Austrian court hears arguments on Hitler's home

Lawyer for the owner of Hitler's former home argues the Austrian government does not have the right to take possession of the property.

Ben Ariel ,

Hitler's childhood home
Hitler's childhood home

A lawyer for the owner of the house where Adolf Hitler was born told Austria's highest court on Thursday that the government does not have the right to take possession of the property.

The lawyer said, according to The Associated Press, that authorities are using the measure "like a club" because his client refused purchase offers from authorities that were too low.

In December, Austria's parliament approved a government bill to expropriate the house in Braunau am Inn after the owner, Gerlinde Pommer, refused to sell it.

Pommer later declared she would challenge the move at the high court.

Hitler was born in 1889 in the house in Braunau am Inn, a town on the German border. The government wants to remodel the property's facade to reduce its draw as a shrine for admirers of the Nazi dictator and to offer it to an agency that runs workshops for disabled people.

Lawyer Gerhard Lebitsch on Thursday questioned the timing of the government's move so long after World War II, noting that "they could have neutralized the site 40-50 years ago."

While the price offered by the state has not been disclosed, Lebitsch suggested it was too low, describing the offer as "half-hearted", according to AP.

In court, officials for the government argued that the state decided to seize the house after the owner refused to make alternations needed for use for workshops. They also said the state was confronted with unjustified rent increases while leasing the building previously.