It was a week before we all pack up and go our separate ways for winter break. We had our floor meeting to discuss the process of closing down our dorms. After that meeting, four of us decided to watch "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town." This claymation movie was released in 1970. These claymation Christmas movies are classics. I can remember being in elementary school and watching them with my siblings in our Christmas pajamas. These fond memories, however, soon dissipated upon rewatching this movie for the first time in over ten years.
As we put the movie on and it began to play, each of us began to pick up on small parallels to the Holocaust. We were shocked because, to us, this movie was a Christmas classic. We did not believe it and thought we might be reading into it too much; however, we looked it up and many people have been reading into those messages for years. Needless to say, our jaws hit the floor and a childhood classic would never be the same again.
The first sign that began our questioning was the Burgermeister Meisterburger. This character had a thick German accent and the way that the claymation walked almost looked like one of his hands was moving like the salute from Nazi Germany. That may have been a coincidence and that is how we viewed it at the beginning.
We were then introduced to Sombertown, which is the area in which he ruled. The area was gray and there was a sense of despair across the town. The Burgermeister had banned all toys from the town. This immediately reminded me of "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak, because this novel depicted the banning of books during the Holocaust. This seemed like a coincidence until the movie goes on to show the Burgermeister collecting all of the toys belonging to the children and burning them in the town center. At this point, I was almost positive that this was a direct allusion to the book burnings during the Holocaust.
It was at this moment that we all looked at each other and realized our childhood perception was completely wrong. We had just experienced what was known as a gestalt shift, and we would never view this movie the same way again. The movie also shows a clip of children marching in two straight lines, followed by a vehicle. One of us drew the parallel to the pictures of concentration camps of the Jewish people marching in straight lines. We would not have taken a second look at these lines if we had not picked up on the parallels earlier in the movie.When the movie concluded, we all looked at each other and said, “what did we just watch?” We went in with the expectation of being festive and watching a classic Christmas movie under our blankets and having a good time. That took a turn when we had the epiphany that the movie had these horrid undertones. I was not upset by these undertones; rather, I was actually fascinated by them.
This movie demonstrated how even a children’s movie can send a certain message. In this case, it put Hitler’s ideas into something that would be understandable for children. The children did not like the Burgermeister because he did these awful acts. This movie showed some of the aspects of the Holocaust without showing too much that it would scar a child for life. As an adult watching it, the lessons of this movie are beyond clear. This movie made us all want to go back and watch our favorite childhood movies and look for an underlying messages or allusions.