File photo of the headstone marking the grave of Alois and Klara Hitler, the parents of Adolf Hitler, is pictured at the cemetery of Leonding May 29, 2002. The tombstone marking the grave of Adolf Hitler's parents was removed from an Austrian cemetery this week to deter neo-Nazi commemorations of the German dictator. -Reuters Photo

VIENNA: The gravestone of Adolf Hitler's parents in the Austrian village where he lived as a child has been removed after it became a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis, the local pastor told AFP Friday.

A descendant of Hitler's father, reportedly an unidentified elderly woman living in Lower Austria, “has relinquished her rights and has had it removed,”said Kurt Pittertschatscher, pastor of Leonding near the northern city of Linz.

“The upkeep of the grave was becoming increasingly difficult as the years went by, and the grave ... kept being misused for gatherings of sympathisers,” he said.

But the pastor said that the remains of Hitler's customs official father Alois, who died in 1903, and his mother Klara, who passed away four years later, had not been exhumed.

The house where the family lived is still standing. Hitler was born around 100 kilometres (65 miles) away in 1889 in a village later annexed to Braunau am Inn but the family moved nine years later to Leonding, where Alois had bought a house.

The parents' grave had often attracted sympathisers, and anti-extremist groups had asked for it to be removed. Hitler himself was only believed to have visited it once or twice after taking power in 1933, Pittertschatscher said.

Last year, a vase was left bearing the German word “UnvergeSSlich” -- “unforgettable” -- and the “SS” clearly highlighted, an apparent reference to the Nazi paramilitary group, the Kurier newspaper reported.

The Upper Austrian Network Against Fascism pressure group, which had campaigned for the tombstone to be taken away, said the removal on Wednesday was a “welcome success.”

”The problem was not the grave itself ... but its misuse as a pilgrimage site for the brown scene,” a statement said, referring to the far-right movement in Germany and Austria.

It is not the first time in recent years that a grave that has become something of a shrine for the extreme right has been removed.

Last July the remains of Hitler's one-time deputy Rudolf Hess, who parachuted into Britain in 1941 on an apparent one-man peace mission without the Fuehrer's approval, were exhumed in the small town of Wunsiedel in southern Germany.

His remains, removed along with the headstone bearing the epitaph “Ich hab's gewagt” (“I dared”) which was destroyed, were placed in a new coffin and burnt immediately, with the ashes scattered at sea.

Hess had been laid to rest according to his wishes in Wunsiedel churchyard in Bavaria after his 1987 suicide aged 93 in Spandau Prison in West Berlin, where he had been the jail's only prisoner for two decades.

His final resting place became Germany's top pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis from Germany and beyond, with hundreds of skinheads marching in the 10,000-strong town on every August 17 anniversary of his death until a 2005 ban.

Hess's granddaughter came to Wunsiedel and held talks with the council, and consented to it being removed. Spandau Prison in West Berlin was also destroyed after his death to stop it becoming a shrine.

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