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Commentary :: Human Rights
Greeting the Holocaust Santa
18 Dec 2004
A Seasonal Exploration of Truth and Taboo
I found myself sitting on the couch at my sister’s house nursing a small whiskey and waited patiently until she had finished with some domestic preparations she was busying herself with.
Then she sauntered into the room, with an expression both pleased and relieved. “Well, that is that for another year! All ready at last. Now even I can relax!” Nora said.
“Good. When you can relax, we all can relax.” said I “I invite you to pour yourself a drink!”
“Joe you have always been so considerate. You men have it easier at Christmas, even more so than during the rest of the year round.”
“Well, I think these days Christmas is mainly for children, as well as for consumerist maniacs. Which reminds me how is young Kevin getting on? Is he looking forward to Santa?”
Nora poured herself a glass of wine. “Kevin is in wonderful form. 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 will not visit. That is Santa’s rule and he makes no exceptions. It amuses me the way he is both so innocent and yet so clever.”
“Who? Santa or Kevin or both?” I asked, with a tone of mild sarcasm.
“Why, Kevin, of course. I was talking to his teacher before the school holiday. She said he is very inquisitive and bright. He takes a particularly keen interest in science. She was amazed at how logical and receptive he can be.”
“Well, well, he is taking after his uncle Joe then!” I suggested.
“Well now, I am 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, you know, he is still fully convinced about Santa. So innocent! Isn’t that amazing?”
“Well I’m not so sure it is” I said. “He has not 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 it is we who inculcate that innocence. They depend on us for information and make the best of the information we give them. Kevin is no less rational for believing in Santa.”
“So you mean believing in Santa makes sense?”
“Well, actually, 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. People speak of Santa as an individual they have met. There is a type of proof provided by the presents he receives at Christmas. Kevin integrates all the information we give him together as best he can. The big thing is that there is a taboo against providing contrary information which would upset his belief. The important thing is the taboo. Without that the whole game falls apart.”
“But isn’t there also a fear the child has that if he doubts Santa’s existence he will be naughty and be punished by not receiving any presents.” said Nora.
“Indeed, there is the moral blackmail aspect. That is for sure. But it is not crucial like the big taboo on challenging the story. The taboo holds the whole thing together by shielding kids from information that would overturn their belief. No adult dares upset the apple cart. What teacher would conduct and lead a serious class discussion among six year olds on the plausibility of the Santa story? ” I asked.
“That would be perverse in the extreme.” Nora said.
“Indeed, as perverse as conducting a serious discussion among sixteen year olds on the plausibility of the Holocaust story, I might add!” I said.
“Joe, you are sick. Santa is a beautiful story for children. Why do you have to bring the Holocaust into it and all that stuff you discuss with weirdoes on the internet? It is Christmas, for God’s sake. Give us a break!” Nora replied, becoming angry.
“Look, my point is there is also a taboo in force regarding discussion of what is termed the Holocaust. Whatever your beliefs on the matter, you have got to accept 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, what is supposedly ‘the land of the free’. Can you imagine what would happen a teacher who told their students what tabooed writers claim about say the existence of the Nazi gas chambers and why they claim it? In many European countries people are fined or jailed for suggesting things may have been different than generally assumed. Say what you will, you have to accept a taboo exists.” I said.
“You know there is a taboo against slander and libel and theft as well. Sometimes we need taboos. You are hung up on this taboo business. Maybe there should be a taboo against intellectual arrogance? How would you like that?” said Nora, dismissively.
“Well, laws on slander and libel are never absolute. If they were nothing of value would ever get discussed for fear somebody somewhere would feel offended. They are always subject to the need and right of individuals to engage in fair comment. Obviously you admit a taboo exists. My point is that it is not justified and it is the kernel of the reason why so many years after World War Two people still believe the old propaganda story about gas chambers. Just like with children and Santa people believe because the full range of opinion is not put before them. The taboo makes sure of that.”
“Maybe the public needs to be protected from bizarre and dangerous thinking. How about that?” said Nora.
“Surely the public can make up its own mind about what is bizarre and what is not. Democracy is based on the idea people are not stupid and given all the facts can make reasonable judgements. If some authority has the right to decide what information the common man must be protected from, how do we know that authority will not be abused?
The freedom to express ourselves and exchange information protects us from tyrants, who might want to limit what we know and understand so they can control us.” I said, firmly.
“What information is being tabooed that we do not hear about? Maybe all this priceless information is just in your mind?” Nora replied.
“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 for charter flight operators who ferry children to Lapland to meet Santa. Commercial requirements have necessitated a change in Santa’s arrangements.”
“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. She was beginning to relax. The wine was taking effect.
“Whatever the reasons are the story has changed over time. In the 1940s after the war documentary films reported Nazi “extermination camps” containing gas chambers to have existed in Germany proper. Today the story goes that they existed only in Poland. Similar pattern!”
Just then the door opened and in arrived Frank, Nora’s husband.
“Hello, everybody! I wish you all the compliments of the season.” said Frank, cheerfully.
“And a happy Christmas to you!” I said.
I rose and we shook hands.
“So what is going on with you people? Anything strange?” said Frank.
“We are talking about the Holocaust and Santa.” Nora replied, in a low voice.
“You are discussing the Holocaust Santa?” Frank asked with a confused frown on his face.
“Well, not quite. Nora can explain later what we were talking about. How has work been treating you?” I changed the subject, knowing how uncomfortable Frank felt, discussing what to him were strange and bizarre opinions. He felt more at ease when the eccentricities of his in-laws remained 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 Santa and Tooth Fairy corresponds to the adult world of political propaganda and spin contrived by political elites. In looking at the world of children’s fantasy figures we see our adult world with its myths and grand deceptions reflected in a gentle, sugar-coated cartoon like world. In paying close attention to Santa we can learn more about our adult society, if we only make the effort. Deep in his sack Santa carries a present for us which brings clarity about the true nature of our so called open and democratic social system. In this sense a “Holocaust Santa” can be said to exist.

Joseph Heaney
Dec 2004
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This work is in the public domain