Post number thirty-three is for Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History, which was one of the titles we could choose to read for this week’s class. I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while, so figured now was as good a time as any.
The book is about Art’s father’s survival during the Holocaust, so I’m not going to use spoiler spaces. The graphic novel is all in black and white, but the pictures are pretty impactful, including a brief comic in the middle that talks about Art’s mother’s suicide. The Jews are drawn as mice, the Nazis as cats, and the Polish people as pigs. This book details what his father and mother’s lives were like prior to their being deported to Auschwitz. Both of them were from well-to-do families, and one of the parts in the story that really got my attention is when Art mentions to his father’s second wife, Mala, that he’s worried about the depiction of his father in the story, because he comes across as the stereotypical Jew who’s money-hungry, arrogant and racist in his own way. His father and mother were hidden by sympathetic Poles prior to Auschwitz, but his father, Vladek, wanted to move them to Hungary, which at that point in time (1944) was still safe for Jews. He worked out a deal with some Polish smugglers, who agreed to take him and Anja (his wife) across the border into Hungary. However, the smugglers turned on them, called the Gestapo, and when the train got to a city near the border, the Gestapo boarded the train and took them away to Auschwitz. There are many mentions that if they’d just stayed put in various places that the entire family (including their first son, who was killed in a ghetto, which they sent him to along with the other young children in the family, because they thought it was safer than the ghetto they were in) would have survived the war. The whole story is pretty heartbreaking, as are any memoir-type stories from the Holocaust.
The book ended in a sort of cliff-hangery way, with Art extremely mad at his father, so I might go ahead and pick up the second installment of this, just to see how that storyline ends, and to get the rest of Vladek and Anja’s story (all we know is that both of them survived Auschwitz).