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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: 25

Vladka Meed makes an unforgettable statement: the greatest resistance from all Holocaust survivors was their will and ability to survive. Anja and Vladek certainly live up to this by escaping from innumerable obstacles and staying alive. More importantly, they resisted by staying together and staying in love. They never gave up on the hope that they would be a better future and no matter where they were, they always sought ways to be in contact or physically together. The very human emotion of love and hope defied the Nazi’s fundamental idea that Jews were not human and every single one of their dehumanizing policies. Then again, Anja and Vladek would not have been able to end up together without the aid of many people, who provided help for both good and not as good reasons. Oftentimes, people aided Anja and Vladek only because they would receive something in return (English lessons, valuables, food, etc), but there were also others that acted selflessly and risked their own lives.

As brought by my other classmates, it is not necessarily our place to decide whether or not their choices to stay alive were ethical or not because our lives aren’t the ones on the line and we will never be able to fully understand their situation, terror and mindset. Moreover, morality is almost insignificant and disappears when you become a victim of and hunted by the Nazis because the concept of “right” from “wrong” is already so neglected and messed up. In this regard, Anja and Vladek did make good and right decisions because they ultimately kept themselves alive. Furthermore, Anja and Vladek can be given more credit for never hurting or throwing others under the bus in their difficult struggle to stay alive. In fact, they helped others along the way as well. For instance, he brings Miloch and his family to Mrs. Motonowa so that they can hide there in better conditions than the trash cellar that they were staying in.

Other survivors have strikingly similar, but also very distinct stories of their own compared to Anja and Vladek. By surviving the Nazi regime and concentration camps, they lived to tell their stories to family and friends, so that the next generation can try and prevent a repeat of this genocide. Before then, however, many factors played into their survival, universal factors being luck and strength. Since Nazi and Gestapo soldiers would shoot, kill and pick people absolutely randomly, any Jew could have died at any time. That is not to say, that they only survived due to luck because it took great physical and mental strength to keep going. Jews had to fulfill strenuous tasks and endure horrendous physical conditions, all while they were in a never ending state of overwhelming fear and grief. On the other hand, many Jews were only able to survive due to the kindness of many people, often strangers, that they would meet. For example, Mancie and Mrs. Motonowa both played significant roles in keeping Anja and Vladek alive, literally and spiritually. In class, we also learned about Oskar Schindler, who like many other people, put themselves at risk and sacrificed much to help Jews and other targeted populations. Finally, wealth also played an important part. Although the Jews lost almost all of their possessions and wealth, it is undeniable that those who were more well off had more valuables to trade for food and help, resources to learn skills and languages (Vladek spoke English, allowing him to teach and become close with the guards at the camp), and connections with powerful people. There is no exact formula that guaranteed survival, but rather a complex and desperate desire of various factors that allowed some to survive this tragedy.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 26

Reflections on Maus and Resistance

Vladek and Anja resisted by surviving. In the Vladka Meed interview, she mentions that the "daily struggle for life as a human being was resistant". Going off of this idea Vladek and Anja making it out of Auschwitz alive was resistance against the death the Nazis and racist polish wanted to bring upon them. Vladek and Anja faced many hardships before and during the war. One major thing that helped Vladek survive was the special positions or special people that were able to help him. Without the help of Orbach, who was a family friend, Vladek might have not been able to escape his imprisonment as a war captive and return to Sosnowiec. Cohn was hanged because he was caught dealing goods without coupons, this is the same thing Vladek was doing to make a living. Vladek was lucky that he didn't get caught. Another example of Vladek and Anja receiving help was when they had to register, luckily their cousin was working at one of the desks and was able to get them on the good side. In Maus, Vladek had to make bunkers to hide himself and his family. This was able to protect them from being taken away, but unfortunately, others didn't have such good places to hide. Vladek and Anja again escape the grasp of Auschwitz by getting help from his cousins Haskel and Jakov. They only helped because Vladek was able to pay them, which shows how distorted the family structures could have been during the war. Vladek even mentions that everyone had to worry about taking care of themselves. Vladek did attempt to also help his father and mother in law escape but the cousins just stole his jewels. Vladek and Anja also received help from Montonowa, who was a polish woman. For a period of time, she provided them with a place to hide and was able to sneak them food. Specifically in Auschwitz, Vladek got help from a Kapo. The Kapo wanted to learn English so Vladek became his tutor. Vladek was able to get comfortable clothes and plenty of food. I think it was good that he did not just keep this advantage for himself, and helped a friend get proper clothes. Food and clothing were one of the main essentials one would need to survive in the concentration camps. Vladek was also strategic in saving things like food and paper which helped him to survive. In general, Vladek did things that would help him escape death, like hiding in the bathroom during the selection and injuring himself so he can stay in the comfortable medical area for a few days. Overall Vladek was able to utilize his abilities to his advantage which was a big part of his survival. To add to this the love shared between these two people also helped them survive. Anja was constantly on Vladeks' mind and she was constantly on his. There gave hope to each other so that they could survive.

