Austria plans to demolish the house where Adolf Hitler was born to prevent it becoming a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis, the Interior Ministry announced on October 17.
The future of the former guesthouse of the building in Braunau am Inn, a town on the border with Germany where Adolf Hitler was born on April 20, 1889, has been widely debated, with opinion torn between razing it or changing its use.
The argument was further complicated after its owner refused to sell.
Image source Getty Images
Austria’s Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said a committee of experts had decided that the house should be demolished, reported Austrian newspaper Die Presse.
A new building put in its place will be used for administrative or for charitable purposes, the paper added.
Wolfgang Sobotka told Die Presse: “The Hitler house will be torn down. The foundations can remain but a new building will be erected. It will be used by either a charity or the local authorities.”
The house has been the subject of years of legal wrangling between the owner Gerlinde Pommer and the government, which has been renting it since 1972 to prevent any misuse.
The government currently pays about €4,800 ($5,300) a month for the building.
Gerlinde Pommer who is now retired, has repeatedly refused to sell the three-storey building to the government.
For the last five years the house has also stood empty, as Gerlinde Pommer refused to allow renovation work to be done.
The building had previously been used as a center for people with disabilities.
An interior ministry spokesman told AFP a legal amendment proposed earlier this year which would allow them to seize the property was still “under way”, meaning parliament has yet to approve the demolition.
However, the decision will likely upset some in the community, some who wanted it to become a refugee centre, others a museum dedicated to Austria’s liberation from Nazi rule.
A number of cultural organizations previously opposed the building’s demolition because it is part of the historic city center and therefore under heritage protection.
Adolf Hitler was born in a rented room on the top floor of the building.
During Nazi rule, the house was transformed into a shrine to Adolf Hitler as the town drew in a wave of tourists.
As the Nazis began to lose control in 1944, it was shut up.
Yet despite the efforts of successive governments to stop it drawing neo-Nazis sympathizers to Braunau am Inn, locals say it still does.
Greek ambassador to Austria has been recalled amid sharp divisions among EU states over the refugee crisis.
The move came after Austria hosted a meeting with Balkan states on the refugee issue, to which Greece was not invited.
Meanwhile, EU and Balkan interior ministers have met in Brussels to try to heal rifts over the refugee issue.
Speaking afterwards, the EU’s migration commissioner warned that the bloc’s migration system could be days away from complete breakdown.
Dimitris Avramopoulos said member states had until a March 7 summit with Turkey to curb the number of refugees.
“In the next 10 days, we need tangible and clear results on the ground,” he told reporters.
“Otherwise there is a risk that the whole system will completely break down.”
Austria, Serbia and Macedonia have taken their own steps to limit entry to refugees, angering Greece, which fears the controls will cause a bottleneck. The measures also threaten Europe’s Schengen passport-free travel area that spans 26 countries.
In a statement, the Greek foreign ministry said that the ambassador was being recalled “in order to safeguard the friendly relations between the states and the people of Greece and Austria”.
It said that problems facing the EU “cannot be dealt with, with thoughts, mentalities and extra-institutional initiatives that have their roots in the 19th Century”.
Speaking in Brussels, Greek Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas said his country would “not accept becoming Europe’s Lebanon, a warehouse of souls”.
Lebanon is home to about a million of the four million Syrians who have fled to neighboring countries.
More than one million refugees arrived in the European Union in 2015, many of them fleeing the civil war in Syria. So far this year, 100,000 refugees have entered the EU illegally – nearly all of them arriving in Greece. More than 400 have died on the sea crossing from Turkey.
The surge in migration coupled with the failure to agree an EU-wide response has led to warnings about the bloc’s survival.
On February 24, representatives from 10 Balkan states attended talks in Austria and agreed to co-ordinate action to limit the flow of refugees.
The meeting drew an angry response from Greece, with the foreign ministry warning that “responsibility for dealing with the migration and refugee crisis cannot burden one country”.
EU interior ministers meeting in Brussels on Thursday have been hearing plans drawn up by Austria and Balkan countries that seek to restrict the numbers entering their borders.
Measures include fingerprinting all entrants and turning back anyone without a passport or holding fake documents.
The countries have also pledged to accept only those they deem to be in need of protection – interpreted by some governments as meaning only Syrians and Iraqis.
Over the weekend, Macedonia barred entry to Afghans at its border with Greece. Angry protests erupted at the border crossings and Greece was forced to transport hundreds of Afghan back to Athens.
The EU has warned of a humanitarian crisis if the disagreements are not resolved.
European Council President Donald Tusk also warned that the failure to make progress towards resolving the crisis could increase the likelihood of the UK voting to leave the EU this year.
Greece has threatened to block all decisions at EU migration summits next month if member states do not agree to take in quotas of refugees.
