Arbeit Macht Frei
Alright, pretty abrupt ending for Vladek's story...you just see the gates of Auschwitz, (including the words from the title of this blog). Despite its suddenness, I really liked it (even before knowing that there is a sequal which tells about the camps). Without knowing about the sequal, I thought it was a good place to end. Almost anyone whose taken some history classes knows a fair amount about Auschwitz. The average educated reader knows even more. There is a great deal of literature written about concentration camps. HOWEVER, there is significantly less about everything leading up to the camps, such as life in the ghettos, etc. It seems that there is far less literature concerning the struggles that many Jews faced before even ending up in concentration camps. By having Maus end with the arrival at Auschwitz, I initially thought he was leaving it out since it is so familiar (though the sequal describes it). Even though there is a sequal, splitting the two books at this point leaves a large emphasis on Vladek's life up until Auschwitz.
It not only makes it more appealing to readers, as it is less redundant, it also highlights the important historical fact that the holocaust was a systematic and far reaching phenomenon, that involved far more than concentration camps alone. The Jews were not simply stripped of their humanity and thrown into camps one day, but rather had it chisselled away slowly. It really helps the reader to understand the uncertainty and disbelief of the time, which helped make the holocaust possible. Jews (as well as bystanders) had the misguided belief that each new affront to their freedom and humanity was the limit, that anything more would be unthinkable in modern, civilized nations. The rumors of worse to come were often dismissed as rumors.