Drawing from the writings author Frank Dikötter, Guardian contributor Sheila Fitzpatrick writes that “the dictator rises through accident, patronage or anything except merit to blossom into a fully fledged evil-doer, desperate for the respect and admiration that are wrung from the populace only by skilled PR manipulation.” As part of that power play, the aspiring despot cultivates a cult of personality. This has proved true of history’s most malignant villains — Mao, Mussolini, and, of course Hitler.
In 1932, a teacher in Hamburg said of Hitler, “How many look up to him [Hitler] with touching faith as their helper, their savior, their deliverer from unbearable distress.” The art school reject painted himself as the patron saint of “German greatness.” Portraits, posters, busts were showcased in public places and private homes. And Hitler’s birth home became “a kind of fascist cult center,” according to Deutsche Welle. And after a lengthy legal battle that was fought decades after the dictator’s death, that center of diseased devotion will become home to Austrian police.
The birth of a Deutsch-bag
Per NPR, Adolf Hitler was born above a bar called the Stag in the medieval Austrian town of Braunau am Inn in 1889. He lived in a second-floor apartment rented by his parents, and as he turned Germany into a historical tragedy, the Nazis turned his home into a house of unholy worship. During WWII, the building served as an art gallery and library. After Hitler’s grip on the country was broken, Austrian soldiers wanted to blow up the building, marking what would have been history’s only heroic instance of book-burning. But American soldiers intervened, protecting the building.
In the decades that followed, the building became a bank, a school, and a facility for people with special needs. But as times changed, one thing stayed the same: Hitler’s home belonged to the family of Gerlinde Pommer. In 2012, however, Pommer refused to approve requested renovations, and in 2016, Austria’s government sought to seize the empty property, but Pommer wanted a huge payday to part with Hitler’s birthplace. In 2019, the Austrian Supreme Court ordered the government to pay her $908,000 for the property.
Government officials wanted to deter neo-Nazis from enshrining the structure. So the decision was made to transform it into a police station. As a constant reminder of the evil it once embodied, a memorial stone is installed with this inscription: “For peace, freedom and democracy. Never again fascism. Millions dead are a warning.” Hopefully humanity heeds it.
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