The gravestone of Adolf Hitler’s parents in the Austrian village where he lived as a child has been removed, after it became a site of pilgrimage for neo-Nazis, a local pastor has told the AFP news agency.
One of Hitler’s father’s descendents “has relinquished her rights and had it removed”, said Kurt Pittertschatscher, pastor of Leonding near the northern city of Linz.
“The upkeep of the grave was becoming increasingly difficult as the years went by, and the grave … kept being misused for gatherings of sympathisers,” he said.
The remains of Hitler’s father, Alois, a customs official who died in 1903, and his mother, Klara, who passed away four years later, have not been exhumed, the pastor said.
The house where the family lived is still standing.
Hitler was born about 100km away from the site in 1889, in a village later annexed to Braunau am Inn. Nine years later, the family moved to Leonding.
The parents’ grave had often attracted sympathisers, and anti-extremist groups had asked for it to be removed.
Hitler himself was only believed to have visited it once or twice after taking power in 1933, Pittertschatscher said.
Last year, a vase was left bearing the German word “UnvergeSSlich” – “unforgettable” – with the “SS” clearly highlighted, an apparent reference to the Nazi paramilitary group, the Kurier newspaper reported.
The Upper Austrian Network Against Fascism pressure group, which had campaigned for the tombstone to be taken away, said the removal on Wednesday was a “welcome success”.
“The problem was not the grave itself … but its misuse as a pilgrimage site for the brown scene,” a statement said, referring to the far-right movement in Germany and Austria.
This is not the first time that a grave that has become a shrine for the extreme right has been removed in recent years.
Last July, the remains of Hitler’s one-time deputy Rudolf Hess, who parachuted into Britain in 1941 on an apparent one-man peace mission without the Fuehrer’s approval, were exhumed in the small town of Wunsiedel in southern Germany.
His remains, removed along with the headstone bearing the epitaph “Ich hab’s gewagt” – “I dared” – which was destroyed, were placed in a new coffin and burnt immediately, with the ashes scattered at sea.
Hess had been laid to rest according to his wishes in Wunsiedel churchyard in Bavaria after his 1987 suicide aged 93 in Spandau Prison in West Berlin, where he had been the jail’s only prisoner for two decades.
His final resting place became Germany’s most prominent pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis, with hundreds of supporters marching in town on every August 17 anniversary of his death until a ban was placed on the practice in 2005.
Hess’s granddaughter came to Wunsiedel and held talks with the council, and consented to it being removed. Spandau Prison in West Berlin was also destroyed after his death to stop it becoming a shrine.