Second Generation

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"I mean, I can't even make any sense out of my relationship with my father...How am I supposed to make any sense out of Auschwitz?....Of the Holocaust?" pg 14

Maus 2

The Holocaust has claimed more victims than just the 11 million murdered between 1937 and 1945. The children of Holocaust survivors are victims as well, second-generation survivors. Such a horrible event as the Holocaust lays imprinted in the minds of survivors for all time. They will never forget that for a time, they did not have control over anything that happened to them. It is hard then, when finally free, to readjust to society, to adjust to having free will again. Vladek saves everything because his posessions were destroyed in the past. He is stingy with money because money was scarce (almost non-existent) and valuable in the war; it sometimes meant the difference between life and death. Vladek clings to these things because he is afraid, afraid of the past. Art understands, in theory, his father's behavior. But, since he obviously did not experience the Holocaust, he can never really truely comprehend his father's behavior. Children of Holocaust victims often have strained relationships with their parents because there is this lack of understanding.


Last year, our theater department did a play about a survivor and his daughter,(Mazel). In the play, daughter Pearl had a strained relationship with father Jack. he did not want to talk about the past. She knew nothing of what happened to him during the war other than that he had been in a concentration camp. Pearl blamed the Germans for her father's behavior: in fact, she hated all Germans. But, by speaking about the past. Jack and Pearl grow very close. Art needs to finish his book, if not for literary sake, then for his own relationship with his father.

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I think Spiegelman was trying to get that idea--that the Holocaust is imprinted on the survivor's minds--across through his illustrations. There are two I can remember off the top of my head. The one that I found really powerful (and disturbing) was at the beginning of the Auschwitz chapter. It's a picture of Artie in his office with a pile of corpses. It's like he's combining the present with the ghost of that horrific past.

As for your comment of Spiegelman needing to finish this for the sake of his relationship with his father, that's a good insight. I never thought about it that way, but it makes sense. He was having trouble dealing with his father's past, so he dealt with it the only way he knew how to--by writing (and drawing) about it.

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