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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.
West Roxbury, MA, US
Posts: 26

Reflections on Maus, Resistance, and Rescue

Anja and Vladek resisted in a lot of ways that I did not realize until after our discussion in class. One thing that I think is important to note about their resistance is the lengths that Vladek went to in order to protect himself, Anja, and Richieu. I don’t want to call them lucky because no one is lucky if they have to endure something to the extent of this torture. However, Vladek and Anja were some of the lucky ones, but not Richieu. Richieu’s passing would forever be remembered by Vladek, which makes it seem like Vladek and Anja were lucky. I think they resisted by surviving, and continuously looking for new ways to make money, and working in the black market. I think Motonowa’s role Vladek’s life is a reason that he survived the Holocaust. Despite her being German and him and Anja being Jews, she still went out of her way to help as best as she could. And even though she did end up throwing them out, I think her at least trying to give the couple a little bit of aid so they were not sleeping in a barn speaks volumes of some of the people during this time. Another way in which Vladek resisted was by taking up jobs in Auschwitz and teaching the German soldier English. I wish I could say I knew more about Anja’s story because she seems like an extremely inspiring woman, but from what I read I think she resisted by holding on to hope that she would be reunited with Vladek again.

I am not entirely sure about what I can say in regards to their situation because I have never been put in a position to think about the decisions Vladek and Anja had to make. I think their resistance was very admirable because they went to great lengths to not be sent to a concentration camp, but had to watch their relatives be taken. They also had to let their young son go without knowing if they would be reunited, and I think it takes very strong people to make a decision like that. Besides trying to escape to Hungary, I think the couple did make good decisions. Vladek did his absolute best to protect Anja from being sent to a camp and for a while it did work. Vladek was “lucky” enough to have friends around to help him, and find shelter where he could, unlike others who were captured or killed in the street. Nothing about the Holocaust was ethical, so I myself cannot judge whether Vladek and Anja’s decisions were “right” or not because they did what they needed to do in order to survive. They took a huge risk in fighting captivity because they knew what would happen if they were taken. Personally, if I knew my fate was inevitably a gas chamber, I would do everything in my power to escape that. In my opinion, I don’t think they did anything wrong in their decision making because it was what needed to be done to survive. Nothing about the Holocaust was “right” and the only thing I would say was a “wrong” decision was them escaping to Hungary and getting sent to Auschwitz, but only because they ended up there instead of their original destination. Vladek and Anja’s story was incredibly sad and at the same time gave me hope that their resistance would lead them away from Auschwitz, not to it.

Watching “Schindler’s List” showed a lot of resistance, like when people would work jobs they had never done or look out for one another even if it could endanger them. But after reading Maus and hearing Vladka’s story, it made me realize that there was so much more to resistance than I had known. Vladka says, “The philosophy in the ghetto at that time was to survive”. This really made me reflect on what I had written about resistance because hearing this from a survivor who lived in the Warsaw ghetto made it feel so much more real. It is amazing the strength they must have had to survive the Holocaust and tell their stories to us now. Vladka does mention many times about the importance of teaching the Holocaust in schools and hearing survivor testimonies while the survivors are still with us. “Schindler’s List” was incredible, but some of the Hollywood effects took away from the very important message. From what I have read, seen, and heard, most survivors resisted by believing that they were going to live and fighting for their lives. I would just like to reiterate that I do not believe that there were any “right or wrong” decisions made by victims in the Holocaust because they were put into an impossible position. I’m not sure who received help besides Vladek and Anja because Vladka told her perspective from when she was in the ghetto, but the help Vladek and Anja received furthered their resistance.

After reading and discussing the novel in class, I felt really bad for Art as well. He had to grow up with parents who had been through one of the worst tragedies, and his novel exemplifies the effects of generational trauma. Hearing his point in the video made me realize how hard it must have been for him to take a story, his father’s life, with this much depth and turn it into a comic book.

