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Boston, US
Posts: 288

Reading: Art Spiegelman, The Complete Maus (first published [Maus I] in 1980.

After you’ve completed Maus, I would ask you to do two things:

  1. Listen to this brief interview with Vladka Meed, a Jewish woman who lost her entire family after they were deported from the Warsaw ghetto (11:18). Vladka was the person with whom I first went to Poland in July 2000 and who convinced me to bring BLS students to Poland annually thereafter.

(If you find Vladka’s interview of particular interest, you can listen to her full interview with the Shoah Foundation [run time: 2:19:46]. In my opinion, she is one of the most fascinating and, regrettably, not well-known women in history. Vladka died in 2012 and her funeral was one of the most moving events I’ve ever attended. It was beyond a privilege to have known her.)

(2) And then listen to ONE of the following:

Several years ago, a former student, when he took Facing History here at BLS, asked a question that has always haunted me. It’s not an unusual question but I realized when he asked this that somehow I must have failed to make sure that we addressed the topic adequately in class. (And as a result, I bring it up often now.). It’s been some time now but essentially he asked: “Why didn’t they [and the “they” he is referring to could be Jews or Roma/Sinti or the disabled or any targeted victim of the Nazis] fight back? Why didn’t they resist? If they knew they were going to be killed, why didn’t they do something?”

As you know, resistance takes many forms. The Nazis wanted their victims dead. If you think about it, to survive was resistance. Resistance, to be sure, can mean fighting back in very concrete ways but resistance can also be defeating or delaying a goal. I passionately believe that this is true.

It’s tough to resist all by yourself. Sometimes you can do it in numbers, sometimes simply as a pair. Clearly Anja and Vladek, through their enormous efforts and courage—and their ultimate survival—resisted the Nazi imperative that they were to (eventually) perish. We have seen/heard other survivors who have done the same, whether they are the survivors, the clip from resistance fighter Vladka Meed that you are looking at as part of this assignment, possibly the Bielski brothers who are the focus of the film Defiance.

Sometimes you need help to survive. There are significant examples (though clearly not enough, alas) of non-targeted people helping to save or assist targeted people. This help was often not without limits, however. Certainly we see this in Maus and no doubt you heard stories related to this from other survivors whose accounts you have read/heard/seen.

My feeling is that we can’t talk about the Holocaust without significantly acknowledging the extraordinary courage (and luck) in survivors being able to resist and or to find ways to be assisted in resistance through rescue. Vladka Meed, the survivor who took me for my first trip to Poland, made me promise that I would always tell students about resistance. It’s for this reason I am asking you to reflect on this with me.

I would like you to write your most thoughtful post of the year (in a year of already thoughtful posts) on the following:

  • How did Anja and Vladek (in Maus) resist? How were they aided in resistance?
  • What’s your view of their resistance? Do you think they made good decisions? Ethical decisions? What’s the role of “right and wrong” in their decision making?
  • How did other survivors you have encountered resist the Nazi onslaught and the challenges they faced? And did they receive help from others as well?

I would like you to write a fairly detailed post, consisting of several paragraphs, that incorporates what you have learned about these topics from (a) the survivors in Maus, (b) Vladka Meed, and (c) the survivors you have seen in films you have perhaps watched. In other words, focus (in some detail) on at least a few different voices. And take advantage of and use the recording of Art Spiegelman (and Vladek, if you listened to that) as you write your post.

Finally, really think about this issue before you write your post. It’s an important and, I think, very meaningful post. It gets to the heart of what human beings are willing/able to do in order to survive. Please do justice to those courageous voices that you’ve heard in writing the most thoughtful post you can.
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 28

I sat down to read Maus at 9 pm, thinking I would get through the first section and then go to sleep. Well, the next thing I knew it was early the next morning and I had read the entire book. This story is captivating. I never knew that I would become so attached and riveted by the stories of these cartoon animals. Yet these animals were chosen purposefully. With Jewish people as mice and Germans as cats, it perfectly represented the cat and mouse dynamic that exists, with the cat constantly exploiting and trying to catch the mouse. Meanwhile, with the Polish people as pigs and the Americans as dogs, it emphasized the author, Art Spiegelman’s, thoughts towards the two nationalities. All of these different animals in the book related to the extreme dehumanization of Jews during the Holocaust and the horrid animalistic actions taking place. Spiegelman is inferring that the events taking place throughout his story were so horrid that everyone became “like wild animals” (251). After all, a genocide took place, and all stages, from early discrimination to dehumanization and giving every Jewish person a number to organized killing, appear throughout the book.

What is most unique about the book, however, is the resistance that takes place. Many believe that there was little resistance during the Holocaust. Spiegelman does too, asking his father, “I don’t get it. Why didn’t the Jews at least try to resist?” (233). And Jewish people did try to resist, often acts that resulted in death. Vladek explained that prisoners in a gas chamber managed to revolt and kill 355 men, and as punishment, they were all killed. Although they died, it was resistance. They revolted, knowing that it would likely lead to their deaths or punishment. After all, the sad truth is that many of the people who resisted cannot live to tell stories of their resistance. They were most likely murdered because of their actions. Yet what is respectful is that they fought back, in numerous ways, knowing that they would be punished and killed. Struggling to live was also resistance. When Anja began to give up because she was losing everyone she loved, Vladek reminded her, “to die, it’s easy, but you have to struggle for life!” (124). Vladka Meed felt similarly, explaining that, “struggle for life as a human being was resistance.” Resistance takes all shapes and forms, and sometimes, it means simply striving for your life. A majority of Jewish people, who were killed or survived, worked as hard as they possibly could to live and continued to have hope, and by doing so, they were resisting the Germans who wanted them all dead.