Vladek and Anja simply did what they had to do in order to survive. As I mentioned above Vladek often was very strategic in his decisions. Utilizing his abilities and luck he and Anja were both able to survive. Many of the times when Vladek received help, he didn't just get the benefits for himself, he didn't do anything with the idea to throw someone else under the bus for his own benefit. This would have been the wrong thing to do. If Vladek had an opportunity to use his abilities to get food or some sort of comfort/aid he considered it to be the right decision. They made good decisions because ultimately those decisions helped them to survive. Vladek's black market deals are similar to what was seen in Schindler's List. I remember at one point in the movie at the church, a group of men was selling items in exchange for money or food ( I don't remember which). To add on also in this movie, having a hiding spot when things started to go right often saved many people. Also having some benefit that was useful to someone who had some type of power often kept prisoners and Jews alive longer. In Meeds's interview, she also talks about how someone Jews would seek Polish people who would help hide them, which can also be seen in Maus, but this often came at an expense. Some might say a person should be able to help someone without needing a benefit from that help. Art also mentions this idea in a conversation with Vladek but often times people would be risking their lives trying to protect others. When a person is helping someone, the idea of gaining something in return from them shouldn't be a major factor in whether you help or not. But during the Holocaust, many people were in fear of the Nazis and also wanted just to protect themselves and their families so their need for something in return is understandable.

The answer to the final question is also incorporated into the previous paragraph but I can elaborate. In Schindler's List, one can see how some survivors were able to get help. Schindler sacrificed his money in order to save a handful of men, women, and children from the horrors that took place in concentration camps. He used the advantages he had to help save countless lives and allow for generations to be born from those survivors.

There were several similarities between Maus, Schindlers List, and Vladka Meeds's testimony. Overall, I learned many things about the Nazi regime and the atrocities of the Holocaust that I never knew before. Maus was a good read because it takes you through what life was like for a survivor of the Holocaust and also shed more light on others' experiences.

Survival is resistance, living when everyone seeks to destroy you is resistance. This is something that is overlooked sometimes and something I didn't think about much, but is definitely a powerful statement.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 23

Post: Reflections on Maus and Issues of Resistance and Rescue

Since the only thing the Nazi had on their agenda for them was wiping their existance; simply surviving and keeping their humanity is resistance. One form of resistance is hiding and protecting family and friends. The earliest example of resistance was when they sent Richieu away to hopefully keep him away from all the danger. Hiding Anja’s grandparents in the yard and lying to the police is another. When the two of them got to Auschwitz, they were split but Vladek was always searching for ways he could help Anja like sending her food and helping her have a better situation in the concentration camp. Valdek knew very well the risks of trying to save Anja but he still did it. But I don’t think without the help of both Jews and non-Jews they would have survived. Mrs. Motonowa hid Anja and Vladek in her house and fed them even when her husband returned home and was suspecting that she might be up to something. There was also a woman in Auschwitz that helped Anja and Valdek find each other and sent messages between them. Both her and Mrs. Motonowa helped them against what would have been the safest option for them. I think people like them gave hope to Anja and Vladek in the midst of this devastating and dangerous time for them. Although the Nazis tried to strip them of their humanity through numbering them and treating them like animals, Anja and Valdek kept what makes them human. Which is selflessness when helping others in need instead of going against each other. Vladka Meed had a similar perspective. When she was little, she snuck out to the other side of the ghetto to talk to the Polish, find weapons, food, and places that would keep children. I think a powerful quote she said was, “I have to fulfill it, there was no question about it, it was the way of life and I was not the only one.” When she shared her mother’s story of saving bread for something that helped her brother once, she repeated, “and she was not the only one.”

Anja and Vladek’s resistance was necessary since it was for survival. Their easy choice would have been to just give up. Their resistance was beyond courageous and displayed their strength. I think their decisions were beyond the judging of “right and wrong.” When they gave Anja’s grandparents away, their stakes were getting themselves in danger and killed. During this time, Vladek takes advantage of his skills, money, and connections to survive. But while having these resources, he didn’t hurt anyone, but instead did what he can with helping others. For example, when he taught English to a Nazi and gained his favor, he got better clothes and food. With this, he shared his luck. For example when he got Mandelbaum a spoon and well fitting shoes.

Another form of resistance is living a dignified life. Vladka Meed shared that there were actually illegal schools, libraries, choirs, and theaters in the ghettos. In the film Life is Beautiful I watched a while back, the main character lied to his son that the concentration camp was a game. He told him that if he followed the rules, he would gain points and win something. I think he also visited his wife and spoke over the loudspeaker(don’t know how realistic this film was) to keep his wife’s morale up. They resisted by keeping each other’s spirits up. I think in the film, prisoners helped each other to keep an eye on the children. In Schindler's List, Itzhak Stern helped his fellow Jews get fake certificates and eventually some on Schindler’s List saving many and prolonging the life of many as well.

boston, Ma, US
Posts: 25

Reflections on Maus and Issues of Resistance and Rescue

Resistance in the holocaust from German authorities meant many different things for everyone. Some were lucky to have fled while others lived in fear but found ways to avoid being captured. In Anja and Vladek’s case, they lived in fear while hiding and constantly moving around. They even gave up Vladek’s son Richieu to his aunt to ensure a better life for him. When they were finally caught and brought to Auschwitz, they made it a priority to work in order to not be executed. This form of resistance meant doing anything to stay alive. they risked many times by still communicating while separated at camps. Their courage goes a long way and is the reason they were able to make it to the end where they were liberated by soldiers.

