Screenshot of YouTube video taken by passengers aboard the Legoland California river cruise as it passes the newly controversial model of the Auschwitz concentration camp. “I can remember when passengers would ooh and aah over the ‘smoke' billowing out of the stacks above the crematorium,” says guide Zeno Weevil. “And it’s really amazing just how many Holocaust jokes people are able to remember and share. But ever since that clown movie hit the internet, the boat just gets really quiet until from here until we reach the New Orleans jazz band with an octopus on the drums. Then they perk back up.”
For decades, Jerry Lewis’s massively misconceived Holocaust drama, The Day the Clown Cried, has remained inaccessible to both the curious and the critical, a morbid mystery wrapped in an existential enigma: What were they thinking? It seemed we would never know, not really. But then, in June of this year, a half-hour compilation of footage from a German documentary about the film surfaced on YouTube, and people were finally able to glimpse portions of the fabled failure.
Reaction to the film was more muted than expected, perhaps because the years of anticipation had created an impossible expectation about the film’s outrageousness. But the juxtaposition of a children’s entertainer and the horror of the Holocaust has created unexpected controversy here in San Diego, as several political and religious groups have called for a re-evaluation of the tastefulness, educational value, and appropriateness of Legoland California’s Lego Auschwitz display.
Sad clown Jerry Lewis leads a group of trusting children to their concentration-camp deaths in The Day the Clown Cried.
“I’m sure Legoland has the best of intentions,” says Atheists Against Auschwitz member Sally Rand. “No doubt, they hope to spark a conversation within vacationing families about this tremendous crime against humanity. But the fact remains that Legos are first and foremost toys, and the representation of a concentration camp through the media of children’s playthings, no matter how expertly accomplished, is problematic and trivializing.”
As of press time, Legoland had yet to issue a response. But protestors say they remain hopeful, especially in the wake of Legoland Tokyo’s decision to remove its Hiroshima aftermath display in preparation for President Obama’s historic visit to the site of the devastating nuclear bomb attack.