I've always felt that bringing up Nazis / the holocaust in a thread was self-defeating because of the *nature* of the arguments. I would approach such threads (back in USENet days) with fear and loathing of the content of the arguments, and not necessarily of the subject. The subject *is* fearful, but that's de facto among most educated people. No argument there, unless you're a neo-Nazi or a holocaust revisionist. The bad part, then, was watching the thread degenerate into either a rascist screed, or watching it just die, because no sane, rational person would argue pro-Nazi on USENet back then...unless they were trolling or one of the aforementioned neo-Nazis / revisionists.
Thus, the thread becomes impossible to enter into. The fear and loathing associated with such a quick and brutal death of a thread was not unique; you can hush entire rooms by simply saying "Hitler was a great leader." But no one will want to enter into that debate nicely, calmly, rationally. Thus, alt.flame. I was in alt.syntax.tactical, and we used Godwins law many, many times to simply shut people up. They fear the argument, they fear the fact that someone actually may support the evil side. Add to that the laborious nature of many neo-Nazi arguments ("try to convince this brick that it is, indeed, a brick"), the fear that the truth would not prevail in the argument (due to whatever poster's misguided, though honorable, intent), and you have a dead thread, an "uh oh, here we go again" feeling, and a general lack of faith in either side to make their point.
My grandfather fought in WW2. He doesn't talk about it at all. He does talk about the camps, though. My grandmother said that the footage of the camps was the first time she had ever seen death like that, killing on a massive scale, women, children, men, old, young, whatever. It was so terribly shocking that it took her breath away. She feels she will never recover from those images. The death in those camps justified, to both, the horrors of the war, and the brutality that they both faced at home and abroad. The pictures, the reports, the letters home all had unprecedented impact. The original French documentary had footage that no one could even imagine back then, media being so much more innocent to the violence we are steeped in now.
The echos of that horror are still with us, obviously, and create the air of hatred around the Nazi label. Hell, at this point the meme is so entrenched, it wouldn't surprise me if it's become an inherited memory, the swastika standing out in our heads as a symbol of all that can go wrong with modern, western, industrial, enlightened countries. "This Could Be You, and don't you forget it."
Society was different back then, war was different back then, but the mechanics were the same, and we can easily extend our thoughts of Nazism to the opressors around us, and even trivialize it to stop a discussion...something my grandparents would not imagine ever doing, since the Nazi label is the same, to them, as calling someone the Devil, the same as accusing them of crimes more heinous than I can ever imagine (imagine someone posting, mid-thread, "child rape is good!").
Some arguments are polar. This is one with a heavily weighted side. Bring up abortion in any thread, or protests in a k5 thread, and you'll get a similar reaction. In the end, I just hope that use of the Nazi label doesn't begin to detract from the impact of the reality surrounding the holocaust. I don't think it will, but these days....you just never can tell.
ps. this was something of a disconnected rant, I apologize.
The root of the problem has been isolated.