It's hard for me to try to even understand the resistance and fear that people had to face during the Holocaust. It would be untruthful for me to write that I could imagine what they went through because I really can't. Fortunately, I've never been in a situation where I've had to risk a lot of things in order to survive. But after reading this book I have a better understanding of what someone who was in that situation might have faced. Their resistance has really proved that Jewish people we're heroes. We see mothers and fathers risking everything to ensure that their children are in a safe place. We have seen couples who continue to contact each other knowing the consequences in risks of doing that. We see men and women working overtime no matter the abuse they are receiving in hopes of not getting killed in concentration camps. The resistance I have read about includes many things that would be considered illegal. Personally, I think they were right for doing these things that were technically illegal but we're saving their lives. This is a time in which I believe that not following the law was a good thing. Vladek for example smuggles himself across the border to reunite with his family. Decision-making has no wrong because the people who were in the wrong were the Nazis. I am happy and advocate for those who did break the laws in order to survive or help other people survive. Thinking about another source such as Schindler's List oh, we see the powerful impact breaking the laws had on the Jewish community during this time. Unfortunately, a lot of times breaking the law meant death and serious consequences. But when it was successful, it was powerful.

Another form of resistance I have learned Jewish people used in times of the holocaust was faking their identity and using lies to protect their loved ones. Many risked their lives disguising themselves as non jewish descent. Resistance also came in death as much committed suicides in order to not live a brutal life under Nazi rule. I imagine this decision was extremely difficult but the conditions in the camp were so bad that some believed sudden death was better than that. In my opinion, one who ‘chose’ death over finding other ways of resisting, was no less than one another. They were two forms of resistance that both showed courage.

Resistance is such an important word to describe the holocaust because it was the focus of every Jewish person at the time. It meant leaving everything behind yet taking everything with you. It meant life or death. Everyday. The courage it took t resist should never be overlooked and appreciated by those who have survived and those who have not.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 18

Vladek and Anja resisted by constantly going against what the Nazi's wanted them to do. They did this in many forms, but Vladek used his wits and whatever materials and valuable items he could find in order to get the help they needed to survive. Vladek and Anja resisted by surviving. It is as Spiegelman said in his interview, the goal of the Nazis was to exterminate the Jews, not murder them. They were aided in their resistance/survival by the other Jewish people around them, but also the good people around them. The people who weren’t even the target of the Nazis, but were still willing to risk their lives for Vladek and Anja.

My view of their resistance is something noble. I think that it took incredible strength from them in order to survive. With everything constantly going on around them, they kept fighting back and wouldn’t let the Nazis get their way. I think that they made the decisions that kept them alive. When you’re in the situation that they were in, it doesn’t matter if the decision is ethical or a good one. What matters is that the decision you make is helpful towards surviving. The role of “right and wrong” doesn’t matter. If “right and wrong” mattered, the Jews wouldn’t have been facing extermination and Vladek and Anja wouldn’t have had to make the decisions they made.

The other survivors we’ve encountered survived in very similar ways. They paid attention to their surroundings and made decisions based on that information. I think that one thing all of the survivors used but couldn’t control is fate or luck or however you wanna look at it. Whether it was in a ghetto or concentration camp, there were so many different ways a Jewish person could die. They didn’t know if they were next. They could only hope that they had luck on their side and ultimately, I believe that they did. I previously stated that survival is resistance, but there many other ways in which we saw resistance against the Nazi regime and that was in the form of people helping people. Throughout everything they were going through, people helped people. In Maus, we hear Vladek say that there was no more family and it was every man for himself, but there are so many more examples of people helping people, disproving this notion that people completely abandoned their humanity. We hear of schools and people attempting to still spread ways of life that remind people of some normalcy from before the Nazi regime came to power.

South Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

Reflections on Maus and Issues of Resistance and Rescue

They resisted because they survived, despite an entire army and dictator who wanted them dead they found the means to keep going. With aid, a little luck, and the fight in them to keep surviving. They received aid throughout the book, however they usually had to trade something to receive aid, Vladek spoke english and was able to teach the guards english which kept him alive and provided him with more means to survive. They were lucky when they got to the table to show paperwork their cousin was able to put them in the "good" line. Vladek also held onto some money and was able to pay his cousin in order to escape. So they received help but they often had to provide something in return for the help. They resisted mentally even the Nazis had taken away everything, their way of life, their families, their possessions, they where killing people by the thousands, their life would never be the same, but they found the strength to keep going, they continued to fight for their lives and they did what they had to in order to survive. With only the hope the future would be better. Looking at it from their point of view(to an extent I know we will never be able to do that), they continued to fight to live, and they didn't know how this war was going to end, they had no idea whether or not Germany was going to win or lose, but they continued with the hope that it would get better.

