#19 The Holocaust Santa. Does He Really Exist?
Originally published on December 18, 2004
THE HOLOCAUST SANTA. DOES HE REALLY EXIST?
By Joe Heaney
I found myself sitting on the couch at my sister Nora’s house nursing a whiskey and waiting patiently while she finished some domestic preparations for the holidays.
When she was finished she sauntered into the room with an expression both pleased and relieved.
“Well, that’s that for another year! All ready at last. Now even I can relax!”
“Good. When you relax, we can all relax,” said I “I invite you to pour yourself a drink!”
“Joe, you have always been so considerate. But then, you men have it easier at Christmas than we do. Even more than during the rest of the year.”
“Well, these days Christmas is mainly for children, and for consumerist maniacs. Which reminds me. How is Kevin getting on? Is he looking forward to Santa?”
Nora poured herself a glass of wine. “Kevin is wonderful. But Frank and I had to warn him he cannot wait up to meet Santa. We explained Santa is terribly busy this time of year and he has no time to talk to anyone. He expects people to be fast asleep when he arrives. Otherwise he won’t visit. That’s Santa’s rule and he makes no exceptions. It amuses me the way he is so innocent, and yet so clever.”
“Who? Santa? Or Kevin or both?”
“Kevin, wise guy. I was talking to his teacher before the school holiday. She said he’s very inquisitive and bright. He takes a keen interest in science. She was amazed at how logical and receptive he can be.”
“Well, well. He’s taking after his uncle Joe then!”
“I’m not so sure I would welcome that! But, you know, I find it endearing the way he can reel off the names of all the planets and knows so much about space exploration and yet, at the same time, he is still fully convinced about Santa. So innocent! Isn’t that amazing?”
“I’m not so sure it is” I said. “He hasn’t been given as much information about Santa as he has about the planets. Vital data has been screened off from him. We see kids as being innocent, as if it were a special feature of their nature. But we inculcate that innocence in them. They depend on us for information, and they make the best of the information we give them. Kevin is no less rational for believing in Santa.”
“You mean believing in Santa makes sense?”
“In so far as he does not see the full picture, yes. He is presented with a view of the world where Santa is a normal feature. Santa is casually referred to in the media, and referred to by adults and by his school friends. He’s a part of every day life. People speak about Santa as if they have met him. As if they know something about him. There is a type of proof for Santa in the presents he receives at Christmas. Kevin integrates all the information we give him as best he can. There is a taboo against providing contrary information which would destroy his belief. The important thing is the taboo. Without the taboo, the game falls apart.”
Nora said, “I suppose there is also a fear the child has that if he doubts Santa’s existence, he will be thought naughty. He might be punished by not getting any presents.”
“That’s the moral blackmail aspect of the story. For sure. But it’s not crucial, like the taboo against challenging the story itself. The taboo holds the whole thing together by shielding kids from information that would overturn their belief. No adult wants to upset the apple cart. What teacher, for example, would conduct and lead a serious class discussion among six year olds on the plausibility of the Santa story?”
“That would be perverse,” Nora said.
“As perverse, I might add, as conducting a serious discussion among sixteen year olds on the plausibility of the Holocaust story.”
“Joe, don’t be sick. Santa is a beautiful story for children. Why do you have to bring the Holocaust into it and all that stuff you talk about with those weirdoes on the internet? It’s Christmas, for God’s sake. Give me a break!”
“Look, my point is that there is a taboo in force for adults that prohibits an open discussion about what we call the Holocaust. Just as there is a taboo against telling six-year-olds that there is no Santa. Whatever your beliefs about the Holocaust story, you have to accept the fact that this taboo exists. Look in bookstores. There are no titles available which challenge the conventional story. Even the mildly critical “The Holocaust Industry” by Finkelstein did not get distributed in the United States, in what is supposedly ‘the land of the free’. Can you imagine what would happen to a teacher who told his students what revisionist writers claim about the existence of Nazi gas chambers, say, and the arguments they use to support their claims? In European countries people are fined and jailed for suggesting that the gas-chamber story might be something other than what we generally assume. Say what you will, you have to accept the fact that the taboo exists.”
“There is a taboo against slander, and libel, and theft as well. Sometimes we need taboos. You’re hung up on this taboo business. Maybe there should be a taboo against intellectual arrogance? How would you like that?”
“Well, laws on slander and libel are never absolute. If they were, nothing of value would ever be discussed publicly for fear somebody somewhere would feel offended. Such laws are always subject to the need and the right of individuals to engage in fair comment. Obviously, you admit a taboo exists. My point is that the Holocaust taboo is not justified, and it is the kernel of the reason why so many years after World War II people still believe the old propaganda story about gas chambers. Just like with children and Santa, people believe because the full range of facts, arguments, and opinion is not made available to them. Taboo makes sure of that.”
Nora said: “Maybe the public needs to be protected from bizarre and dangerous thinking. How about that?”
“People can make up their own minds about what is bizarre and what is not. Democracy, and the ideal of liberty, is based on the idea that people are not stupid, that given all the facts they can make reasonable judgments. If some authority has the right to decide what information the citizen must be protected from, how do we know that that authority will not be abused? It has been abused plenty in the past. The freedom to express ourselves and exchange information protects us from tyrants, who want to control us to benefit themselves and their people.”
“What information is being tabooed that we do not hear about? Maybe all this priceless information is just a fantasy in your mind.”
“You know Santa’s toy factory? Forty years ago we were told it was at the North Pole. Recently it has been relocated to Lapland. This is convenient so that charter flight operators can ferry children to Lapland to meet Santa. Commercial requirements have necessitated this change.”
“It could be global warming has forced Santa to relocate. The Artic may be becoming unstable. Commerce may have nothing to do with it.” Nora said.
Nora was beginning to relax. The wine was taking effect.
“Whatever the reasons are,” I said, “stories change over time. In the 1940s, after the war, documentary films reported that Nazi “extermination camps” containing gas chambers existed in Germany proper. Today, so the story goes, they existed only in Poland. Santa and gas chambers. Similar pattern”
Just then the door opened and Frank, Nora’s husband, arrived.
“A happy Christmas to you!” I said. I rose and we shook hands.
“So what’s going on with you people?,” Frank said. “Anything strange?”
“We’re talking about the Holocaust and Santa,” Nora replied in a low voice.
“The Holocaust Santa?” Frank had a confused frown on his face.
“Not quite,” I said. Nora can explain later what we were talking about. How’s work been treating you?”
Knowing how uncomfortable Frank feels discussing what to him are strange or bizarre ideas, I changed the subject. He is more at ease when the eccentricities of his in-laws remain at a safe distance. Later, more people arrived and we enjoyed a pleasant, if unremarkable, evening.
On my way home I thought again of Frank’s confused phrase; “The Holocaust Santa.”
The world adults contrive for children with its Santas and Tooth Fairies corresponds to the adult world of propaganda and spin contrived by our political and media elites. In the world of children’s fantasy figures we see our own adult world with its myths and grand deceptions, but reflected in a sugar-coated, cartoon-like world. In observing how we use the Santa story with our children, we can gain an insight into how we manipulate our adult society. It takes a little effort.
Deep in Santa’s yearly gift sack, he carries a present for each of us. His present is an unexpected gift of clarity, a ray of light that illuminates the true nature of what we tell our children, and ourselves, in our open and democratic social system.
In this sense, Frank was right. The “Holocaust Santa” does exist.