Posts: 18

Reflections on Maus and Issues of Resistance and Rescue

  1. As we discussed in class, and as Vladka Meed stated, during the Holocaust, survival was resistance. More than that, however, hope was resistance. Camps like Auschwitz were created not only for death and pain, but to suck all hope of ever getting out or being treated equally. As a result, this would create an “every man for himself” situation in which Jews would quickly turn on each other. Anja and Vladek, however, resisted this idea. They continued to have hope and continued to work to build at least a small community. The multiple times Vladek discusses hiding during raids or mass evacuations, he states that the majority of times, he was working with other people to secure a hiding place, food, and clothing. This in itself was resistance - not just because they were going against the Nazis’ orders, but because they still had hope and a sense of community and togetherness. In her interview, Vladka describes one person giving up their bread for another- and there are multiple similar instances described throughout Mause . People were still willing to give that little they had to others at their own expense, and this was a major form of resistance. Despite all they were being told, there was still a feeling of hope, community, and putting others above oneself. This defied everything the Nazis went against, and the environment they attempted to create, thus was resistance.Throughout "Mause", Vladek also rebels in more physical ways - he bribes people and “skirts” the system in order to get Anja from Auschwitz Birkenau to where he is and hides himself along with many others. He even convinces guards to give him extra supplies for those he is close to- again bringing up that idea of community and looking out for one another while fooling guards.
  2. Before answering this question, I want to again emphasize that I have never been in a situation remotely close to this, and so am coming from a place of privilage here. My view is that their resistance- and any resistance for that matter- was incredibly courageous. From tricking guards to get Anja moved to Vladek’s camp in “Mause” to speaking up after the fact, like Rena has done for so long to simply continuing to have hope took unimaginable bravery and spirit; there is almost no way to accurately describe it. In this situation, I don’t think there were any “right decisions”. In a situation where every single person has had their human rights and life so wholly violated, and where they were so incredibly desperate, any decision they made was only their own. There was no right and wrong here, especially because most of the time, there was no choice. I also don’t feel we should be calling certain decisions ethical or good or bad- they simply were. In such a time, morals go completely out the window, and I don’t believe it’s right for me to sit in a position of such privilege and judge those decisions as right or wrong. People did what they needed to do to survive, and as discussed so much throughout this week, survival was resistance. In some of their decision making, there may have been some sense of “right and wrong” - we’ve no doubt heard stories throughout our studies of the Holocaust of people refusing to do harm to another prisoner and being beaten or killed for that - or stealing food/ supplies to help another prisoner in need. These are morally “right” decisions, but it also brings into question the meaning of “right” and “wrong” in a situation like this. Is there even such a thing? In a case where millions are being killed and simply living is seen as a crime, what do right and wrong mean? No doubt, those in the wrong were the Nazis. But in reference to the prisoners, as stated before, their decisions were neither right nor wrong. Their previously established notions of right and wrong may have played a role - such as Vladek helping his friend by getting him shoes and supplies- in the risks they took and the things they refused to do (not putting family members/loved ones at risk), but ultimately we can’t really say that something they did was inherently right or wrong, especially when many of us have not been in a situation similar to theirs. In today’s society, it would be seen as a “wrong” decision to potentially give up another inmate for one’s own survival. People may see it as cold and heartless, and this most likely happened. However, this is where that sense of right and wrong gets mixed up. Society in these ghettos and Nazi-occupied Germany became every man for himself. It became institutionalized, pushing people to make these kinds of decisions.
  3. Other survivors I have encountered certainly resisted- especially with their own survival and the fact that they speak out today. While it may be decades later, people such as Rena and Vladka are making a difference today in so many ways. They are going against the ideas which still exist prominently within society today. They were also still able to form a sort-of community in the ghetto, and managed to find ways to help one another in such a bleak society and environment. Many others directly resisted, joining movements or doing what they could to help those in the ghettos. These were more direct forms of resistance, but both were equally as important, and the more indirect or smaller forms of resistance - the more personal ones- may have been more difficult because those acts came from those in the most danger. In many of the situations we have seen, survivors received help from others. Vladek received help from others who bartered with him, or whom he was able to bribe. Rena received help from Oskar Schindler and most likely others when it came to her survival; as did Helen Hirsch, the maid for Amon Goeth, who received much help - and even a way to escape- from Oskar Schindler.
West Roxbury, MA, US
Posts: 29

