What do we do when everyone’s called everyone else a Nazi?

Tthe Anne Frank Fund and Anne Frank Foundation dispute invokes Godwin's Law

Share

You may not have heard of Mike Godwin – the American lawyer who coined the phrase Godwin’s law, in the 1990s – but you see his adage in effect every single day. Godwin’s law (for those of you who prefer to read your newspapers on paper, rather than in the heady star chamber of the internet) states that as an online discussion progresses, it is inevitable that someone or something will be compared to the Nazis.

And like all great invading powers, Godwin’s law is annexing further territory. Living as we do in the age of enormous offence being taken at the most minor provocation, I have long believed it was only a matter of time before everyone had called everyone else a Nazi, and we could all wipe the slate clean and start again, perhaps with Stalinism or the Khmer Rouge as the genocidal insult du jour.

But I hadn’t realised things would reach parodic status quite so neatly as this week, when a board member of a Swiss charity, the Anne Frank Fund, accused a Dutch charity, the Anne Frank Foundation, of behaving like Nazis. The Swiss charity has every right to be annoyed with its Dutch rivals: it loaned the foundation thousands of documents in 2007, which the Dutch haven’t returned. But notice how that behaviour is irritating, and perhaps illegal, but not especially reminiscent of murderous anti-Semitic fascists.

You’re already ahead of Yves Kugelmann, the fund board member who said this: “In the 1940s, the Frank family had its possessions seized by the Germans and their accomplices – now a Dutch institution is trying again to carry out a seizure.” Yes, someone whose very job description guarantees that they know better has compared a charity retaining historical records with the Nazis’ property seizures.

The foundation hasn’t responded by suggesting that anyone in Switzerland is probably sitting at a desk made entirely from 24-carat Nazi gold, but if it does, I won’t be at all surprised. The courts have been pondering for two years already who owns these papers. (So at least they’re not like the Nazis, who were so efficient with paperwork.) Perhaps they’ll find in favour of a sense of proportion.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Facilities Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Facilities Manager is required to join the m...

Recruitment Genius: New Business Sales Consultant - Mobile - OTE £35,000

£14000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent telecoms compa...

Recruitment Genius: New Business Sales Consultant - Unified - OTE £35,000

£14000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent telecoms compa...

Recruitment Genius: Trade Sales Consultant - Furniture

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a besp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Police are called to Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Sydney's Martin Place, a busy plaza in the heart of the city  

After the Sydney Siege, would Australia be safer with American-style gun laws? The answer is simple

Neil Brennan
 

My cancer diagnosis cost me my home

Deanne Wilson
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum