There’s an interesting BBC News article today that presents an intriguing contrast between how the hometowns of Adolf Hitler in Austria and Josef Stalin in Georgia choose to face their respective legacies.
The town of Gori in Georgia largely looks at Stalin as “local boy made good” and plans to re-install a large statue of the former Soviet leader in its Stalin Museum. The statue formerly stood in the town center until 2010, when the Western-leaning Georgian government ordered it removed. Now a new government seeks to deepen its ties to Russia, and has chosen to again embrace its Stalinist past.
In contrast, the town of Braunau am Inn in Austria has no public commemoration of Hitler. The house where he lived is privately owned but leased by the Austrian government to ensure that neo-Nazi groups cannot create a Hitler shrine at the site. Some local groups would like to turn the building into a center that would examine the Nazi era dispassionately. Others would prefer to see the building used as something innocuous, such as an adult education center or apartments.
Should towns acknowledge both the good and bad that come from their midst? Or are negative things better hidden and never acknowledged? It’s an interesting question, but I come down on the side of the Austrian man quoted at the end of the BBC story: “You get criticised whatever you do,” he said, “but it is usually better to talk.”