Reflections on Maus and Issues of Resistance and Rescue

So often, the term resistance is misconstrued into the category of exclusively physical resistance. People make the narrow-minded assumption that to resist is to use your body to defy your opposer. However, this speculation about the word's definition is simply inaccurate and quite far from the truth. Resistance is defined as “the refusal to accept or comply with something.” (a sentiment highly regarded in the graphic novel Maus). Resistance can be survival; resistance can be perseverance; it comes in many shapes and sizes and doesn’t always have to be physical. Hidden within the 296 pages of Art Spiegelman’s book, Spiegelman exemplifies the numerous different ways in which resistance can persist. The first act of resistance Speigleman includes is that of the most commonly thought of physical act of resistance, warfare. Vladek is called upon to defend his country by fighting for Poland against the German invasion; however, a month later, he is captured by the Germans. Without any proper training or experience, Vladek nobly steps up to defend his family and country in an act of selfless resistance. After his release, the rest of his family is sent to the camps. Vladek and Anja are forced to make a heartbreaking decision, whether to keep their son in Srodula, where he may be killed at any time or send him to live with his aunt in Zawiercie. Sadly, as we later learn, even though they chose their son’s safety over the family’s togetherness, it was still not enough to keep him safe when the aunt poisons herself and Richieu because of the looming threat of being shot in the streets. However, this choice Vladek and Anja made was resistance nonetheless; they chose what they thought were the best odds for Richieu’s survival so that even if they did not make it through, their son would be living proof of their extraneous perseverance. Just because the plan fell through doesn’t prove their choice to be any less resistant. The most profound example of resistance in the whole book is the determination and hope Anja and Vladek were able to keep while fighting to stay alive in the camps. Vladek is given the hope to stay alive through the help of a catholic priest who tells him how lucky his prisoner number is. Through a connection Vladek makes with Mancie, a Hungarian prisoner, Anja and Vladek can send short notes to each other, giving them both hope of escape. Vladek then trades his skills as a shoemaker for more favors enabled by the greed and neediness of the Nazi soldiers. Through these bribes, he is able to save enough to bribe Anja’s transfer to Auschwitz. Months later, Anja and Vladek are released from the camps but not yet reunited. It takes a while, but Vladek eventually makes his way back to Sosnowiec, where he reunites with Anja. Just by surviving through these conditions as long as they did was resistance in itself. Along the way, they were helped by Tosha, Anja’s sister who protected Richieu for as long as she could, a priest who gave Vladek hope, and Mancie a woman who connected them together in the misery-filled camps. Vladek’s endurance, perseverance, and survival alone are proof that resistance can take shape in countless forms.

I view resistance (especially during this time) in any form it may take to be one of the bravest and most powerful displays of human strength. The story that Vladka told of her as a young child tasked with making contacts with the Polish, finding guns and dynamite on the black market, and finding places where it would be safe to hide Jewish children is so powerful when you compare that to the privileged lives we all live now. It’s so hard to imagine that a child was entrusted with such endangering duties (but also, it’s not when you recognize that children were being killed for doing a lot less). I think Anja and Vladek’s resistance was likewise just as brave; I think it’s hard to determine whether or not they made good decisions because we’ll never be able to stand in their shoes and face the atrocities they did. However, in my opinion, I think they did a rather good job at doing their best to make ethical and good decisions when the opportunity presented itself. With such few alternatives and options, it’s not something we can easily determine, whether or not they were making ethical choices. However, the role of “right and wrong” was most definitely a prevalent one in their decision-making. They tried to make an educated decision about where to send their son, they tried to make the best decision possible when it came to how to get food, where to live, and how to find jobs, but again we’ll never truly understand the hardship and lives they were forced into. The line of ethical “right vs. wrong” blurs when your survival is in danger.