Vladka Meed also talks about a moving story of her mom, who was starving, yet refused to eat a piece of bread she had because she was saving it for her son’s teacher. This was strength and resistance. Despite the terrible things happening to them, Jewish people maintained their humanity, and I think that this was the strongest form of resistance. Art Spiegelman explains that the mice in his novel stood on their hind legs as a means of insisting on their humanity. The Germans believed Jewish people were inhumane, seeing them simply as mice, undeserving of the same rights as other humans. But throughout the holocaust, Jewish people continued to prove their humanity. When Jewish people were being separated between the “good” and “bad” sides, Fela and her four children were sent to the “bad” side to be killed. Her husband, who goes to the “good” side, chose to sneak over to the “bad” side. He chose to be with his family, even though he knew it was going to lead him to his death. This is such a noble and strong act of resistance. No matter what the Nazis did to him, he wasn’t going to let them separate him from his family or learn to value his life over being with them. This book showed me that the one thing the Nazis could never take from Jewish people was their love. People throughout this book fought extremely hard for their relationships. Anka and Vladek’s biggest form of resistance was their relationship. No matter what terrible things the Nazis did to them, they still had their love and they worked hard to stay alive for each other. At one point in the story, when Anja learned that Vladek was alive, “she started sobbing with joy” (212). A while later, they are reunited at Auschwitz, and Vladek explains that once he was with Anja, “it was the only time I was happy in Auschwitz” (224). And this is what is so powerful about love. Not even the Nazis can break it. Auschwitz is still today one of the most feared and horrible places, yet Vladek was happy at this death camp because of love. That is powerful.

Throughout Anja and Vladek’s story, I think they made the right decisions, even if they weren’t always ethical decisions. After all, genocide is not ethical, and therefore, during genocide, you have to make unethical decisions. Throughout the book, people often have to make selfish decisions. Vladek kills a soldier, explaining, “otherwise, he could have shot me” (50). Similarly, Anja chooses not to step forward after being chased, and others are killed because of it. I think that, although it is tough to hear, these were the right decisions. You want to try to make the decision that doesn’t hurt yourself or others, but if you have to choose, oftentimes you choose yourself over others. Nevertheless, the Holocaust was also full of people making ethical and often noble decisions. For example, in Anja’s scenario, no one chooses to rat her out, knowing that they could be killed if they don’t. Although all of these decisions are the right decisions, I think that betrayal is wrong and unethical. If you betray and manipulate others, this act is wrong because you are leading them to believe that you are making the right decisions. Anja, Vladek, and others find a stranger, but he pleads innocence and they let him go, even giving him food. He ends up betraying them. This was the wrong decision because it broke their trust. He made them believe he was someone else, making them sympathize with him, only to turn on them.

Throughout the past month, we have been exposed to a variety of different material about the Holocaust– documentaries, books, movies, interviews, and this graphic novel. And all of these platforms advocate for the same things and have the same underlying messages. They portray the horrors of the Holocaust, but also the hope, resistance, and power of the Jews that existed within it. They all attempt to tell and carry on the truth of the Holocaust that survivors such as Vladka Meed try to communicate to us. Yet, as Vladka Meed admitted, the number of Holocaust survivors is gradually decreasing. But as this happens, we must not forget about this truth. It is the responsibility of our generation to continue to tell this truth– both good and bad. After all, facing history doesn’t mean simply facing the parts of history that we want to remember, but facing the parts that make us struggle, make us cry, and make us want to forget. But we cannot forget. We need to continue remembering the lives lost and work to uplift and continue Jewish culture. As Vladka Meed said, “It’s a mission which is important in connection to remember, in connection also to learn and to prevent for the future.”

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 25

Reflections on Maus and Issues of Resistance and Rescue

I myself always believed there was never a widespread resistance by the Jews against the Nazis, which was foolish to believe because if i’ve learned anything in history, it’s that things like resistance are hidden and they’re hidden on purpose. While reading, I also found it interesting that Spiegelman himself once asked his father why the Jews didn't at least try to resist. So there has to be something more to this than just the covering up of history. Or maybe it was just hidden that well. Or perhaps it’s because most of what we know about the Holocaust comes from survivors, and the people who resisted in fact did not survive long enough to be able to tell their story. That’s why I think it is so important for people to read and understand Maus. Spiegelman creating the dynamic between the mice and cats makes it so much easier to understand and take in the information you’re reading, especially for younger children who should most definitely be able to read this book. For that reason it’s sad to see that school districts, such as the Tennessee school district, banned its students from reading Maus as part of their curriculum.

