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

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

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
 

Never underestimate the power of the National Trust

Boyd Tonkin
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss