The following samples of dialogue were taken from I*EARN's computer teleconference on the Holocaust (iearn.hgp). The Holocaust/Genocide Project's on-line conference houses many different discussions on a variety of topics.
This portion of the discussion of the Holocaust deals with the books MAUS and MAUS II, written by Art Spiegelman, and the reactions they evoked [in those who read them]. This discussion is being introduced to you by a U.S. History class in Shorewood High School, Seattle, Washington. We invite you to participate in this debate. Please understand that the reactions you are [about] to read were written by students who have read these books. We hope that you will be able to enjoy these short writings, the purpose of which is to stimulate thought on what it was like for someone to have gone through this period. D. Ratner, T. Patrick, and D. Reynard Shorewood High School, Washington United States
In the comic book MAUS, Art Spiegelman teaches the reader about the Holocaust and what horrible things, like the concentration camps, the Jews had to go through. Also, he teaches us to never forget what happened in the Holocaust. He chose to represent the people in that way because humans can [be] cruel, as can animals. He picked the mice to represent the Jews because mice are helpless, and they cannot defend themselves like most other animals can. He chose to represent the Germans with cats because they control the fate of the mice. I think the format is very good because it lets you see what really happened to the people during the Holocaust. I think having this book in comic form catches peoples' attention so that they want to read it. I know that I liked reading this more in comic book form rather than in book form. In the story, when Art talks to his dad about the concentration camps, and when his father gets one of his friends a pair of shoes and a belt, I thought that that part was expressed in a very good way. It showed what people had to go through just for their basic rights. Art's father was luckier than most because a lot of people did not make it out alive and [their] whole families were completely wiped out. Courtney Kapp Shorewood High School, Washington United States
The serious comic book MAUS, written by Art Spiegelman, shows how cruel the Nazis were to Jews, just because of their religion or how they looked. Hitler was for an Aryan nation, but he had brown hair and brown eyes. [He] was a selfish, idiotic murderer with double standards. This story shows the reader that the Jews had nowhere to go and that they were always living in fear of being caught. They never knew if they would even live until dinner, or if they would have any. MAUS teaches that the Holocaust greatly impacted the survivors in many negative ways. For example, Art's father is so frugal; it may be because he had to conserve his food in the Nazi camps and he did it for so long that it's now habit.
The Jews are represented by mice, Poles by pigs, Germans by cats, and Americans by dogs. I think the reason Art Spiegelman portrayed people of different countries as certain animals is that cats eat mice, dogs chase away cats, and some Poles of that era were pigs for letting the Nazis do what they did. Art Spiegelman's format is very effective. When something is in comic book form, I want to read it. It's a lot more entertaining than reading a pictureless book. When you see the character during the entire book it's as if you know the person, like you are there. Matthew Lehde Shorewood High School, Washington United States
In the comic book MAUS, Art Spiegelman shows the reader what people, mostly Jews, went through during the Holocaust. Art Spiegelman shows through his comic book that the Holocaust was a time of great pain and suffering that will live on in people's minds forever. He shows the reader, in steps, the reactions of the people who were forced to live in the camps. I learned a lot more about the Holocaust through reading [MAUS] than any other reading or lecture. Now I realize that the Holocaust just wasn't bad; it was something so tremendous that it had a great effect on anyone who survived it. Throughout MAUS, it was portrayed that it was awful to be killing so many people and treating them like animals. I think that is why Spiegelman chose to represent people as animals. He represents mice as Jews because they were experimented on as if they were mice. Pigs are supposed to be Poles because they "stunk." They were so under Hitler's command that they didn't care what happened to the Jews. The Poles turned their backs on the Jews after living with them for so long. The characters couldn't have been portrayed better; it was perfect. Spiegelman writes so that he keeps his readers informed and fulfilled, so that they will want to read on. I wanted to keep reading because I was intrigued to find out what would happen next. I think the idea of a comic book was a brilliant one because it grabs people's attention. It's something unusual for this kind of subject and that's what makes it such a terrific one. The Holocaust's survivors were damaged for life; it seems that they have and will continue to remember it very vividly. MAUS really makes people stop and think about how the Holocaust was. I thought that Spiegelman did the best job on explaining the Holocaust, that it was one of the best pieces of literature I've ever read about the Holocaust. Shannon White Shorewood High School, Washington United States
