The black and white, cat and mouse, Jew and German truth.

| | Comments (7)

"What happened?  We had to deliver them.  They thought it was to Theresienstadt they were going.  But they went ight away to Auschwitz, to the gas." (Spiegelman 87)

This quote was disturbing, surprising, disappointing, and honest. The above quote is an explanation of the events that occurred after the police told Vladek's family to either hand over the grandparents that lived with them or be arrested themselves.  I think Artie's question, "So, what happened?" really represents our expectations and feelings of the Holocaust.  We're used to reading stories of sacrifice, heroism, and selflessness (and in many ways this is also that kind of story), but here Spiegelman is completely truthful, saying, "No, my father and his family didn't risk death to save their grandparents.  However, my father survived."

It comes back to the quote at the begining of the graphic novel.  "Friends?  Your friends?  If you lock them together in a room with no food for a week...Then you could see what it is.  Friends!"  One theme that can resonate through Holocaust literature is what humans have left  when everything is stripped away, their home, their friends, their family, their dignity.  Some people may think that they would never turn over a member of their family or a friend in order to buy their own life, but I imagine Vladek and his family all thought the same thing.  I am definitely not criticizing, belittling, or demeaning the choices that were made, but it is something to think about: What do we have left when we have nothing left?

For another moving book about the Holocaust, I recommend Night by Elie Wiesel

Cody also talks about some of the techniques Spiegelman uses to truthfully portray the events of the Holocaust.



Melissa Schwenk said:

I see your point about the voices of the characters, but I still felt that there was something else they could have done for the grandparents. It felt like they didn’t even really look into other options. Sure, they tried to hide them and state “We’ve been together –a family- for 70 years. We don’t want to break apart now,” but why not try to smuggle them out of the town or something? That was something that I didn’t understand when I was reading the book. I knew they weren’t entirely sure where the grandparents would be taken, but handing them over to Nazis just seems like a bad idea. Why trust them?

Also, I have to agree that Night is a very good book (I had to read this book twice in school before). If you’re interested in reading something that is from the Germans’ perspective than I would suggest The Book Thief by Markus Zusak because it deals with a little girl who has to go through the war not necessarily agreeing with the cause of it, but having to witness everyone she loves go to fight on Hitler’s side. Plus, a big portion of the book is dedicated to how much the girl loves books, which I found to be the best part of the story. = Link to The Book Thief

Jessica Orlowski said:

Nice entry, Josie, and thought-provoking question at the end. See, I liked this book because it allowed me to examine how I would react in this type of situation. Even though I can't EVER imagine what would happen, I like that Spiegelman used fictional pictures to illustrate an event that was VERY non-fiction. It helped me to relate better. Also, the way Spiegelman illustrated the book made me feel the events of the Holocaust more deeply; we've said time and time again that human beings have more sympathy for animals. It's sad that I don't feel very much when looking at actual pictures of people during the Holocaust, but when looking at Spiegelman's book I feel a whole lot worse.

Also, I wondered what the quote in the beginning of the novel meant, but it makes sense when you tie it to the theme of the book (and of the Holocaust itself).

I have read Night. Did you know that he also wrote "Dawn" and "Day?" Another moving novel is called "Auschwitz" by Dr. Miklos Nyiszli. He was a Jewish doctor who was forced to perform medical experiments under Dr. Mengele. Crazy stuff...

The honesty in this novel was one of the most impressive aspects to me. We see it again (though this isn't about the Holocaust specifically... indirectly, sure. ANYWAYS)in Artie's comic about his mother's suicide. Not only were the words completely honest (and, again, disturbing), but the visual images were extremely graphic. Spiegelman really held nothing back from us, it seems. (What a nice change from The Quick and the Dead).

Wow. I used a lot of parentheses in that comment.

Kayla Lesko said:

Vladek said something along the lines of the fact that many people were only concerned about themselves. Humanity has a great capacity for compassion, but when things start getting bad, we lose most of that compassion. It's certainly a change seeing an account of the Holocaust where people are looking out for themselves.

Josie Rush said:

Melissa- Thanks for the book suggestion. I always like to read books that show a different side of a story. I can't remember what this book is called, because I read it so long ago, but I read an autobiographical book about a person who joined Hitler's Youth, and it was very interesting. It showed how people got caught up in promises of Hitler, and were hoping for a better Germany (it was basically falling apart before this) so strongly that the atrocities occurring were downplayed. The reader also gets to see how when the nature of Hitler's crimes were revealed it was too late and too dangerous for many people to change their allegience.
Jess- Also, thank-you for the book suggestion. I've heard of Dawn and Day by Wiesel, but not of the book about the doctor. That sounds so crazy. Two fictional books I read that I would recommend if you're into this type of literature are "While Mortals Sleep" (more of a religion-based book, but interestingly, the protagonist initially sides with Hitler, then switches up), and "If I Should Die Before I Wake" (one of the time-jumping books where the protagonist is from our time, but something happens, can't spoil and say what, that takes her into the time of the Holocaust). I was thinking that choosing to display the characters as animals allows us to feel the sympahty and compassion we would if we were seeing pictures of people, and it also gives us enough distance to not be overwhelmed with the images, and still understand what's happening.
Karyssa- I definitely think showing the comic of his mother's suicide was an example of Spiegelman's honesty. It was also necessary in a way, because this shows an ending to Anja's story, and a twist/defining moment in Vladek's. Random inclusion, have you ever read "Anne Frank and Me"? It's different (and oddly named, since Anne Frank makes an appearance for, like, three pages), but I really enjoyed it. It has an unconventional ending.
Kayla- I agree that it is a change to see a Holocaust story that shows people looking out for themselves. Generally most stories are celebrating the brave, selfless acts, which is good, because those things should be remembered. But then we start to think that was the norm, and we forget the great price people paid to go through this awful time: humanity.

Cody Naylor said:

I LOVE the title of this entry. I think you are right in that MAUS is pretty brutal in its honesty. Not everyone survives, times are tough for the survivors... it is more real than a lot of the stories we are used to reading about the Holocaust. I blogged about how I am glad the artist/author made the decision to portray the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats since it almost downplays the violence and brutality because I think, coupled with that brutal honesty, seeing actual human beings (even if they were illustrated) beating each other and being so cruel might have made me sick...

Josie Rush said:

Thanks for the props on the title, Cody. I completely agree about the choice to make the characters animals. I think, as Dr. Jerz said today in class that this gave us enough distance to truly consider what was happening, without flinching away in horror as we would've been wont to do if we'd seen humans suffering like this. This is something I wanted to cover as well in this entry, but I didn't think it was prudent to make a book-long post. If you don't mind, I'm going to link to your entry for this. Thanks for bringing that up; it's so important. Sometimes distance is the tool we need to be truly honest.

Leave a comment

Type the characters you see in the picture above.