In collecting research for the Targeted Populations Project, I came across a book about the life of a woman named Charlotte Salomon. Salomon was a Jewish painter during the Nazi regime and is most notably known today for her collection of 769 paintings (in a graphic novel format) detailing her grandmother’s suicide and her own life. Included in the piece are captions and pictures of all the ways Jewish people's lives were ruined by the Nazis. The pieces are incredibly tragic but serve as physical proof of the existence and documentation of the havoc Nazis reigned on Jewish people’s lives. Salomon would later be killed in a gas chamber, but by pure luck, her works survived and still today serve as a reminder of her resistance. She didn’t preserve her works on her own, however. A local physician (the man she entrusted her work with) is the reason we can today learn from and appreciate her art. I would also argue that Art Spiegelman's life is resistance to the Nazi onslaught since he is the sole survivor of two Auschwitz survivors. He is living proof of the survival of his Jewish ancestors. In an interview conducted in a comic book shop Spiegelman says that it was hard for him to “tell a story worth telling at a time where this story wasn’t that well told.” And I think this quote continues to show how he is resistance; he wrote a book (in a style that wasn’t popular at the time) that detailed the life of his father and himself, grappling with the weight the Holocaust left on them. Maus is a survivor's story; it is a story of how a man and his family survived with the help of numerous others, risking it all to come out with their lives. Spiegelman took that story, wrote it down, and published it for the world to see. I would argue that that is one of the strongest forms of resistance.
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 24

Reflections on Maus and Issues of Resistance and Rescue

The word resistance isn’t one that is necessarily easy to define. For some people-resisting means the physical action of fighting back against oppression, for others it means ignoring that oppression, and for a few, it means surviving that oppression. In the novel Maus, the topic of resistance is once that is constantly traced back to-which characters resist and survive the Holocaust, and which ones don’t. In my opinion, by them surviving the Holocaust, Anja and Vladek displayed one of the strongest forms of resistance possible. Now, this is something that is mentioned in the novel, when Art asks his father why he never tried to resist, and Vladek responded with I resisted by surviving, but I feel like it doesn’t get the emphasis that it deserves. Vladek not only constantly put his life on the line, but he sided with those he didn’t necessarily agree with, he bargained away almost everything he had ever known, and he even saluted the man who was the main perpetrator when it came to the Holocaust. He did all of this to survive.

I think a lot of people also view resistance as fighting against oppression not for just yourself, but for the majority of people, resistance and selflessness go hand in hand. Although I agree with this statement, I don’t think it should be an exclusive definition; sometimes, people have to be selfish in order to power through. When Vladek got himself a better job in the concentration camp, and did his best to get on good terms with the Kapo, he was looking out for himself. He wanted to survive. When Vladek was in the train, strung up on his hammock, watching everyone below him die from exhaustion, he didn’t try to help, he knew that he barely had enough strength, and couldn’t afford to sacrifice some. When it comes to something like the Holocaust, I don’t think it is possible for a victim to be selfish, wanting to live is not selfish. This goes back to an discussion from a little while ago regarding the Jewish Police in the Ghettos. These Jews did not have joy deriving from hurting those they had known their whole life (in some cases), but by contributing to the Nazi Party, they had more time. They had more resources, more options, and more safety for themselves, and their family. These Jews resisted by hurting those around them, because they felt as if it was their only choice. However, to go to the other side of the argument, some people resisted by never putting themselves first. This connects to a statement of Vladka Meed, when she mentions her mother and a Rabbi. Her mother was starving, as were they all, but when she had a small piece of bread, she didn’t eat it, despite having not eaten in days. Instead, she saved it for her Rabbi, the man who used to tutor her son for his Bar Mitzvah. When Vladek got his new job as a shoe maker, he risked his own personal safety by asking for a belt, spoon, and some shoes for Mendelbaum. There is no good or bad when it comes to ways of trying to survive, its solely an instinct of self preservation.

