An End to Ignorance -- Volume 1 • May 1993

The Holocaust/Genocide Project Computer Teleconference

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
     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 serious comic book MAUS, written by Art Spiegelman, shows how cruel the Nazis were to Jews....'

     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.)

'The Holocaust impacts each person in a real and personal way, and...each [must] find a way to deal with it.'

     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

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