With that being said, I believe that Anja and Vladek resisted in two ways. The first is with their actions that literally resisted by not complying with the rules that were set for them. The second is for ultimately surviving, which technically did not comply with what the Nazis wanted. Anja wrote the stories of her experiences while she was living them, knowing that if she got caught she could have been killed and her stories would be destroyed. But she understood the importance of writing her stories so that they could someday be told. If no one else was going to do it, and the Nazis were just going to twist history, her only option was to do this. Her stories inspired so many to do the same and inspired many to resist “more directly” as well. Luckily she was able to live to tell the stories even if her written stories didn't survive as long as she did. Vladka also risked her life to help others, and she took a more “direct” approach. She was able to convince people that she was Polish and by doing so she was able to get insight from the “outside” and use this information to help those she was in the ghetto with. Both Anja and Vladek used the resources they had to help others, even those they didn't know, and risked their lives in the process.

Whether or not their decisions were always ethical, I believe without a doubt that their actions were justifiable. In a previous post I mentioned that most of us would probably do a lot of bad things if it meant we would save our own lives. So ultimately our actions would be ethical but we would think they were worth it because we were still alive. However, I don’t think this is the case with Anja and Vladek. They did things that some might consider unethical to save the lives of others. They used their own life to help others. For them it wasn't about doing whatever it takes to save themselves. So, maybe that ultimately makes their actions more ethical and moral. But either way, what they did is completely justifiable and I couldn't understand why they wouldn't be.

The fact that Rena, one of the youngest on Schindler’s list, was able to survive and tell her stories to so many people, including students, is a perfect example of resistance. Although morbid to say, had the Nazis known that there would be survivors that are to this day, sharing their stories, they wouldve probably killed them without hesitation. So the fact that Rena, along with many others, have survived the Holocaust and have the courage to share their stories is, I think, the biggest act of resistance.

West Roxbury, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 25

Post: Reflections on Maus and Issues of Resistance and Rescue

How did Anja and Vladek (in Maus) resist? How were they aided in resistance?

Anja and Vladek resisted by persisting and surviving the Holocaust. They resisted in more typical ways by ignoring Nazi law, but their main act of resistance was their survival. As Vladka Meed addresses, the survival of these people was their greatest resistance. They were ruining the Nazi's plans just by simply surviving. They were aided in resistance because they weren't the only ones to survive. During this time, people were often working together to survive, and all aiding each other in resistance. The idea of community that these people created inspired people to resist and is a major part of why people survived the Holocaust.

What’s your view of their resistance? Do you think they made good decisions? Ethical decisions? What’s the role of “right and wrong” in their decision making?

I think that any act of resistance during this time is incredibly brave and honorable. I do not think there was any question of ethics during any action. The Nazi regime was not being ethical towards them, so why would they need to be ethical back? Ethics are thrown out the window when your life is on the line. I think that all of their actions are justified and "right" because they did not only make decisions for their survival, but for the survival of other strugglers too.

How did other survivors you have encountered resist the Nazi onslaught and the challenges they faced? And did they receive help from others as well?

Another survivor we have learned about is Vladka Meed. Meed used connections she had to benefit other survivors. Survivors often worked together and used any resources they had to resist. The most important thing I took away from Meed's story was that she used her advantages to help others. The sense of community between the survivors is a major role of why their stories still exist today.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

Reflections on Maus and Issues of Resistance and Rescue

In Maus, Anja and Vladek resisted by doing things that went against the Nazi regime in order to survive. After the food and resources go scarce, Vladek trades goods on the black market, which is technically illegal, to keep his family fed. When they are about to be deported, they receive aid from Vladek's cousin, who secures their release. Another form of resistance, although it doesn't seem like it at first, is how Anja's sister poisoned herself, Richieu, and her two children so they would not have to go through the horrors at Auschwitz, which is where they were going to be taken. I think that takes a certain strength to do. She basically sacrificed her life for those she loved, something that not a lot of people can do. I don't know if I could.

In terms of ethics, in a situation like this, there are none. It is only a matter of instincts and survival, at least for the targeted. The Nazis were a different story. But Anja and Vladek and the people around them did what they felt was necessary for their safety and survival. I think they were strong in their decisions, and they did what they had to do. Their decisions were the only ones they could make in the moment, so I can't judge them for being right or wrong or moral or not. Even if they did do things that today one might consider unethical, they weren't just doing it for themselves, but for others as well. Everything they did in the course of the Holocaust was justifiable, because, like I said, they were doing what they needed to do to survive.

Survivors like Rena and Vladka used the memories they had to keep themselves alive, and risked their own lives to help others. Vladka was able to convince the Nazis that she wasn't Jewish and used the perspective she got from being on the "outside" to help the people still in the ghetto. The fact that they went through all of this and still lived to tell their stories is amazing to me, and even though many written documents were destroyed, like Anja's diaries, their experiences were not. Even when they are gone, their stories will remain in those who were fortunate enough to hear them told. Vladka in particular I think was incredibly strong, because I don't think I would be able to do what she did after losing my family. As always, the perspective I got from reading this book and hearing Art Spiegelman's and Vladka Meed's stories and experiences is incredibly valuable, and I won't be forgetting them anytime soon.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 25

Reflections on Maus and Issues of Resistance and Rescue

It's so sad that such an incredible story is banned in Tennessee and not allowed in many school districts. Maus is a truly incredible story written by Art Spiegelman who miracousoly told the story of his parents who experienced this genocide. By representing different races and nationalities with animals, he takes a new approach to telling the story. In this way, it makes it understandable for all ages and even children, who especially should be able to read and learn about it. The Jews are represented as mice, Germans as cats, and Americans as dogs. Spiegelman uses mice to represent Jews by incorporating the stereotype that Jews are pests, as in being less than human.