Anyone who survived the Holocaust when they were a victim resisted, and anyone who didn’t make it out also resisted. They resisted simply by existing, existing as a person who didn’t fit under Hitler’s perfect category. People who stayed in Nazi Germany resisted by choosing not to leave their homes, and people who left resisted by trying to save themselves and their loved ones. Survivors who made it into their 90’s resisted by living long enough to tell their stories to more and more people, and survivors who didn’t live for even ten years after they were freed resisted by finding that freedom. Anja resisted by making it out of the Holocaust, by settling down again, and reforming her family. Vladek resisted by making it through Anja’s death, and telling his story to Art. Richieu resisted by providing memories to his parents, and reminding them of the love they had for family while living in a place that sucked out all hope. And Art resisted by sharing his family’s story, one that he didn’t live. Art resisted by helping broadcast a genocide, by sharing something that isn’t easy to share. He talked about his mother’s death, his father’s death, his brother’s death, his grandparent’s death. He talked about the trauma his loved ones had to go through.

The Jew’s, disabled, the LGBTQ+, the Armenians, the Congolese, and today, the Uyghur Muslims, they all have resisted just by existing. They are resisting by doing the most difficult thing ever; they are powering through surviving the atrocities being faced.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 25

Maus, resistance, rescue, and survivor post

The first thing that I will say about this post is that I have never experienced anything anywhere near to the Holocaust, and therefore cannot truly say what should or should not be done in order to survive. I do not have that right. The question of what is morally right or wrong gets very muddled when dealing with events such as this. When making decisions that will determine whether you live or die, who is to say where the line is? Is there even a line in times like this? Resistance does take many forms, and the main form in which the Jewish people resisted during the Holocaust was simply by surviving. Hitler’s goal was to kill all the Jewish people, and he failed at this. There are other forms of resistance during the Holocaust, and there is one scene that stands out from Mous that begs the question of the moral line.

After the Spiegelman's sent their son Richieu away to hide with another family in the Ghetto Zawiercie, the Gestapo were going to send all of them to Auschwitz. The woman, Tosha, who was taking care of Richieu and two other children, refused to let herself and them be taken to the gas chambers, and killed herself and the three children with poison. This is resistance, refusing to let the Nazis kill them, but this is a dark form of resistance that unfortunately lets the Nazis get what they want anyways. I would argue that this possibly does cross the line, that the children might have survived, that she might have survived. This scene stood out to me the most in the novel, because it is the darkest and felt the most real to me. It felt as though it might have crossed the line. But again, I have no idea what I would have done in this situation, and I cannot truly say that this crosses any line.

Anja and Vladek were very strong in resisting during the Holocaust. I think that there were two reasons why they were successful in resisting; they were rich, and Vladek was clever. They also were quite lucky at some points. Because they had a lot of money, Vladek was often able to bribe people. He also saved up on food and extra things that they got like cigarettes in order to help himself and Anja survive. While in his therapist’s office, Art brings up the point that “I know there was a lot of luck involved, but he was amazingly present-minded and resourceful.” (Spiegelman 205). While I agree with this, the doctor answers “then you think it’s admirable to survive. Does that mean it’s NOT admirable to NOT survive?” Random people died during the Holocaust, and people like Vladek resisted, but as Art said, a lot of it was luck. If they resisted by surviving, does that mean that everyone who died did not resist? I do not think so. Like I said before, there are many ways of resisting, and surviving is only one of them.

I think that even if we are not able to draw moral line in the Holocaust, if there was one I do not think that Vladek and Anja crossed it. It is true that they looked out for themselves only during this time, although some others helped them. They made smart choices that helped them live, and most of their decisions did not hurt others. A Hungarian woman named Mancie who worked in the camps helped Vladek contact Anja when they were separated, and she helped them stay in touch. She did this for free, because she felt as though “if a couple is loving each other so much, I must help however I can.” Mancie helped aid in their resistance. In Schindler’s List, Oskar Schindler assisted many Jewish people in their resistance. He helped so many of them survive, and Hitler’s goal was to make sure there were no more Jewish people going forward. The Jewish people Schindler saved went on to have 6,000 descendents. This is resistance in itself.