Ethics is an individualized idea, what is ethical to me might be different from person to person, we have a general idea about what ethics are but they differ slightly across the board. The Nazis where taking completely inocent people and tortured and murdered them by the thousands, because of their religious affiliation. You can't blame anyone living through that looking at the way the Nazis treated Jewish people, from all the killings in the ghetto, to the conditions on the train, the intensive labor they where forced to do, the dehumanizing and stripping them of their identity, seeing that and then in order to survive they want to make the most ethical decision? That would be almost impossible, at that point your human instinct would only want to focus on yourself and how you are going to survive. Vladek still even through all that still loved Anja and wanted her to survive, and because he gained the favor of the Nazi solideiers they gave him more food, and clothes and he shared some of that with others. Even the slightest actions that help other people is courageous, because at any moment anyone could have gotten killed for seeming as though they were helping each other. The concept of right and wrong is almost irrelevant because they where not seeing this concept practiced within the Nazi's and their treatment of Jewish people, and if your only goal is to survie one is not concerned weather it was the right way or wrong way to survive an event like the holocaust.

People who survived the holocaust recieved help weather it was from other people, or through their own resources, Vladek was able to survive because he was a skilled worker and could speak english. Itzhak Stern received help from Shchindler, and in turn helped a lot of other people. My family had a family friend who survived the holocaust, he recieved help from an American solidier, he had manged to run from his home town and ran into an American soldier who gave him two dollars and got him onto a train, and he eventually came to the U.S. People resisted by surviving.

no name
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 18

Post: Reflections on Maus and Issues of Resistance and Rescue

Before I read this book, I wondered why he chose to represent it in animals and was a bit skeptical on how it would impact the story, but I was so wrong. I love the art and it did not take any of the heavy emotion this carried. Like Schlinder’s list it needs no colors as we can relate to. I was surprised how much of the book’s setting was the interviewing and I really enjoy it because we get to see how he is today and it is really personal.

Anja and Vladek went to actual hell and back. It is unbelievable the strength they had to constantly move forward because for every one good thing a dozen more popped up. Vladek survived with some luck and help but it must have been his love and search for Anja that kept him going. What was shocking to me is how him knowing english saved him and others on multiple occasions, he got favors from a Nazi that in the end made him survive and carrried him into a higher position in Auschwitz with some power. He got better treatment by both sides at the end of the war which again helped him survive. Another thing was how late it was even after the LIberation of Auschwitz Germans locked them in train car to die, it was almost never ending, they thought the war 1942 would go on another 5 years. The days that he was doing blackwork is just how I imagine it felt: each day felt like a year.

I said this in my Schindler post but we have no absolutely zero right to judge decisions, despite that I have one ethical issue. If you involve people that don’t want to be a part of this, endangering them in the process is being selfish and reckless. Mrs. Motonowa was the opposite of this, though she does ask for some money, she treats them with kindness and empathy. When she didn stop after nearly being caught for her black market trading, she continued to both trade and hide survivors.

The Nazis wanted to wipe out other races by industiral genocide, so therefore any sort of survival will be resistance. By surviving, you are denying them the satisfaction of victory. One point of resistance stuck to me, the only time that Anja and Vladiek saw each other in the Auschwitz They caught Anja getting a package from Vladiek, searching high and low for her in the barrack and when they got everyone to line up, they worked them to near death to break anyone… but nobody did. There were more than a dozen people that likely knew and nobody cracked. It reminds me of Schindler’s List when that boy risked his life to scapegoat the dead man to save everyone else. Despite suffering profusely, they find unity and solidarity no matter how hard the Nazi try to break them