The greatest act of resistance is surviving. Nazi’s wanted all Jews dead, and by escaping them and surviving, these individuals overcame the Nazis. These survivors are a fundemental part of history as they have lived on from this genocide and are able to tell their stories. Vladek Spiegelman was one of these survivors, and after telling his story to his son, Art Spiegelman was able to craft his fathers’ story and experience into a book for future generations to read and learn from.

I don’t think it would be fair to judge their decisions. As I have never experienced anything close to what they did, we will never know exactly what it was like for Jews. Many people died by going agaisnt Nazi’s as they would kill and hurt them for anything that they wanted. These individuals who went against the rules and were caught, weren’t given the opportunity to be able to tell their story, and because of this I don’t believe that it would be ethical to judge them. Alike many others, some of the decisions made by Anja and Vladek were considered unjust, but they did what they could to survive. Every survivor recounts a different story as they all experienced different circumstances. Some were luckier than others, while others went through experiences that they never thought they would be able to live on from. What is truly inspiring about their story is that through this whole genocide, Vladek and Anja stayed together. By going against the Nazi’s they were able to help one another. While Vladek was at Auschwitz, he was able to smuggle food and messages to Anja who was at Birkenau. Vladek also worked hard to make extra money to bribe and get Anja transferred to Auschwitz. Even when broken apart and unsure that they would see eachother again, they resisted and fought to stay alive and help each other.

The survivors who have lived on and told their stories demonstrate perfect examples of resistance. With all the trauma and experiences that they endured, they are still brave enough to tell others about their personal stories. Rena for example, as one of the youngest survivors, is still gladly open to sharing her story with others. Accounting for all the trauma and specifics of what happened is not at all easy, and I look up to all these brilliant and courageous survivors who choose to share their stories.

Chestnut Hill, MA, US
Posts: 28

Reflections on Maus and Issues of Resistance and Rescue

The Holocaust has always been an uncomfortable subject to speak on behalf of or even to learn about. The realization that these were real people with families, personalities, homes -- and for all of that to be stripped away without care -- is absolutely surreal and impossible to put into perspective seventy-five years later. Throughout Facing History in the past two months, I have noticed a shift in my ideology about what happened. For one, the depth of how extreme Nazi treatment was, was frankly even more unimaginable than I could possibly have thought of before. The amount of laws and direct targetting of Jews makes me wonder how selfish other countries were to simply look away. History has shown continuously repeated itself in the manner of ignorance represented by countries, especially for genocides that are in fact globally publicized and were not hidden, but acknowledged and brushed aside. What was done by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis should have never happened, never mind the extent it had gone to. The word genocide doesn't even begin to genuinely justify its actions; the Holocaust was murder. Another realization that I've had, is actually the resistance displayed by the people. In Art Spiegelman's incredible survivor tale "Maus", the representation of resilience and upholding the fight to survive, is shown in such passionate and chilling ways. The storytelling effect adds to this personal element of individual accounts of the concentration camps and life prior to Jews being sent away.

Anja and Vladek were able to resist Nazi treatment and targetted behavior multiple times in the novel. In the early sections of Vladek's story to his son, Artie, we see the representation of Jews having to be compliant with what the soldiers said. On page 67, Vladek is seen discussing what the German soldiers had them do in the streets -- sing, pray, beat for entertainment, and even have their beards shaven off. These types of actions continue to occur until the graphic novel image is displayed on pages 103 and 104 -- "Prisoner on the Hell Planet". Although resistence may seem like the normal response in times where your life is at stake, the image actually entails the fear that people have. Being scared for your life, a state of shock, and complete terror for what may happen to your family when separated, are all feelings that many endured before thoughts of fighting back was even up for question. Resistence in "Maus" wasn't a case of saying "No" as Vladek satircally added in his refusal to go to the gas chambers in chapter five. What the couple did rather, was hide away stealthily to escape the Nazis. Whether it was putting on a pig mask on to disguise as a Polish or Vladek using his trade skills to remain valuable and escape execution, resistence was obviously on their mind. Having used their resources -- people, diaries, lying -- a sense of wanting to survive perserved the necessity to ultimately resist dying.

In my opinion, reisistence should not be categorized under ethical or unethical; it is something that needs to happen in response to a greater issue, for the most part. In the Holocaust, there is not a single justification for what the Nazis did to the millions on millions of people in the concentration camps or Warsaw Ghetto. Because of this, how can one claim a person's form of fighting back to survive "unethical"? I think that if we put into consideration the circumstances these people were placed in -- not because of anything they had done, but simply because they were Jewish -- whatever they did to resist dying, I understand. When it came to "Maus", it seemed like intelligent decisions were made, considering they were limited to what could and couldn't happen. Something like Vladek saying that his son is a German soldier and that he has medals from the Kaiser (210), may have been ridiculed by the Germans, but was a great way of at least trying to do something.