Vladka Meed stated in her interview “To live, to survive as human being, to struggle…was in a way my understanding when I look back as resistant.” Simply surviving was resistance, and she explains that this paved the way for other forms of resistance later on, like illegal schools and other groups. Many people think of resistance as sort of physically fighting back, killing Nazis, taking as many as possible down with them. But like Vladka Meed said, there are many more forms.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 23

Maus and the issues of Resistance and Rescue

Resistance can be defined as the attempt to prevent something by action. The something in Maus would be dying in the Holocaust, and the action would be hundreds of jews resisting by surviving. Much like those hundreds of Jews, Anja and Vladek did that and more. An aspect of the Holocaust that made it so effective was that it pitted everyone against each other for survival, so people were willing to sell out others if it meant they would live longerl. Even though it was everyman for himself, Anja and Vladek continued to help each other and others, and live until they got to see each other. For days Anja and Vladek would be separated from each other not knowing if the other survived, but they continued to keep fighting despite the horrible conditions which almost guaranteed their death. One of the interesting things about their resistance is that although it was an everyman for himself environment they both managed to get help from those in power or with enough knowledge to help them survive longer. Both of them were extremely lucky to be polyglots so they were able to speak to many people or use it as a form of payment for food, shelter or friendship that would help them later down the road. When they were in Auschwitz Anja became friends with Mancie who helped bother her and Vladek communicate with each other, which not only helped the two of them survive but gave them hope that there were still people willing to help others even in the camps.

I think Anja’s and Vladek’s resistance was extremely impressive but also extremely lucky. Time and time again both Anja and Vladek were saved by the fact that they were fluent in various languages. Another is how many people they met along their journey in the concentration camps they knew either through family relations or acquaintances from work. Vladek was also really good at picking things up and making deals with people so he would be able to keep a job so he would get better food and accommodations along with a promise of not getting sent to the gas chamber or burners. Vladek also had to give up food to the man running the tin shop because if he didn’t bribe him he would have no promise of keeping his position. Though this luck was well deserved because of the amount of work and effort they had to put in to have these abilities before hand then decide to us it while in the camps, they were still extremely lucky for these circumstances. I personally don’t think they made any wrong decisions as they never did anything to kill anyone, and if you think about it what other choices could they have made. Yes, Vladek did lie about his occupation which could have been granted to someone who actually knew how to do the work, but he taught himself how to do it, if not better, while also giving some food to others for their help. Vladek wanted and needed to stay alive and it was a him or them situation and he chose them. There was never a guarantee that he would live either way. For this situation the only morally wrong choice would have been snitching on another person for their hiding place, their real age, their job or ethnicity and Vladek and Anja never did this.

One story that stood out to me was that of the woman who was taking care of Vladek’s first child along with some other little kids. When the Nazis came to kill them through shooting or bombing she decided to poison them. This reminded me of the doctors in Schindler’s List who poisoned the patients because there was no way the Nazis would have let them live. Though some people would argue they shouldn’t have been poisoned because what if they could have survived, I say no, that was the best choice. Not only would their survival rate already be low because the whole purpose of the Holocaust was the kill the Jews, they were also children, who even if the Nazis did think they could be of use they wouldn’t be able to survive the extreme conditions. It was heartbreaking because it was the only and best option for them and I wish it wasn’t. Though they died I feel this is also a form of resistance because they chose to go out on their own terms. Another is Macie. Even as a reader she gave me so much happiness and reassurance that there are still good people because the only reason why she chose to help them was because she wanted to keep the love going between Vlade and Anja and not because she would get paid or given more food.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 28

When we were first asked about the idea of resistance, I never considered anything other than violence. I only considered what first popped into my head, which was to physically resist. I didn’t think resistance could be anything more abstract than that. However, now, I see resistance as an attitude or a rejection. I realize that resistance is anything that goes against what people are attempting to suppress.

The Nazis, in the simplest terms, were trying to suppress the lives of Jews and other targeted groups. Therefore, any kind of survival was intrinsically, without a doubt, resistance. Additionally, any kind of joy at all was resistance. Vladka Meed talks about how in the ghettos people would break laws to learn, read, sing, and overall just live the lives that the Nazis were trying to take from them. Despite their suppression, Jews found community and happiness with each other. Vladka goes on to explain how this attitude and resistance in the ghettos influenced every other moment of resistance in the remainder of WWII.

