Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: May 2012

Magneto is not the only character connected to the X-Men universe whose story is rooted in the Holocaust. Also the mutant known as Wolverine goes through the experience of a death camp, that of Sobibor. The story is told in Prisoner Number Zero (Wolverine, Vol. 3, n. 32, November 2005). The mutant, nearly indestructible because of his “healing factor”, survives all the attempts at executing him and even the gas chamber. He is not to be listed among the “Holocaust Avengers”, although the camp commander, Major Bauman, accidentally dies while confronting him. Wolverine stays silent and passive, with a defiant grin on his face, while the Nazis unleash their fury, that ultimately leads them to self-destruction.

The nocturnal depiction of the crematorium’s chimney under the snow seems reminiscent of the Auschwitz sequences from Schindler’s List.

This is Your Life was a reality-tv series broadcast on NBC from 1952 to 1961. In the series – that Time magazine defined in 1960 “the most sickeningly sentimental show on the air” – the host Ralph Edwards surprises a guest and proceeds to take them through their life in front of an audience including friends and family. During the episode aired on May 27, 1953, Edwards presented the story of Hanna Bloch Kohner, a Czech survivor of Westerbork, Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and Mauthausen. Her husband and parents had been murdered. “Upon arriving at Auschwitz, they handed you soap, and you went to the showers. Your shower had water, others were not as fortunate, like your mother, father and your husband, Carl. They all lost their lives in Auschwitz”, the host tells Hanna. Now, thanks to This is Your Life, she can finally meet her brother, living in Israel since the end of the war.

The episode is emblematic of the ascending Americanization of the Holocaust through popular culture in the 50s, especially in the form of domestic melodrama. As Edwards put it: “Out of darkness, of terror and despair, a new life has been born in a new world for you, Hanna Kohner. This is your life. Even as your heart goes out to those less fortunate than you, you rejoice humbly in the bounties America has given you. (…) To you in your darkest hour, America held out a friendly hand”.

Is Toy Story 3 a Holocaust allegory? The topic has been discussed on movie websites, newspapers and blogs at the time the Disney-Pixar 3D animated film was issued, in 2010. The theory was first proposed by Jordan Hoffman on Ugo.com:

The cattle car comes for the toys in the form of a horrible garbage bag – but they don’t go straight to extermination.  They find themselves alive and at Sunnyside where they are put “to work.”  (Consider this, then, Dachau instead of Treblinka.)

Once there, they meet the toy version of Sonderkommando, toys who live the stay fed and well-sheltered (like Ken in his dream house) while leading other toys to a certain death.  Newcomers are bashed and abused in the “Caterpillar Room” by non-age appropriate children until they resemble Muselmann and are eventually thrown into the trash chute.

The trash chute leads to a systematic sorting of metal (e.g. any last valuables) until, eventually, the fiery crematoria.

Director Lee Unkrich told the New York Post that the allegory was not the filmmakers’ intention. He said a Holocaust survivor came up to him after the screening and asked if this was intended: “I was surprised, but I could see his point”.

Apart from the allegorical implications of the plot, discussed in many blogs and websites, it could be argued that on a visual level Toy Story 3 contains many elements reminiscent of the “Holocaust movie” canon, as these stills reveal.

1. Deportation into crowded cattle trains

2. The reassuring “camp” sign – Arbeit macht Frei

3. Tracking shot along the rail line – a “Holocaust movie” topos

4. Garbage incinerators as “crematoria”