Holocaust survivors each have their own stories that differ in so many ways, yet all intersect at the concept of each resisting. Last week, Facing students were able to watch Rena speak at Holy Cross about her experience as the youngest survivors from Schindler's List and provide us with answers to our questions. She told of the terrors felt, but additionally mentioned that she will always be an "upstander" in times necessary. Oskar Schindler may have been a man that did many wrongs, starting with the main fact of initially being apart of the Nazi Party, but he did end up saving 1,000 Jewish victims. Because he was able to see them as humans and get to know them, the guilt was too overpowering to resist.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 28

Reflections on Maus and Issues of Resistance and Rescue

Resistance in the Holocaust came in almost every way shape or form: Jewish resistance groups, illegal political groups, and simply the fight to survive. When one thinks of resistance, we expect groups of people openly banding together to challenge and fight a political/social group, laws, and so on. However, the Holocaust included one of the greatest acts of resistance that is often overlooked: surviving in a society that wanted you exterminated. Jews throughout Nazi-occupied land were met with slaughter, starvation, disease, improper living conditions, and separation from family and homes. Therefore, fighting to not satisfy the Nazi Party’s desire for Jewish extermination was one of the greatest acts of resistance that Holocaust survivors took. Jews’ refusal to be killed aimlessly or be worked to death came in the form of attempts to flee the country, go into hiding, commit ‘illegal’ acts, or assume a false identity (often Polish identity). Anja and Vladek, in Spiegelman’s book Maus, attempted all those acts of resistance despite being confronted with a regime that dehumanized them to the same strata of mice.

At the beginning of the book, before their placement in the Jewish Ghetto, Vladek and Anja were very resourceful so that they could get away with unsafe and risky activities for as long as they had. As food became greatly rationed, Vladek began to trade gold and jewelry for extra food, some of which included 10 or 15 Kg of sugar which was very illegal considering it was instructed that Jews only receive ½ kilograms. Vladek received help from a Jewish grocery owner in Modrzejowska who participated in Vladek’s business of exchanging goods for jewelry and other valuables. The deliberate rationing of food for the Jewish population was one of the Nazi Party’s prominent methods of genocide, and if a Jew was caught exceeding their assigned portions, they were confronted with the possibility of being sent to death or work camps. Moreover, Vladek and Anja also took it upon themselves to build a secret bunker in the ghetto for Anja’s grandparents as news from the Germans stated that all Jews over 70 years old would be transferred to Theresienstadt, a community better prepared to ‘take care of the elderly. The elderly and the disabled were one of the first communities selected for the death camps as, according to Nazi ideals, they were a burden to society and its resources. Vladek and Anja decided to resist this order by hiding their grandparents until the entire family was threatened with removal; However, this didn’t stop the two from hiding themselves as the Gestapo began to empty out the Ghettos. As we had seen in the movie Schindler’s List, if ghettos were liquidated, the Jews there would be found, killed, or sent off to work/death camps, thus hiding was the greatest risk and act of resistance one could take in such a situation. Despite being found, Anja and Vladek used their wealth to buy off guards and Jewish police to elude the train to Auschwitz and assume a false Polish identity--as symbolized through Pig masks--to find better means of hiding, thus starting Anja’s and Vladek’s greatest acts of resistance.

I would say that Vladek and Anja’s greatest act of resistance was their extreme resourcefulness and perseverance once they were on their own. They evaded Nazis by claiming to be Polish while also paying Polish citizens who would hide them in their homes. Consequently, Vladek and Anja were able to escape their death sentence by having the courage to fight and live in any way that they could. When taken to Auschwitz after failing to escape to Hungary, Vladek and Anja fought to survive in a camp built solely to kill them so that they may be together once again. By sending each other letters and food--obtained by Vladek’s clever connections-- through a friend, their drive was restored and they eventually survived Auschwitz and became reunited. They made risky but necessary decisions to ensure their survival and prevent their separation. Although they had the privilege of having a fair amount of valuables for bribery, the two were like every other Holocaust survivor who used whatever they had to survive. Their continued survival and evasion of death camps was the greatest resistance against the Nazi Party considering the millions of Jews who were immediately killed when found. This notion that “survival was resistance” was also enforced by Vladka Meed who was engaged in an open Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto. Vladka displayed resistance in a way that directly confronted the Nazi Party; she had smuggled in dynamite/ammunition, hid children, and was a courier for the Jewish underground. Her actions were extremely brave despite the fact that, if caught, she would have been shot on the spot, therefore highlighting the fact that every action Jews took towards their and others' survival was illegal, thus in fact resistance. Vladka took advantage of her resources to provide a support system for all those who fought to survive and resist a regime that wanted them gone. Vladek and Anya as well as Vladka all reflect the various routes of resistance and bravery that Holocaust survivors displayed in their survival efforts.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 28

Reflections on Maus, Resistance, and Rescue

Maus has recounted the experiences of survivors of the Holocaust, unlike any other resource we have looked at. The conversations carried out throughout the book make the situation feel much more relaxed than informal. At the same, it conveys all the emotions of these times and the true extent of trauma caused by these events. The metaphor of the cat and mice and the additional dogs and frogs demonstrates the dynamic between the different groups of people and their behaviors.

