The dark shadows of the past have returned to haunt an Austrian town as it wrestles with what to do with the house where Adolf Hitler was born.

The mayor of the town of Braunau has proposed that the birthplace of the town's most infamous son be turned into flats. Converting the attractive 500-year-old building into flats, he hopes, will bury an unwanted past, and a past, the mayor feels, the town has done more than enough to atone for.

"We are already stigmatised. Hitler spent just three years of his life here, and they were not the most formative years," Johannes Waidbacher, the mayor, told the Austrian newspaper Der Standard. "So we in the city of Braunau are not willing to assume the responsibility for the outbreak of the Second World War." The mayor made the proposal after a disabled centre, the previous tenants of the "Hitler house", moved to new premises.