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Ex-owner of Hitler's birthplace challenges state's expropriation

By Shadia Nasralla

VIENNA (Reuters) - The former owner of Adolf Hitler's birthplace has launched a legal challenge against its expropriation by the government which wants to ensure the house can never become a shrine for neo-Nazis, a court spokesman said on Tuesday.

Parliament voted last month for the compulsory purchase of the three-storey house in the town of Braunau am Inn, aiming to end a long-standing dispute with its owner, a retired woman who had turned down previous offers by the state to acquire it.

The Interior Ministry had been renting the building since 1972 and it has been used for a variety of purposes by the authorities in the city which is near the border with Germany. In recent years it has remained empty.

"We received a claim by the owner. This is about the owner contesting the constitutional validity of the law," a spokesman for the Constitutional Court said, adding that such cases normally take several months.

The law does not specify what form the overhaul of the building should take. Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said he favored a "thorough architectural rearrangement", which could include demolishing it.

Hitler was born in 1889 and went on to lead Nazi Germany into World War Two and perpetrated the Holocaust.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)