[A year ago, I had the chance to share a couple wonderful Guest Posts from students in my friend Robin Field’s classes at King’s College. Well, I’m back with another such great Guest Post from such a student, Sydney Kruszka on the very timely question of why we should all read Art Spiegelman’s Maus!]
[Sydney Kruszka is currently attending King's College with a major in Nursing. In her spare time she enjoys playing and coaching soccer, reading, and spending time with family and friends.]
Maus by Art Spiegelman should be read by the general public as it encapsulates the horrors of the Holocaust in an educational and effective manner. Spiegelman depicts the massacre using comic book art allowing the reader to physically see an insight on the day-to-day misery that Polish Jews faced. The text really spoke to me in the first few pages. The beginning of Maus shows Art Spiegelman writing his excerpt along with speech bubbles dangling over his head containing all the baggage he is internally carrying. These few comic strips highlight the fact that you never truly know what someone is going through. In addition, the excerpt’s content educates the reader on the physical, emotional, and mental abuse that Polish Jews endured along with the aftermath of such abuse.
Those who were sent to the concentration camps in Auschwitz were required to do countless hours of manual labor. Spiegelman incorporates a few examples of the grueling labor which included: carrying heavy cans of soup, carrying large stones back and forth, and digging out large sections of the ground that essentially was a future grave. This may not sound extremely grueling, but the Jewish were awfully malnourished, so their physical limits were quite inhibited. Spiegelman emphasized this malnourishment by sketching the bodies to resemble merely skin and bones. The ratio of the weight of the cans, stones, soil, etc. was heavily favored compared to the weight of the unfortunate soul suffering through the labor. This caused their bodies to collapse and impede them from continuing. Even though their bodies were far past their breaking point the Nazi’s would beat them for leaving the labor being incomplete.
The abuse did not only entail physical harm. Emotional damage was also a result of the treatment from the concentration camps. Spiegelman’s graphics show the dehumanization that occurred, such as everyone wearing the same prisoner-like outfit. Those in the camp were immediately stripped of their individuality as they were all forced to wear the same clothing and were assigned a number that would be used in place of their birth name.
Lastly, many of the Polish Jews who survived mentally suffered long after the Holocaust was over. At the end of the excerpt from Maus the reader gets a sense of an example of the aftermath. Vladek, the main character from this excerpt, is seen to be experiencing a restless sleep. The reader can hypothesize that this is a common occurrence based on it being said that “he’s moaning in his sleep again” (74). A symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is reliving the traumatic event through nightmares. With that, the reader can connect this mental health condition to all the abuse that some Jews survived through.
Although the Holocaust began in the early 1940s the event is still relevant to the present day. The majority of schools incorporate the Holocaust into their curriculum, and for the right reasons. However, a school board in Tennessee has banned Maus from their curriculum “due to concerns about profanity and an image of female nudity in its depiction of Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust” (CNBC). If more schools begin to censor topics such as the Holocaust the generations to come will never be aware of the horrors that affected so many lives. The Holocaust curriculum is relevant to lives today to teach the valuable lesson that someone’s religious beliefs do not open a rite of passage for discrimination, religious persecution, or genocide. While children are young their brains can be compared to a sponge, because everything they hear their brain soaks up. So, teaching children about the Holocaust while they are adolescent will result in a better appreciation for religious freedom later down the road.
Maus by Art Spiegelman links to the contemporary issue of religious persecution. Granted, the Holocaust is still one of the biggest mass genocides up to date, but those who practice the Jewish faith, Hinduism, Muslim faith etc. still experience religious persecution. Humans were designed to be individuals with their own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs; however, a lack of respect for people’s individuality has created religious persecution. Maus heavily emphasizes the lack of respect the Germans had for Polish Jews. Without a mutual respect for someone’s beliefs, or lack thereof, religious persecution will never fade. Spiegelman's depiction of the Holocaust is a wakeup call in that history will repeat itself if this contemporary issue does not get resolved.
Maus by Art Spiegelman should be read by the general public, because of the education it provides and how it is provided. Spiegelman informs the reader about the physical, emotional, and mental abuse Polish Jews underwent every single day. His comic book graphics help the reader to physically see the intensity of the concentration camps. The reader could see the malnourishment of each individual as Spiegelman portrayed the Jews as essentially walking skeletons. The reader can clearly see everyone’s rib cage practically bursting through their skin, no one had any stomach fat left so they appeared to have “washboard abs”, and their appendages were drawn to be extremely thin and flimsy.
Unfortunately, this topic needs to stay relevant to the present day to protect our religious freedom. Therefore, this text should be a part of every school's curriculum as it will open the eyes of the young to a very real event that occurred and how something as traumatic as the Holocaust can occur again if it is forgotten. If we do not remember, we forget.
Mangan, Dan. “Tennessee school board bans Holocaust graphic novel “Maus” - author Art Spiegelman condemns the move as ‘Orwellian’”. CNBC. 28 January 2022. Tennessee school board bans Holocaust comic 'Maus' by Art Spiegelman (cnbc.com).
[Memorial Day series starts Monday,
PS. What do you think? Guest Posts you’d like to contribute?]