When I went to Auschwitz this summer I wanted to write a piece on the experience but just couldn’t think of anything to say, until I read that Hitler’s birthplace (an Austrian city called Braunau) is to be demolished by Austrian authorities in an attempt to prevent the site from acting as a focal point for Neo-Nazi ‘pilgrimages’ worldwide.
This is a completely ridiculous solution, a futile attempt at addressing the symptoms of a decaying society. It’s almost as if the Austrian interior minister doesn’t realise that other much more important sites pertaining to Hitler exist. Should we knock those down to for the sake of crossing off one more stop on the neo-Nazis road trip? There is more than mere historical value in this building. When I went to Auschwitz, the previous seemingly impossible to reach piece of history materialised. It brought something so abstract into colour, something that you can touch and experience, and I believe this is very important. We need something that we can preserve and use as an educative tool regardless of its malignant connotations. This has been the case with a number of other historical birth places of tyrants such as Mussolini whose birth place has been allowed to remain. Should we destroy every birth place of every tyrant that has ever existed in an attempt to wipe them from our memory? Everyday sites, such as a birthplace, may seem insignificant, but they humanise leaders like Hitler and show that massive historical figures were born in places similar to everybody else and that people such as Hitler can rise from normality.
We should not be able to let parts of history be erased no matter how dark they are, whether it is Zeppelinfeld, site of the Nuremburg rallies or Auschwitz, people need to see for themselves that these places exist to remind us that events such as these cannot be repeated.