Boston, Massachusetts , US
Posts: 24

This isn’t resistance but I loved the small moment in Auschwitz where the priest imprisoned there gave hope to Vladek through the lucky number on his arm. Usually I think of resistance as a more physical manifestation like the neighbors helping Vladek and Anja to hide from the police, but resistance can also be the sense of community and strength victims possess by bonding together and inspiring each other. When Vladek saw an opportunity to help his family, he took it whether it was using the black market to get food, getting tickets to a safer place, or sending his own child away which unfortunately didn’t end well. In some instances, Vladek obtains papers that says he works with his cousin who has influence when he doesn't, which protects him while walking in the streets. I never realized the Jewish Police force would enforce the laws of Germany trying to round up the Jews to send them away but I think they were all scared and thought that cooperating would spare them their lives. A big part of their survival is their wealth. Vladek started his textile company and grew to be very wealthy with the help of Anja’s parents and this money along with valuable trinkets like the golden watch became ways to exchange for food and shelter. Vladek’s cousin Haskel helps them with establishing a name for himself so when Vladek’s papers are checked, he stays safe until Haskel doesn’t help Anja’s parents and they die since he’s denied payment. After sending their boy Richelieu away to an area they thought was safer, Vladek and Anja moved around a lot to Mrs. Motonowa‘s home where they formed a bond with her son as well as different bunkers concealed in the shelters. Valdek was even able to sneak out and get food as disguising as a German Nazi and sometimes Polish person who got more benefits than Jews. Miloch was a kind person who showed Vladek and Anja the bunker and put his faith in Vladek’s judgment of when it was safe to exit the bunker. In Maus, Anja was struggling between going to a sanatorium and being emotional about everything and everyone she’d lost, which is understandable. It was moments like these where Vladek resisted by refusing to give up and succumb to their losses. There’s a big contrast between Vladek before the Holocaust and currently because he was wealthy and happy but now he is in a strained marriage carrying a lot of survivor’s guilt. Since Vladek speaks languages very well, he gets privileges at the camp so his resistance is in part of being lucky and his own privilege. It’s also very sad how Anja commits suicide which Vladek also probably feels responsible for, but back to resistance. It seems that Vladek gets lucky when he’s beaten at the camp and not sent to die, but he doesn’t try to resist in an obvious way.

Earlier in the book I, Anja has been translating communist messages and keeps them with the seamstress who gets imprisoned, and they say nothing. Anja grew up with wealth and I understand that out of fear, she kept her mouth shut but ethically, she should’ve said something. The way Anja is portrayed is courageous because she’s willing to take risk to protect her family but also in distress, having breakdowns and then committing suicide. Vladek’s father originally starves him to make sure he isn’t sent to war, which is a form of resistance. He then decides to be drafted over starvation and survives to see his family much later, after living in terrible conditions. I think avoiding the war was the best option and it’s sad to realize that Vladek didn’t want to starve to avoid going to war but he ended up being hungry all the time during battle. But I think fighting in war against the Nazis might’ve given him insights like how he sees the soldier he just shot has a name. Vladek is caretaker for his family and he’s able to trade at the black market since the coupons are causing Jews to starve. This is ethical and risky but definitely necessary I feel. I think in times of desperation, survival is the most important and by going to the market, Vladek made connections with people who later kept him safe. The right and wrong at this point seems to be between what is too risky where you’d get caught and killed, versus something that needs to be done to survive and in an organized manner. When Vladke and Anja are hiding, some of the Polish neighbors and such call attention to them as filthy Jews so living in this place was dangerous. You had to prioritize your own safety which is why Haskel for example doesn’t help unless paid because he’s taking risks. It’s sad to see how Jews were holding onto their valuables in the hopes they could sell them and preserve them but everything was lost in the camps and worthless. Except for Vladek’s knowledge and skill which was valuable. They send Richelieu to Zawiercie which is resistance because they do not want their children to end up dead and take action. To spare the children, Tosha poisons herself and the kids which is terrible but at the same time not letting the Nazis have the satisfaction of killing more lives. It would be hopeful to think that the children would’ve survived the camp, and there are those who did, but I can see Tosha’s thinking that it’s better to die now than to experience and witness what happens at the Auschwitz because there were many stories of horror that were true. The fact that Richelieu’s parents sent him with their family seemed like his only chance and it at least gave them security in the face of darkness at home, like how they would reassure themselves that even though they were starving in a bunker, Richelieu must be alright. Vladek has acquired many skills along his journey like in the tin shop and being a “cobbler” which all come in handy so he’s able to reconnect with Anja by gaining influence through his skills to transfer her. I think this was resistance by not letting himself or Anja just die and while he was only thinking about how he could save his one love, I believe that was what he had to do to keep him alive and give him purpose. Vladek injures his own hand to live in the infirmary with better conditions which seems unethical but these camps sent people to the hospital to die so he wasn’t really inconveniencing anybody.

In Maus, Artie is curious as to why the prisoners didn’t fight back and Vladek says it’s because of the state they were in, starving and terrified, and that for every one rebellious person, they’d kill 100. The Nazis used fear and unpredictability to present victims with horrible choices that led to their deaths. Through reading Maus, it’s clear that a little help goes a long way and is remembered for a long time. Vladek since the Holocaust has trouble letting go of things and he finds things on the streets to utilize because he has experienced starvation and immense loss and doesn’t want to go through that again. Again, we see how mass death and genocide brings people together but unfortunately 11 million people died while other countries I’m sure stood with the victims of the Holocaust. I agree with Vladka Meed in that the fight to survive was resistance and like Vladek and Anja, they had to be resourceful and tricky in order to survive and not get caught by the police or any neighbors wanting to call on the police. This was almost silent resistance with a will to live, and it was very very powerful. If there was no resistance, the Jews and other minorities would have all been dead. Like Meed observed, sharing bread and giving away one's own food for survival is resistance and strength because most people when they are all starving and hiding for their lives, they only think about themselves but it’s clear that there were very kind giving people (like when Vladek and Anja give a man they find some bread for his family but he turns out to work with the police) that resist the fear Nazis place onto them. The giving of one’s own resources and sharing in this time of fear is a connective thread among the Jews because, like Anja and Vladek, they were always being helped with people who helped as many people as they could without getting in trouble themselves. Resistance is the capacity of connection and community able to thrive during the Holocaust when the Nazis wanted to break any Jewish/minority relationships apart and call it a crime to be a Jew. Art Spiegelman speaks of how it was around the 1940s when his parents were sent to the camp so all the rumors of gas chambers were known to be true. With the Jews who were sent to the camp early on and didn’t know how much worse it could get, they probably weren’t thinking “Oh, we are actively resisting by surviving” but it became clearer to the Jews later on and especially to those who survived that their existence is resistance and it’s powerful. We are very fortunate to hear first hand accounts of Holocaust survivors and reflect on a time that most of us can’t imagine experiencing.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