Anja and Vladek resisted by simply never giving up and continued to fight to support because as Vladka Meed said, “Daily struggle for life as a human being was resistance.” Anja and Vladek found creative and resourceful ways to stay alive through ways such as bribing the kapo using food, quickly learning new skills, or pretending to need to use the bathroom when it was time to separate the healthy from the unhealthy. They were also aided by numerous kind people such as Motonowa who hid them in her cellar even though her husband was very against Jewish people and Manice who brought letters between Anja and Vladek despite the great risk it was for herself. The Germans tried to kill them, but they ultimately resisted these attempts.

Resistance in an event like the Holocaust is one of the most powerful tools for survival. It takes amazing courage to even think of resisting, so the decisions that are made in the name of resistance do not have a very clear line of what is considered “right” or “wrong.” Although some decisions would go against people’s morals in normal circumstances, these decisions were ultimately made with the sole purpose of survival. Until I have been placed in a situation like the Holocaust, I do not believe I have the authority to say whether Anja and Vladek’s decisions were ethical or good. For example, most parents would never even think of separating from their child, which Anja didn’t at first, but it got to the point where sending Richieu to hide seemed the best way for them to survive. They had no way of knowing that sending Richieu away would lead to his death.

Each victim of the Holocaust has a different unique story and not all survivors resisted the Nazi onslaught the same way as Anja and Vladek did which we saw in Schindler’s List. Over 1,000 survivors were able to resist by defying the work orders of the Nazis with the help of Oskar Schindler, an inside Nazi member. They faced the same challenges of constant fear of discovery and death, but they were able to avoid the death orders of the Nazis.

Posts: 25

reflections on Maus and issues of resistance and rescue

Anja and Vladek were able to resist through the Holocast, by surviving. In a situation like the one that they were in, simply staying alive was resisting. This is because the Nazis wanted to exterminate all Jewish people, so by simply being a Jewish person and continung to live, you were resisting and standing up against the evilness of the Nazi Regime. They did other things to resist, such as not following the rules set in place by the Nazi’s, but it was their pure survival that was the biggest and most effective form of resistance. The reasoning behind this is that it was not just these two Jewish people resisting in this way. With every Jewish person that was able to stay alive against the Nazis, the weaker they become, and they were able to organize people to stand up and fight back, helping many of the survivors of the Holocaust.

I think that even making the smallest step towards a form of resistance during this time must be extremely respected due to the level of difficulty it took, as well as the bravery it took, knowing that any split-second decision could either save your life or end it. In this situation, morality is kind of thrown out of the window in the sense that when someone is in this situation, there is not really time to make the most “morally correct” decisions, as the main goal of the majority of people will be to escape themselves. They were being treated with the least respect that a human could be treated with, so their response, weather it being “ethical” or not, does not truly matter, as the Nazi’s desered zero respect and zero power.

Another survivor who we have heard from their testimony is Vladka Meed, who was a surviro of the Holocaust, and a known protestor during it. Vladka and the people that she was surrounded with gained enough courage within themselves in order to be able to resist proactively against the Nazis. From her testimony, it is clear that Vladka Meed was very selfless in the sense that when she was able to, she was always trying and willing to assist others. Her ridiculous bravery is shown in the sense that she was infamous for bringing Dynamite into the Warsaw Ghetto, and then using all of the chaos to help many children escape.

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I think this is really an interesting question and one that we don’t think about often enough. Oftentimes in history class, we learn about what happened but the resistance piece is often forgotten. Talking about resistance is certainly often forgotten when talking about the holocaust. The lack of conversation around this topic feeds into stereotypes about Jews being lazy or weak or like vermin, that they just let this happen to them. This goes for a lot of media about the holocaust, it fails to depict resistance, or rather we fail to view resistance as resistance. I am guilty of this, of not really thinking that Jews resisted because I was never taught otherwise. It is also interesting that the assumption is that Jews did not resist and we need to be told otherwise.

There are so many was that Anja and Vladek resisted. Even by living and continuing to breathe is a form of resistance because the goal of the Nazis was to exterminate the Jews. They resisted by having Art and him surviving is an act of resistance. When Vladek found aid from Poles that would hide him and Anja in their barn or cellar, that was an act of resistance. When Vladek speaks Polish with the other Jews about escaping to Hungary that is an act of resistance because they are speaking their own language. Surviving the holocaust was an act of resistance. All of these are acts of resistance because they are a challenge to the Nazi goals of exterminating the Jewish people and culture. Not every decision Vladek and Anja made was the “right” one. But in such circumstances how can there really be a definitive right or wrong answer or even an ethical one. It feels like as soon as the Nazis started murdering people ethics went out the window pretty quickly. It’s also important to ask, given the circumstances, if there is a separate moral standard for them or anyone in their situation to be held to. Any person’s desire to survive will obviously affect whatever decision a person makes in life or death situations and if it is with the goal of their survival is it the wrong decision?

