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GODWIN'S PRE-LAW

77 Years Ago Today, the U.S. Apologized for NYC Mayor’s Comments About Hitler

Today it’s all the rage to apologize for insulting other people by comparing them to Hitler. But seventy-seven years ago, the U.S. apologized for insulting the man himself.

On March 6, 1937, New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia thought about ending the upcoming 1939 World’s Fair with a “chamber of horrors,” which, as its climax, could maybe feature “a figure of that brown-shirted fanatic who is now menacing the peace of the world.”

The comment riled the Germans, leading to an apology from Secretary of State Cordell Hull. “In this country, the right of freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution to every citizen and is cherished as part of the national heritage,” Hull said, but added: “I very earnestly deprecate the utterances which have given offense to the German Government.”

La Guardia was born to a Jewish mother, and in reporting the incident the German press called him “New York’s gangster-in-chief” and a “dirty Talmud Jew.” By the time of the World’s Fair two years later, La Guardia was joining a boycott against German products and accusing Hitler of orchestrating “the complete annihilation of the Jews in Germany.”

[h/t Haaretz]

[Image via New York Post / Corbis]

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