Arbeit Macht Frei

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Alright, pretty abrupt ending for Vladek's 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.


Josie Rush said:

I agree that we generally read about the suffering in concentration camps, not what led up to them. Even a book that include things like life in the ghettos or life in hiding, usually shortens this part of the story, because it's all leading up to the concentration camps. I also thought this was the end of the book at first, and I agree, it would've completely worked to stop here.
Good point about these stories being necessary to show that the process of dehumanization was a long one, not something that happened over night and can be equated to pulling off a band-aid.

Kayla Lesko said:

You definitely have a point. I knew a little about what happened to Jews prior to going to concentration camps. Maus is the only thing I've read that actually goes into detail about what happened before the concentration camps.

DavidWilbanks Author Profile Page said:

As much as I hate to argue with myself, (It's a paradoxical endeavor due to my unwavering accuracy) one must mention that one of the most famous Holocaust works centers only on the post-concentration camp experience, primarily the hiding, and then ends with a note by someone else giving dates the author went to the camps and the date she died. Yes, I really should have kept The Diary of Ann Frank in mind when I wrote that.

That said, I also noticed that in other works the story of the camps pretty much obliterates everything else from memory. Night, by Elie Wiesel covers a decent amount of time before the camps, (though in his families case, the transition was pretty sudden, as they didn't run at all, and didn't get transported much) however, the story of the camps overshadows the stuff before that so much that it is easily forgotten. I actually remember re-reading it a couple years ago (or rather listening to it on tape because the truck stop I hit up for audio-books had a pretty terrible selection: Romance, Westerns and a few of Robert Ludlum novels that I'd already read (reading spy novels that you've already read is rather dull)) ANYWAY, on the second read I realized that I didn't remember ANYTHING prior to Auschwitz.

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DavidWilbanks on Arbeit Macht Frei: As much as I hate to argue wit
Kayla Lesko on Arbeit Macht Frei: You definitely have a point. I
Josie Rush on Arbeit Macht Frei: I agree that we generally read