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Hitler house to become intergration centre

Austrian officials who are keen to end a growing row over the future of the house where Adolf Hitler was born in the town of Braunau am Inn are reportedly close to coming to a deal with the owner that will see it turned into an integration centre.

At the time of Hitler's birth, the building was a local pub where Hitler's parents rented rooms so that his dad could carry out his job as a customs official at the nearby Austrian German border.

The Hitlers left the building when Adolf was 3-years-old and his father was transferred to Passau in Bavaria, Germany. In 1938 it was bought by Hitler's private secretary Martin Bormann and his initials MB are still engraved above the door. After World War II, the building was rented by the Austrian Republic in 1952. Until 1965 it was the home of the public library and later a bank.

The current row over the house started when the Mayor of Braunau Hannes Waidbacher from the conservative People's party (OeVP) said publicly that they didn't need another monument to the evils of war. He had added that the Fuhrer had "only lived there for three years anyway".

The mayor added that there was already a memorial stone outside the building and said he felt that the local community had already done enough to remember the past, and there was therefore no need to feel pressurised to turn the property into something similar. He added: "There are already quite enough memorials in the region."

But after the international headlines that it generated the council partially backed down and said it had backed the idea of turning the house into a place where minorities would be helped to integrate which included language courses for children who were not native German speakers, and other community integration projects.

The council confirmed that the humanitarian aid organisation Volkshilfe had been asked to take over managing the integration and language courses that will be offered to immigrants.

After that a Russian MP said he was planning to put in a bid to buy the house so that "every trace of fascism is wiped off the planet".

MP Franz Klinzevitsch from the ruling United Russia party said he had even started collecting the 1.7 million GBP that he estimates he needs and is being supported in the project by the Russian Communist Party.

The problem is that the house is not for sale, and the current owner who gets a monthly rental from the Interior Ministry had reportedly been difficult over exactly what use the property could be put to.

From 1970 to 1976 several classes from the technical high school were held in the house, until the school was rebuilt. The house then for many years accommodated a branch of the disabled Persons charity Lebenshilfe, and operated as a day centre and workshops for people with learning difficulties.

Lebenshilfe however moved out last year which again re-awakened debate about the future use of the building which spiralled out of control after the Mayor's unfortunate comments.

But on 7 May this year the Interior Ministry organised a meeting with representatives from the town and the owner which apparently saw considerable progress on a new usage of the controversial property.

Until now the owner has consistently refused any changes to the interior of the property which was the main reason that the Lebenshilfe moved out.

But in summer last year the Austrian Volkshilfe and the Volkshochschule (VHS) registered interest for the concept in which the Volkshilfe would run integrations office including language courses for migrants and various other social services offices. This is now been presented to the house owner and according to insiders at the meeting they are optimistic that will be accepted by the deadline of this Friday.

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