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Stille Nacht in Braunau am Inn
Tales of the Tyrolean Alps
In the 19th century, this tiny village on the Austrian-German border gave the world the classic Christmas carol Stille Nacht (Silent Night), written by Franz Xaver Gruber and famously sung by mournful German troops in the World War I trenches.
In the 20th century, the village gave us the Schneider Brothers, Willi and Rudi. They enthralled audiences worldwide with their astonishing psychic powers until, in the 1920s, Rudy was caught cheating and retired to the auto mechanic business.
But Braunau truly made its name at 6:30PM on a balmy Saturday, April 20, 1889, when a fussy child was born in an apartment above the Gasthof zum Pommer at Salzburger Vorstadt 15.
By his 29th birthday, Adolf Hitler would rise from vagrant flophouse painter to decorated war hero. By his 44th birthday, he would be appointed the youngest Chancellor in German history at the head of a youth movement that promised to revolutionize the moribund nation. Ten days after his 56th birthday, he would be dead, a failure and a suicide, well on his way to being reviled as the most evil political leader in history.
If you want to see the Gasthof zum Pommer, you might want to hurry. After 70 years of dithering over what to do with the site, the local authorities have finally decided to replace it with an ugly, thoroughly modern police station. It seems like they’ve finally tired of neo-Nazis and their pilgrimages. Hitler himself was famously indifferent to his birthplace, since it tended to bring up the inconvenient notion of a former Austrian national claiming to lead the German nation to its destiny.