Reflections on Maus and Issues of Resistance and Rescue

1) In Maus, Anja and Vladek resisted in many different ways, from how they struggled to find money and goods when all of their possessions were taken away by the Nazis to their ability to survive through the entire war. Anja and Vladek’s first form of resistance is when they were forced out of their house, stripped of some of their belongings and valuables, and forced to move into a cramped building with only two rooms. Vladek resisted by selling and trading what little they had for goods, food, and even work. There is no doubt that they resisted the Nazi party, even if Anja and Vladek didn’t physically fight any Nazi soldiers, they resisted by surviving because in the Nazis’ eyes any Jew alive was a threat to society and the world. By surviving Anja and Vladek actively fought against the Nazi party’s beliefs and values, even when Anja didn’t want to resist and more and thought about suicide, Vladek was the one who convinced to to live to stand up to everything that was going against them. He told her that survival was hard and to not give into what the opposition wanted, because that gave them more power than they already had. Both Anja and Vladek were aided in resistance by sometimes the generosity of others, but also in exchange for money or trade-able items. Two Polish women helped them survive in unsafe towns by hiding them in their houses and barns, and a woman in Auschwitz helped Vladek relay messages to Anja when she felt like giving up, and knowing that Vladek was alive helped her in her willingness to survive.

2) It’s difficult to judge their decisions because I was never in their position, nor have I ever experienced the immense trauma that goes along with constantly being hunted and hated in an area that you once called home. I think anyone who survived that trauma and hardship, and their resistance to the Nazi party, is lucky and did what they could to get out of this situation as soon as possible. I don’t think I can sit here from a comfortable seat and determine whether or not their survival decisions were good or ethical, and I strongly believe people were just doing what they could, or what they thought was right, to stay alive. In this tragedy there were no set rules to follow, and no guarantee of living through the Nazi regime. Everything that everyone did was in the hopes of living, like the Jewish police officers who didn’t want to be taken away, like Jews in the ghetto trading items for goods, and like Jewish man who wrote the letter that convinced Vladek to travel to “Hungary” because he didn’t want to get shot. I believe they all resisted the best they could, and I believe there was a mass amount of luck and ingenuity involved.

3) Like in Schindler’s List we see all different forms of resistance. There were children that hid under floor-boards from the Nazi gaurds in both the ghetto and in Płaszów to survive and attempt to stay with their families. Even in Maus we saw how Anja, Vladek, and other families hide in bunkers under coal stacks, above chandeliers, or through a tunnel of shoes. Many of the Jews who tried to resist the Nazi’s control hid to evade the harsh treatment they would endure, but also Vladek talked about stories of Jews physically standing up to the Nazi soldiers which is an amazing form of resistance since it is rarely talked about. During this time I think there was a fair amount of help given to some people, but at the same time there was a lot of hate and hostility towards them as well.

I know that every challenge is different and is faced differently, but I can’t help but find numerous stories that fall along the same lines. Many families or individuals have spoken of the mass groups of people that have been corralled onto trains, perished in the camps, or have survived by hiding and escaping the regime’s grasp. Each story is unique, but there is also a common theme, which is resistance in the face of adversity. The stories that we have heard and read are truly amazing, and show the multitude of ways that people survived and the steps they used, as well as the luck that came with it.

Boston, Massachussetts, US
Posts: 27

In Maus, I think that Vladek and Anja resisted by staying alive. This is similar to the Holocaust, where Jewish people strongly resisted the power by staying alive, and another survivor named Vladka Meed said something similar to this in her interview. Anja resisted by writing down her truthful story as she experienced life. Though they were assisted in resistance all along by various different people, I specifically noticed Manice. Manice was a Hungarian woman that Anja met while being in Auschwitz. She helped the two out of the kindness of her heart, unlike some other people who only helped out if they got money, jewelry, or a valuable gift like that in return.

