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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before