It was also quite compelling to listen to Vladka Meed. I loved how she talked about libraries in the ghetto being acts of resistance. Literature and art are often acts of resistance, Spiegelman certainly demonstrates that with Maus. I also loved how she decided to focus on education and I think that when you are trying to make change that is always the first place you start. She said there are many people that don’t know much about the holocaust which is very true. Often people don’t know more than what is poorly covered in history classes or mentioned in passing in conversations. It is genius that she hosted workshops to combat some of this lack of knowledge and how she has been so dedicated to educating different communities. What she said about the young is our future is so important because it is true and we need to be investing a lot more in this generation if we want real change to come.

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Maus and Resistance

Throughout Anja and Vladek’s story in Maus they are constantly resisting. As we have discussed in class and Vladka Meed mentioned in her video, the fact that Anja and Vladek survived in the first place is really the greatest form of resistance. Despite all the horrible things that were thrown at them by the Nazis for the purpose of killing them, they survived and that is incredibly powerful. There were many other smaller acts along the way as well that ultimately helped them survive, and it was often not without aid from others. For example, many times Anja and Vladek hid, along with others, in bunkers when Nazis were raiding their towns. Also, they lived and hid with Mrs. Kawka and Mrs. Motonowa. Even when they were in Auschwitz, Anja and Vladek communicated with each other with the help of Mancie, and sent each other some food from time to time. Vladek used his relationship with one of the workers at Auschwitz that he was teaching English to get benefits and help in his and Anja’s survival. Not only was their survival a form of resistance, but also them finding and reuniting with each other at the end of the war was as well. In addition, Vladek and also Art sharing this story and turning it into the book is a really powerful act of resistance that goes against both the Nazis themselves and their legacy.

Similar to my previous post on Schindler’s List, I still don’t believe that I’m in the position to judge whether any actions that Jewish people did in order to survive is “right” or “wrong”. What Anja, Vladek, and all the other Jewish people went through in the holocaust and specifically in this book is absolutely unimaginable for anybody. Even Art in the book itself, and in interviews, discussed some concerns he had about not being able to fully encapsulate the horrors his parents went through. I don’t think that we really can judge their actions and I don’t think we really need to. I think it is interesting to see the lengths people were willing to go and what they did given their situations, but it isn’t something that needs to be judged. They were not in the position to decide what they were doing was morally right or morally wrong; they did what they needed to survive.

Other survivors we have learned about have also resisted, sometimes with help, in similar ways. For example, Vladka Meed, similar to Vladek with his English teaching situation, used her connections to help other Jewish people. Additionally, long after the war, she went on to spread more awareness about the holocaust and started getting schools in the U.S. to cover it better. Rena, who we saw testimony of on our field trip, also spread a lot of awareness through being an advocate. Furthermore, this ties into how Art Spiegelman is also spreading awareness through Maus and other art he has done. We also saw a lot of resistance in Schindler’s List last week from Oskar Schindler himself who saved over a thousand Jewish people, Stern making Schindler aware and getting him to write his list, and the many times that the Jewish people helped each other throughout the film.

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Reflections on Maus and Issues of Resistance and Rescue

Maus seems like a simple comic book at first. It is easy to read and easy to interpret without context, many may even think it is a fictional book. After learning about the Holocaust and the events that unfolded, readers understand Maus on a different level. Maus is a survivor’s tale, it is a non-fiction book and it tells the story of a real Holocaust survivor. Maus is so different in a way because it is written in the form of a comic book, but is also non-fictional that focuses on such a deep topic. I definitely think that having background knowledge of what went on helped me understand this book on a deeper level. My first initial reaction after finishing this book was “Wow, a person actually went through all of that. It seems so fake yet I know it is real”. I was captivated by the story and I thought I was going to split the reading up into parts, but I ended up reading the whole book in just two sessions, which is something I rarely do. I think what makes this book so captivating is the fact that it is in the form of a comic. It has images and symbols the reader can actually look at. From the mice symbolizing Jews to the cats symbolizing the Germans and Americans as dogs, this book is filled with symbols.

Resistance takes place in this book. Although many may believe that the Jews didn’t resist the actions of the Germans, they actually did. Many fought till they couldn’t and many sacrificed their lives for the sake of others. Spiegelman at one point believed that the Jews didn’t resist, as he asked his father during an interview session “I don’t get it… Why didn’t the Jews at least try to resist?” They did resist. The simple act of surviving is a sign of resistance. One form of resistance that took place is the goal of protecting family, friends, and even strangers. Vladek and Anja had a son early on. His name was Richieu and he didn’t make it out alive, but what Vladek and Anja choose to do with Richieu is an early act of resistance. Early on in the book, they sent Richieu away with relatives in hopes that they would keep Richieu safe and out of danger. When the relatives that Richieu was staying with found out that they were going to be sent to Auschwitz, Anja’s sister decided that she was going to poison herself and the children she was taking care of. The course that Anja’s sister had to do was a form of resistance. To sacrifice and kill oneself so that they wouldn’t have to be the victims of Auschwitz is something that requires so so much courage. As Vladka Meed mentions, the struggle to live is a form of resistance, “struggle for life as a human being was resistance”. At one point in the book, Anja was ready to give up. She has had enough and essentially didn’t want to live anymore. But Vladek reminds her that “to die, it’s easy, but you have to struggle for life!”. In addition, I believe that the non-Jews also helped the Jews resist in many ways. Mrs. Montonowa, which was not Jewish, helped Anja and Vladek by hiding them in her house and providing protection for them. When her husband would return, she would hide them in the cellar. At one point, she couldn’t come down to give them food because she stated that her husband was getting suspicious.