Their resistance is hard to judge because I am lucky enough to not worry about experiencing something like they did. I do not think that people who did not experience the Holocaust themselves should be able to have an opinion on the survivors choices. The couple was brave and had no other alternative, if they wanted to choose life. Anja and Vladek had to make difficult decisions in order to survive. Vladek had to kill a soldier so that the soldier wouldn’t kill him. This decision is not totally ethical, however, at the moment, it seems understandable. In my opinion, there was not really a role of right and wrong when a Holocaust victim had to make the decision to do someting bad in order to save their own life. They were innocent victims of an evil ruler, they had every right to fight back.

In the movie Schindler’s List, all of the people that Oskar Schindler helped save were people who resisted. They received help from Schindler, who voluntarily made a list of plenty of Jewish people he wanted to save. He continued to persuade fellow Nazi leaders that these people were hard workers who should keep moving on. These people resisted and persevered through all of the abuse they received from the bad soldiers, and continued to work for Schindler since he was saving their lives. I remember a scene from Schindler’s List towards the beginning of the movie where a young boy (who I am pretty sure was part of the Nazi party, or he was a Jewish boy who had to work with the Nazis) found his friend and her mother, and told them where they should hide in order to move to the next step and not be killed. Other Jewish people hid out in certain places, such as Anne Frank. There were people who allowed Jewish families to hide out in their houses, which was a great risk for them and the people who were hiding.
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 26

Resistance during the Holocaust simply meant the revolutionary act of surviving. It was the German objective, not just to murder the Jewish people, as Art Spiegelman reminds us in his interview, but to exterminate them, akin to vermin. Maus tells the tale of Vladek and Anja who, through a lot of luck and ingenuity, manage to stay alive until the end of the war. Such a harrowing experience haunts them, and it is clear Vladek still struggles to change his frugal ways, and Anja struggles even more with her memories, killing herself early in the book. It is immensely powerful to be introduced to a successful Vladek who is courting a smart and talented Anja, living relatively normally in Poland, and then to watch the world around them descend into chaos. Maus portrays them not as just “Holocaust survivors ” but real people, people that had their entire lives ripped from them and somehow managed to survive. Vladek is first forced from his normal world when he is drafted as a reserve troop, and then captured as a prisoner of war. It is already clear the difference in treatment between the captured Jews and Poles, and the deep set German hatred for an entire group of people. Vladek is resourceful, and immediately begins an act of resistance by continuing business on the black market when he comes back home, but soon, even the most powerful Jews that thought they were safe with the Germans were killed, and many began to be transported to Ghettos, and worse, rumors of Auschwitz begin circling.

Ethics are turned upside down when one is fearing for their life and the safety of their family, and this change is clear early on, with the Jewish police that aid the Germans, and later the Jewish informant that sells Vladek out. The same thing happens with the Poles that trick Vladek Anja and send them to Auschwitz instead of Hungary. The Germans pit groups against each other, only to kill them all in the end. Old people, children, and unhealthy people are the first to be taken straight to death camps, and young able-bodied people do anything they can to resist, but the force is overwhelming. When Anja’s cousin is faced with the decision of being rounded up to go to Auschwitz, or ending it right then and there with her children and Vladek and Anja’s first child, she chooses the latter, tuly having no power to decide at all.

For Vladek and Anja, relationships aided in this struggle, and Vladek’s ability to save valuable things and work the connections he had made with Anja’s and his own family, allow them to get by. Vladek constantly cuts deals and comes up with plans for hiding, from the fake wall he builds in the cellar to the countless trades he picks up to get into better situations. They both sacrifice food and amenities to pay off others and hang onto whatever power they have left. Neither Vladek nor Anja ever actively put others in harm’s way to survive, and especially Anja keeps her morality, even in Auschwitz, where she gives the extra scraps she earns to her friends waiting outside. Vladek discourages this, and rightfully so, as he has seen how when faced with death and destruction, caring about others can often break down, and many rightfully resort to selfishness. Vladek, though, still cares about others, as he risks his newfound shoe-fixing job to get a belt, spoon, and a new shoe for Mandelbaum. Vladek risks everything to find Anja within Auschwitz once again, and it is clear that their love for each other gives them both something to live for within the camps. What is right and what is wrong is not a question one can answer looking in on this story from the outside. The horrors that human beings were put through are unimaginable to even Art as he writes this story about his father, and therefore non-survivors do not have the ground to stand on when it comes to the question of what people did to survive was moral or not.

The question that the former Facing student asked of “why didn’t Jewish people resist” is also asked by Art in the book. Vladek explains that Jewish people did resist, but small movements of organized rebellion within the camps were quickly squashed, and all the people immediately killed. No one went to their deaths without a struggle, but the force pushing them was so overwhelming, as was the German desire to completely eradicate the Jewish population. It is important to remember that this was no war, not even a conquest, it was a Genocide, with the aim of eradicating a population from the face of the earth. When we hear stories of Jewish people surviving, Schindler’s list being a recent example from class, all of it is an example of Jewish resistance to the Nazis. Vladka Meed details how her life in the Ghetto was resistance, from the participation in illegal schools to her joining a youth leadership organization. She explained, “They are going to kill us, so we will choose our way of dying,” describing her unwillingness to go down without a fight until the end. In addition, many were able to survive because of the selfishness of the Germans and sometimes Poles in charge, like the countless times Vladek paid off guards and supervisors to assist him or look the other way, or the original motivation of Schindler to keep his workers alive to make himself rich. Greed plays an important role in such a place where the normal rules of how society functions, break down. Love too, plays an equally important role, and the strength of family ties and working together helped save many people from certain death.