Hungary announced on February 24 that it would hold a referendum on whether to accept mandatory EU quotas for relocating refugees.
PM Viktor Orban said the quotas “could redraw Europe’s cultural and religious identity”.
In 2015, Hungary’s right-wing government built a razor-wire fence on its borders with Serbia and Croatia to try to limit the flow of refugees.
This year’s World Beard and Moustache Championships are taking place in the small village of Leogang, Austria.
Located in the heart of Salzburg Land, Leogang is the capital of bearded people from all over the world from October 2 to October 4.
In 2005, Leogang was host to the Beard Olympics and in 2010 to the Beard European Championships.
Hirsute contestants from 20 countries have converged on Leogang for the event, with many of the competitors hailing from Germany and Austria.
Beards and moustaches were judged by a jury in 18 different categories, including best goatie, best stubble and best fashion beard.
An American has swept the winning title of the 2015 World Beard and Moustache Championships in Leogang on October 3. Madison Rowley, a contestant from Portland, Oregon, beat hundreds of competitors from around the world and was crowned the winner of the “full natural beard” category.
At least one person died in a pile-up involving about 100 vehicles on snow-hit Austrian motorway A1.
Emergency officials said the crash scene on the west-bound A1 west of Vienna stretched for more than 2 km (1.2 miles).
Six regional fire departments have been at the scene with ambulances and an emergency services helicopter, broadcaster ORF said.
A spell of freezing weather is causing disruption across Europe.
Austrian officials said the accident happened near St Poelten, about 60 km from the capital, and involved about 40 lorries and 60 cars.
At least one person died in a pile-up involving about 100 vehicles on snow-hit Austrian motorway A1
Franz Resperger of the Lower Austrian fire department said the icy carriageway was a likely factor in the crash.
In southern Austria, at least 29 people were injured – six seriously – in two accidents inside road tunnels in the state of Styria, ORF reported. The A2 motorway, which runs through the tunnels, was blocked in both directions.
Elsewhere, record-breaking snowfall in the Ukrainian capital Kiev has caused traffic chaos and seen many residents taking to skis instead, AFP news agency reported
Heavy snow blanketing three regions of Romania has closed schools and disrupted road traffic.
The freezing weather has also caused chaos on Serbia’s northern border with Hungary where lorries queued for hours amid heavy snowfall.
Black ice coating roads in neighboring Croatia has caused a spate of accidents, national TV reports said.
Russian officials say horsemeat has been detected in sausages advertised as pork and imported from Austria.
The Russian agriculture watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor said the sausages contained both horse and poultry DNA.
A spokesman said the company that supplied the meat had been struck off a list of approved suppliers.
Horsemeat was first found in meals and burgers in the UK and Ireland last month, and traces have since been found in meat products across Europe.
“Tests on a shipment of Frankfurter sausages found the DNA of horses, chicken, cattle and soya,” Rosselkhoznadzor said in a statement.
Earlier, Rosselkhoznadzor spokesman Alexei Alexeyenko told AFP news agency that the shipment of more than 20 tonnes of sausages had been imported from the Austrian city of Linz. He did not name the supplier.
Russian officials say horsemeat has been detected in sausages advertised as pork and imported from Austria
Horsemeat is considered a traditional delicacy in Russia and is available in many restaurants and stores.
Alexei Alexeyenko said the problem with the contaminated meat was that it was not clear what it was made of and that old or ill animals could have been used.
The meat will either be destroyed or returned to the supplier, he added.
Russian media originally reported the sausages being documented as 100% beef, but later reports said they were labelled as having 80% pork as well as other non-meat ingredients.
At least a dozen countries are involved in the horsemeat affair, which implicates some of the biggest meat processors and food producers.
On Monday, Swedish company Ikea withdrew meatballs from sale in 14 European countries after tests in the Czech Republic found traces of horsemeat in a batch made in Sweden.
EU agricultural officials are looking at ways of tightening up procedures and ensuring greater traceability in the wake of the scandal.
According to preliminary results from a nationwide referendum, Austrians have voted by a wide margin to retain compulsory military service.
Some 60% voted to keep the draft with 40% in favor of setting up a purely professional army, in early results.
The issue has divided politicians in the coalition government, and voters.
Supporters of change said a professional army would be more effective – critics said it would put Austria’s cherished neutrality at risk.
Austrian men must serve six months in the army or nine months in civilian service when they reach 18.
Increasingly few European countries demand compulsory military service. France abandoned conscription in 1996, and Germany in 2011.
Calls for an end to conscription are growing in Austria’s neighbor, Switzerland, which is also neutral.
Currently, some 22,000 men are drafted into military service each year.
Those who do not want to serve must spend nine months working in community jobs, such as ambulance drivers and in senior citizens’ homes.
