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Austrian court upholds expropriation of Hitler house

AUSTRIAN COURT UPHOLDS EXPROPRIATION OF HITLER HOUSE

Austria's highest court has ruled the government was within its rights to seize the house where Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler was born in 1889 after its owner refused to sell it.

The Constitutional Court ruled Friday that the government had "full authority" to expropriate the house in Brauau am Inn, near the German border.

It said in its ruling that "the expropriation of the birthplace of Adolf Hitler in Braunau by law was in the public interest, proportionate, and not without compensation and is thus not unconstitutional."

"(The house) is vulnerable to becoming a pilgrim site... for neo-Nazi ideology. It was therefore necessary to ensure that no criminal abuses take place," the court said in a statement.

The government wants to remodel the property's facade to reduce its draw for neo-Nazis and to offer it to an agency that runs workshops for disabled people.

Owner Gerlinde Pommer challenged the expropriation, saying purchase offers were too low.

Pommer's family owned for nearly a century the yellow corner house where Hitler was born on April 20, 1889.

Although the future dictator only spent a short time at the property, it continues to draw Nazi sympathisers from around the world.

The 800-square-metre (8,600-feet) building has been empty since the rental agreement between Austria and Pommer fell apart in 2011.

Until then, the government had been renting the premises for around 4,800 euros ($5,000) a month and used it as a centre for people with disabilities.

The deal however came to an abrupt end six years ago when Pommer refused a much-needed upgrade.

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

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