Meed also explains how essential it is to tell the story of Jewish resistance, for the further we get from the Holocaust, and the more survivors pass, the easier it is to distance ourselves from the Holocaust as an event far in the past, and the easier it is for such a horrific event to happen once more. The myth that the Jews were somehow passive in their own extermination is immensely harmful, and so far from the truth, the truth of how immensely strong people like Vladka and Vladek were to have survived such a sure death sentence. Only when we teach the true horrors of the Holocaust, and the strength of the people that were victims of it, can we prevent such an event from ever taking place again.

Posts: 15

reflections on maus and issues of resistance and rescue

Vladka Meed said that life in the ghetto was an act of resistance because to live and survive as human beings was a resistance. Anja and Vladek resisted by surviving the Holocaust and always doing their best to stay alive and in the best situation they could be in. In the video with Art Spigelman interviewing Vladek, he asks if he knew about the showers. Some of the ways people resisted was by spreading information about the camps and what was going on to keep others away and safe and even though he knew very well the dangers, Vladek still wanted to protect Anja in Birkenau. Whether they are hiding from the Nazis in the homes of friends or buying goods from the black market, they were actively resisting a corrupt government that was trying to take away their identity and lives. Even having hope was a resistance because they continued on in opposition to the Nazi belief that they had no place in their society.

I think any decision they make we could not blame them because the situation they were living in was so harsh and no human being should experience even half of the horrors they did. It is amazing they came out of the Holocaust alive and we can’t blame them for taking opportunities others did not have because it is better for not everyone to die. Vladek makes a lot of special relationships with various people that help him get access to goods and causes him to get better treatment and some protection from guards. I think as long as they didn’t hurt anyone else they did not do anything wrong and the illegal activities and loopholes they found were for survival in an environment humans are not meant to be in. In such an extreme circumstance, it is hard to find a definitive difference between right and wrong and people might have done things typically seen as wrong, but because they did it for the right reasons, it was ethically right.

Other survivors we have encountered resisted the Nazis in both similar and different ways. Many of the Jews in the camps helped each other out and did their best to keep themselves and those around them going strong. We saw in Schindler’s List how some of the people in the camps helped to get others a better spot in line or give them information to help them live, which also occurred in Maus. In Maus, often Vladek appealed to the desires of those who could help him or showed them kindness which came back to help him. In Auschwitz, he helped a supervisor learn English and, in return, the supervisor gave him clothes that fit him. Vladek used this opportunity to get a belt and shoes that fit for his friend and the supervisor helped protect them both as well. Another example of the community and kindness comes from Vladka’s mother. In her video, Vladka explains how her mother was extremely strong and, even when she was starving, she gave the bread she had to the rabbi who they had worked with before and was helping Vladka’s brother to become a bar mitzvah before they were put in the camps. This shows the immense strength and faith she had to put others first when she was also in great need and the selflessness and gratitude she and others in the camps possessed. Those in the camps received help from others as well, like Schindler protecting them or non-Jewish people providing food and shelter for Jews in hiding from the Nazis.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

Reflections on Maus and Issues of Resistance and Rescue

  1. The ultimate resistance in the Holocaust is surviving, whoich Anja and Vladek did accomplish. Their entire story was driven by choiceless choices they were forced to make in order to survive. Most of these choices were against the Nazi regime in order to survive. One example of their resistance was when Vladek traded chocolate for a new jacket that didn’t have lice so he could survive. There was this abundance of creative and clever tactics that they came up with in order to get their way around the brutality and murder that they couldve indured. They were aided in resistance not only by each other but in the other mice or jews. They had to work together to help each other to survive. Every jew wanted the same thing, life. They ultimately survived because of their will to live and the people that just so happened to be around them.

  1. Nobody deserves to be judged for the decisions they had to make in order to survive. Maybe some decisions were not ethical, but they did it in order to survive. I don’t think its fair for us to deem decisions made during the holocaust as “right” or “wrong”. Not one of us has ever been in a situation remotely similar to theirs. For example there is a movie on Netflix called The Last Days. In this film a couple Jews that ran the gas chambers got the opportunity to be interviewed. The Jews that ran the gas chambers went through as much trauma and brutality as anyone else at the time. Of course they felt guilty, but it was against their will. They did not get the option to not do this. It was either work or die. So in my opinion it is completely unfair to judge any Jews’ decisions that were made during the Holocaust.

  1. 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. Meed showed 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. The only way they were able to survive was because of each other. Forming connections and a community along with that is also resistance.
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