Art Spiegelman used animals to portray the image of superiority given to us by Hitler. He used the mice for Jewish people to show how Hitler viewed them as inferior. The Germans were given to us as cats, the most feared creature for the mouse. The way Hitler saw [it], the Germans were the [most] superior race on the planet. Later in the book, Spiegelman brought the Americans in as dogs, a species of animals that constantly wreaks havoc upon the cat. The book was well written by Spiegelman, and I enjoyed the way he displayed the characters. He efficiently used the characters to paint a realistic image of what the Holocaust was really like. I honestly felt as if it was almost a part of me after completing the book, and it even gave me the thought of tears after the end. I enjoyed the book in this format as it allows the author/writer to let his readers see the experience as he did, as told to Speigelman by his father. I especially liked it when, and how, he used the scenes of him and his father talking, to show how he was similar, and yet different, to the Vladek of the Holocaust. I wish people in today's literary world would try to use this technique of writing more often, so that I might better follow the story written by the author. Ken Perkins, Shorewood High School, Washington United States
I read with interest some of the discussion about MAUS and MAUS II. One person had said that MAUS was disturbing, and one must read MAUS II in order to appreciate them both. I posted some thoughts [in the teleconference]. I found MAUS to be interesting and not at all offensive or insensitive. One thing I did was to read it very slowly so I could "hear" the father speaking. Perhaps I have heard others speaking English as their second language and didn't let the poor grammar get in the way of the genuine feelings and ideas. I feel empathy for the son who is trying to get along with his father the best he can, but his best is never enough for his father. And his father is unreasonably rigid; I have seen this characteristic in some people in my life as they grow older. Perhaps the last generation's attitudes linked to living through the "Depression" is the closest thing to the things that the father clings to in MAUS. Economizing and recycling are not new ideas, but they certainly are evident in the father in these two books. MAUS was full of details (drawings, words, events) tying together things that I had read and heard from various sources. To me it was a vivid web, tying facts and emotions into one sad story. I read MAUS II on the trip back from Israel. It allows the reader to be privy to some of the anguish and doubts Spiegelman went through in trying to write the story of his father and mother in order to share their experiences in the Holocaust. Because much of the text is Art's and/or his wife's thoughts or dialogue, it is in more standard English, and I found it much faster reading. The pictures and story line reinforced so many things that I saw in Poland: e.g., the bunk beds, the incredibly harsh treatment by others, the crematoriums, etc. I think MAUS II does a good job of showing how much resourcefulness, luck, and willpower were needed to survive during the Holocaust. It also drives home how dedicated Art is to getting his father' s story down, even though it is not a priority to his father. And Art struggles to keep his own life from being bogged down by the demands of his father. I admire him for trying to capture his father's story, for trying to meet many of his father's needs, and for resisting the guilt trip his dad kept trying to lay on him. Art and Francoise (his wife) knew that trying to please the old man by living with him after Mala left would destroy their lives; no matter how much they cared, they knew it wasn't for the best. Perhaps I can understand this aspect better because I am now an adult dealing with parents on a different level than when I was a teenager. QUESTION: Teens, do you agree or disagree with me on this last statement? One constant in these books is that the children of survivors are "survivors" themselves and have a whole set of needs and emotional obstacles that should be recognized as valid in themselves. Survivors also must live with the fact that others died and they did not. During my recent Poland/Israel trip, I was reminded of both of these time and time again as each Israeli I talked to had his/her own link to those who perished in the Holocaust. It impacts their lives in a real and personal way and they each find a way to deal with it. The memorial ceremonies we held at the Holocaust sites were emotionally hard. (The short novel that follows the short story in "The Shawl" also deals with the difficulty of living as a survivor.)
After getting used to the characters, the only times I even noticed that Spiegleman used animals for his characters were when he briefly showed his characters as having masks on. I know this was done deliberately, and I would be interested in other's thoughts on it. I think a natural pecking order was suggested by the use of mice, dogs, cats, pigs, dog, and frogs. But I read the story as if it were people and found many parallels with people I've known. I also thought his artistic expression and layout techniques were unusual at times and always very effective and worth studying for that alone! Julie Rosenoff Spokane Valley High School, Washington United States
Copyright © 1995-2005 by iEARN. All rights reserved.
Access the HGP's An End to Intolerance Web page.
Access the Holocaust/Genocide Project's Home Page.