The goal of the Nazis was to strip the Jewish people of humanity, they wanted to exterminate them and treated them as less than human. Vladka Meed told the very moving story of her mother refusing to eat the piece of bread she had even when she was starving. That is a form of resistance, strength, and perseverance. Vladka mentioned how she looked a little more Polish than the other Jews and she used this to her advantage as she would sneak to the other side of the ghetto to get information from the other side to help her own people. Although she knew that this act was extremely dangerous, she stated that she had to complete this task no matter what. Vladka also mentions how there were illegal schools, libraries, choirs, and theaters in the ghetto, which symbolizes that people would try to do illegal things to have a life that is as normal as possible.

Vladek and Anja like many other Jews at the time resisted in the best way they could. They made the best decisions for the sake of saving their lives and I deeply appreciate the courage each and every one of them had. The courage to stay alive and the ability to be able to live with that kind of trauma amazes me. In terms of decisions, I believe that there were no ethical decisions to be made. The decisions that they made were based on survival and instinct. Anja and Valdek did what they had to do, even if it meant sacrificing others. I don’t think they had a right or wrong decision to make because they themselves probably didn’t know if the decision they were making was right or wrong. They did what felt right to them at the time and did everything on instinct because of how fast the situation was changing. One day, they would be fine and the next, they would be forced to give their grandparents up to the Germans. Many of the things they did might be considered unethical today, in our eyes, but at the time, they were placed under a lot of pressure and had to act on the spot and I think that every action they did was justified because they simply wanted to resist and survive. I think one of the most impactful pieces of the book was when Vladek and Anja were separated, but eventually found each other again. The two were separated from each other and didn’t know if they would ever see each other again, but the two somehow (and luck played a big part as well) survived and saw each other. This differs from many of the other families where whole generations were wiped out because of this. Even within Art’s own family, when we looked at the family tree in Meta Mouse, we saw that so so many of the names in Art’s family tree were gone after the Holocaust.

Vladka Meed and many others have resisted the Nazi onslaughter and luckily are able to live to tell their story. Vladka mentions in part of her interview the importance of educating the young population because the younger generation are the future educators and storytellers. They are going to have to be the ones that tell new generations about the slaughter of the Nazis after no survivors are alive. Rena for example is another Holocaust survivor that recounts her experience in the ghettos. In the film, Schindler's List, Schindler was able to save the lives of thousands and thousands of Jews and Itzhak Stern would issue fake certificates to help the Jews out. This is an example of non-Jews helping Jews. Another survivor that I was able to hear from last year is Holocaust survivor Irene Butter. She shared her story with us and her experience of living in multiple different concentration camps before arriving in America. Similar to Rena, she was very young and resisted in many ways. These survivor’s simple act of perseverance and the act of wanting to stay alive is an examples of resistance. I look up to these survivors and their acts of courage and bravery. They have gone through so much, something that none of us will, fortunately, not have to experience.
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Reflections on Maus and Issues of Resistance and Rescue

Anja and Vladek resisted by more than just surviving. My absolute favorite part of Maus was on page 194, after Vladek obtained shoes and a belt and a spoon for his friend, Mandelbaum, who had nothing that fit him and had lost his spoon. Mandelbaum’s widening eyes and reaction of disbelief reminds me of Passover’s song “Dayenu” -- it would have been enough. When Vladek gave him a spoon, he was so happy and thankful. When he gave him a belt he said “Oh my God!” When he gave him shoes that fit he cried and said “It’s a miracle, Vladek. God sent shoes through you.” Just pages ago on page 189 he had said “Please God… Help me find a piece of string and shoe that fits!” Vladek had said “But here God didn’t come. We were all on our own.”

I’ve heard of so many Jewish survivors losing their faith in God. “How could God let this happen?” Vladek’s compassion, his quick thinking and his support of his friend, that was resistance. That was laughing in the broiling pits of Tartarus. That was light when there was only darkness. That was God when God wasn’t there; when they only had each other to create miracles.

Thinking of another when one’s humanity was meant to be stripped away is resistance, just as Vladka said about saving bread for someone else. It takes strength to think of others. Even Schindler, who was not persecuted by the Nazis, created light in darkness. Without him, thousands of people alive today would not have descended from those he saved. Getting help is often necessary. We are what allow miracles to happen. Friends, companions, peers who think of someone other than themselves. They create miracles.

Of course, for Vladek, in obtaining these goods, he was helping an S.S. officer learn English so he could have a better chance of success after the Reich lost the war. In doing so, Vladek received special treatment. It was because of this choice that he survived, and that he created a miracle for his friend. Maybe it wasn’t good to help an S.S. officer, but was he really helping? He was resisting. Taking advantage of the corruption within the system to survive, to resist. It’s difficult to balance decisions. In a time of pain and suffering, the fact that Vladek was able to make his friend’s eyes widen with amazement means that he made at least one good decision. Whether it was “right”, “wrong”, or “ethical”, words that mean nothing to someone who sees death everywhere they look, it was heroic. It was resistance.

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