Austrians have voted by a wide margin to retain compulsory military service in nationwide referendum
The centre-left Social Democrats say the current make-up of the armed forces does not work for the 21st Century, arguing that a professional army is needed to work more effectively with other European armies.
Defence Minister Norbert Darabos called the current force outdated in an era of “counter-terrorism, cybercrime… [and] failed states”.
But the conservative People’s Party argued against change. Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said the current system “fits Austria like a glove and is the best guarantee for all future challenges”.
Opponents feared the move will not only prove more costly, at a time when Austria is trying to cut spending, but would also push the country towards membership of NATO and the abandonment of neutrality they have observed since 1955.
Army Chief of Staff Gen Edmund Entacher also warned that changes to the current set-up would lead “irreversibly to a drop in quality, numbers and ability”.
Behar Merlaku, a gambler who thought he had won $58 million on a slot machine has been offered a free meal and $90 instead, after Austrian casino bosses said the jackpot was due to a “software error”.
Behar Merlaku, 26, a Kosovar-Albanian who moved to Switzerland at the time of the Balkans wars, played the winning machine at a casino in Bregenz, Austria.
Despite only getting four of the slot machine’s five required matches, Behar Merlaku was told he had won the massive jackpot – complete with a winning bell and flashing screen.
Behar Merlaku, 26, a Kosovar-Albanian who moved to Switzerland at the time of the Balkans wars, played the winning machine at a casino in Bregenz, Austria
However, when Behar Merlaku went to claim his prize, he was instead offered $90 and a meal by casino bosses after they refused to pay out.
Now the disgruntled gambler is to launch a lawsuit in Austria next month to force the casino to honour the “win”, which his lawyers says he is entitled to because of the what machine said.
The civil action, thought to be the biggest claim of its kind anywhere in the world, is being keenly watched by gaming operators everywhere.
The incident happened in a Casinos Austria AG establishment at Bregenz, on March 26 this year.
When Behar Merlaku made his claim the operators of the casino immediately blamed a glitch in the machine.
When Behar Merlaku snubbed the paltry offer of compensation he was banned from the casino. Lawyers for the plaintiff say the company has passed the buck to the fruit machine manufacturer and refuse to take any responsibility for the error.
It also cited Austrian law which said jackpots cannot normally be higher than two million euros ($2.7 million).
A press conference is due to be held tomorrow in Innsbruck, Austria, outlining the case against Casinos Austria, which operates a casino in Glasgow, UK.
The company also operates casinos in Cairns and Canberra, Australia, and elsewhere.
Behar Merlaku’s legal team said: “The slot machine that produced the winning display was immediately accessed by Casinos Austria.
“The regulator, the Austrian Ministry of Finance, has shown no interest in pursuing an orderly investigation as would be the case in well regulated gaming jurisdictions such as the UK, Switzerland, Singapore, the USA, Australia and Macau.”
The first hearing in the case is scheduled for January 10, 2012.
Behar Merlaku said in an Austrian television interview that the greatest moment of his life quickly turned into the worst.
He added: “The jackpot came up loud and clear. There was music and the sum I had won – nearly 43 million euros [$58 million] – was displayed on a screen.
“I was so overjoyed and in my head I began calculating what I could do with all this money.”
Behar Merlaku even used his mobile phone to film footage of the winning noise and screen.
However, this could be used against him in court because the video shows he only had four of the five symbols in a line; in Austria there must be five matches.
Behar Merlaku’s lawyers will argue that because the machine told him he had won and therefore is justified in pursuing a claim.
An Austrian alpine-coaster which is located in Mieders offers what is perhaps the most frighteningly fast – and seemingly dangerous – downhill descent.
The single-pipe ride usually provides tourists with a slow, open trek down the mountainside.
But one hardy adventurer recorded video footage of himself hurtling down the steep incline without applying the brakes.
The result is a terrifying downhill plunge in small, open-topped car that appears to teeter on the edge of flying off the rail as it rounds tight bends.
An Austrian alpine-coaster which is located in Mieders offers what is perhaps the most frighteningly fast - and seemingly dangerous - downhill descent
Earlier this year, the world’s steepest roller coaster opened in the shadow of Mount Fuji in Japan.
Riders on the Takabisha plummet 141 feet in a single vertical drop Fuji-Q Highland Amusement Park.
There is little time to enjoy the view of snow-capped mountain as the ride lasts just 112 seconds.
The ride’s designers even called in adjudicators from the Guinness Book of World Records, which ratified that the drop, involving a 121-degree freefall, is the steepest on any attraction anywhere in the world.
Takabisha (“dominant” in English) relies on a combination of gravity and a set of linear motors on the cars. These accelerate the coaster to speeds of 100 kmph.