Austrian town revokes Hitler's honorary title

Tue May 24, 2011 7:43pm EDT
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VIENNA (Reuters) - An Austrian town revoked the honorary citizenship of Adolf Hitler Tuesday in an effort to sever any links with the Nazi dictator's legacy ahead of a 900-year civic anniversary and following a media uproar.

The town council in the western town of Amstetten, 150 km (95 miles) from Vienna, approved by a large majority a motion that the title be declared null and void, the Austrian Press Agency (APA) quoted Mayor Herbert Katzengruber as saying.

In an emotional debate, two council members of the right-wing Freedom Party abstained, contending that the vote was unnecessary because the title ended with Hitler's death in 1945.

A Green Party representative started the debate, saying a town historian had revealed the honorary citizenship in 1996. Hitler, an Austrian, visited Amstetten in 1939 and was granted the title, Greens councilor Raphael Lueger told APA.

The Greens say other senior Nazis were also given honorary citizenship in Amstetten, as elsewhere in Austria.

There is a long-standing public debate in Austria about the extent to which local people were victims or accomplices of Nazism. Nazi Germany annexed Austria in 1938.

A poll on the 70-year anniversary of Hitler's takeover showed 60 percent of Austrians were weary of talk about the Nazi past and wanted an end to it.

Amstetten shot to notoriety in 2008 when police revealed Josef Fritzl had imprisoned his daughter in a cellar under his house there for 24 years and fathered seven children with her.

(Reporting by Sylvia Westall and Michael Shields, editing by Mark Trevelyan)