A school that Hitler attended in Fischlham, also near Braunau, displays a plaque condemning his crimes against humanity.

The underground bunker in Berlin where Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945, was demolished and the site left vacant until the East German government built an apartment complex around it in the late 1980s.

The apartments overlook the German capital’s monument to victims of the Holocaust.