It has been thought for a long time what to do with the birthplace of the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler in Braunau, Austria.
It is a great challenge for architects to keep at the same time – but also to cover up the past.
“Of course, one first wonders whether it may be more important to create a place of remembrance there,” says architect Stefan Marte, whose bureau “Marte.Marte” won the competition for the renovation of Adolf Hitler’s birthplace in Braunau am Inn, Austria.
“It is a sad fact that Adolf Hitler was born here, but on the other hand, it is only the house where he was born,” the architect believes. That house, not far from the former city walls, stood there long before Hitler.
In the house at Salzburg suburb in the 17th century it was a pub. It was later converted into a building with apartments for rent. Many years later, at the end of the 19th century, an Austrian civil servant and his wife moved into one of these apartments.
On April 20, 1889, the third of six children was born there. Because of that child, there are lively discussions about the house. The newborn in the Hitler family was named Adolf – and who he is and what crimes and sufferings he is responsible for, everyone knows today.
Museum, school, workshop for the disabled…
During the Nazi era and when Austria was annexed to the “Reich”, Hitler’s NSDAP party organized a “cultural center” there as part of the “Führer”, with a gallery and a library with books to the taste of the Nazis. And they changed that house architecturally then – they set up bigger windows to make it look more elegant, because it couldn’t be that the leader was born in a cheap country inn.
After the war, the Americans came there and opened a memorial house reminiscent of Nazi crimes. But that was short-lived, because Braunau is not the center of the world, so no one even came there. Then a bookstore moved into the building, then a school, and finally there was a workshop for people with disabilities there for more than 30 years. In the meantime, the building was falling into disrepair, there was no money for the necessary maintenance, so the workshop was moved out in 2011.
Since then, the house has stood empty. And there is a lively discussion – what about it. The owner didn’t care and wanted to rent it to anyone – regardless of whether he was leaning politically to the left or to the right. There were also some Russians who wanted to buy a house – to level it to the ground. However, the city did not want to allow that, because the building is a cultural monument.
Police station again
The Austrian government finally got tired of that tension in 2017, so it took the house away from the owner for a fee. She also assigned her a new task: it will be the district police station of Braunau. By the way, it seems to be some kind of practice with Hitler’s real estate – and his large civic apartment on Princregentenplatz in Munich has long been a police station. It is also a reminder that today’s police have nothing to do with the police state created by the Nazis.
In any case, the house urgently needed to be repaired and repaired, and so the Austrian Ministry of the Interior announced a public competition for decoration. The jury was very satisfied with the simplicity proposed by the architectural bureau “Marte.Marte” and so the job came to them.
“As an architect, you embark on such a project with as little workload as possible, even with a certain dose of naivety,” says Stefan Marte. “There are determinants and you are thinking about how to realize them. You abstract and observe the existing architecture and think about how to improve it. There is a valuable historical substance, there are solutions that are typical for this area, and there is also a large plot of land that we will fill with new buildings. “
Task: Remove memory
Until now, the town of Braunau did not want “tourists” who would come in front of the birth house of their “Führer”, and it would be even worse if they started making a pilgrimage in front of the police station. That is why the determinant in the competition was: “Changing the existing building from the outside in order to remove the memory of the Nazi era.” And it was emphasized even more clearly that the architectural solution should “prevent the nurturing, promotion and spread of Nazi ideology, or the advocacy of National Socialist thought.”
Of course, there is no sense in explaining to the neo-Nazis that the house in Braunau is, admittedly, Hitler’s birthplace, but that it is essentially just an insignificant episode in his life that he could not even remember.
Namely, he was only three years old when they moved to Linz, a city that marked his life and future career much more.
There are many such architectural traces of Nazism – be it the already mentioned apartment in Munich, the villa on Obersalzberg, the huge space for party rallies in Nuremberg – and even the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. What about that? Knock down? Keep as a warning to future generations?
Demolishing a building will not dispel the myth
“We try to erase the past from archeology as an attempt to erase it Damnation of memory. “Both in ancient Egypt and in the Roman Empire, a large number of monuments to the greats were destroyed, which their successors considered undesirable,” said Viennese historian Marcelo Lasperanza.
He also published a book about the dangerous architectural heritage of the Nazis.
“The goal was to destroy all the evidence of existence and thus erase a part of the meaning of the past,” says the historian.
But even in those ancient times, it proved impossible to completely erase the past.
Lasperanca believes that it is better to give such buildings content that will show the crimes committed, because even if they are completely demolished, the myth will not be demolished.
Architect Stefan Marte agrees. He believes that in such cases a solution must be sought on a case-by-case basis
“There is no doubt, there were other possibilities for this house. For example, to keep it as a part of history, as it was left by the Nazis. But in the end, there is not just one right solution. “
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