It sort of reminds me of the concept of radical optimism. It reminds me that there is power in trying to be joyful and optimistic for the future. One of the most admirable, and I would say heroic, aspects of the those that lived during the Holocaust was they tried to hold on to joy. That was so difficult, but that joy, that will to live, was the reason some people lived through the war. It was so easy to give up, and I don’t even think that those who chose to can be blamed.

I think a large part of Anja and Vladek’s resistance came from their love for each other. Especially during Auschwitz, they lived to see each other again, and often their only joy came from hearing from one another. And to think that when Vladek was just on the train to Auschwitz he was “sure that [he was] going to be finished.” From the moment he stepped on the train, death was imminent, and yet he continued. He even had to convince Anja to keep going, to resist. He told her that, “Until the last moment [they] must struggle together!” He needed her. This makes it all the more heartbreaking that she ended her own life. At long last, she was not able to resist any longer, and once again, can you really blame her?

Moreover, the woman, Mancie, who brought things between Vladek and Anja aided their resistance just as much as the people who let the two hide in their homes. During the probably most terrifying and traumatic part of the war, Mancie brought them each the joy (and sometimes the food) to live. Again, this highlights that joy is resistance. The happiness that they shared together was greater than the danger they were faced with.

I think those that gave the Jews hope and assurance were just as important as those who gave them physical safety. It reminds me of the story Rena told about Oskar Schindler personally acknowledging her everyday and making her feel like he was keeping her safe. Her ability to believe in that safety and to remain optimistic was just as powerful as Schindler actually giving her the opportunity to work.

In terms of judging their resistance, I’m not sure I even can. In face of such trauma, how can anyone be blamed for their actions? Then again, could someone turn that question around to defend the Nazis? It’s horrific I know, but that possible manipulation points out that even within chaos and disorder, people’s morals and ethics can still be questioned. I think it’s important to make one distinction; the fact that people’s morals or ethics became twisted was in truth, not their fault.

It should be noted that Vladek never purposefully tried to endanger another Jew or targeted person. The most morally questionable things he did were to not help those that were being targeted out of fear of being targeted himself. He chose self-conservation over helping another person, and this does demonstrate his morality. He was selfish, and that cannot be denied. Yet still, I don’t think survivors should be blamed. We can use their experiences to call morality in times of chaos into question, but those being targeted should not be blamed for not “resisting.” Self-preservation, in a way, was also resisting because you were ensuring your life would be saved instead of risking it to possibly save someone else’s (but let’s be honest here; in virtually all realistic situations another Jewish person trying to step in would result in two deaths.)

Another thing that became clear to me throughout the stories of all survivors was that people lived out of luck and out of money. Those who were put on Schindler’s list were often just lucky. Vladek and Anja survived often because of bribery, or because of skills Vladek had from being wealthier, language for example. Different people took Vladek and Anja in, and without those people’s aid, the two could have been killed. They were lucky they were given help, and they were lucky they had the money to pay for that help.

The Holocaust was not designed for any Jewish or other targeted person to survive. Any people that did survive had to have at least two things. One, luck, like I said before and two, an unfathomable amount of strength. They had to have the strength to believe that life could be happy once again. Without that joy, or at least the hope of joy, I doubt the will to continue would have survived.

The beauty of Maus is that I don’t think Art Spiegelman wrote it with a message in mind. I don’t think he had a purpose or some inspiration that he wanted his audience to hear. He wanted to share his father’s story, and in turn, share his father’s story’s impact on him. However, just the existence of this story writes a thousand messages about human existence.

Boston, Massachusetts , US
Posts: 27

To many people, the word “resistance” is synonymous with the idea of physically fighting back against some force. However, in a time where physical resistance is nearly impossible, quiet acts of resistance can make a world of difference. The very existence of Art Spiegelman’s Maus is an act of resistance, because the fact that Vladek got to tell his and Anja’s stories means that evil did not triumph. Vladek and Anja would not allow themselves to go easily to the Nazis, and what’s more, they did not allow themselves to lose each other. The ways in which Vladek tried to see and help Anja despite the circumstances was a great act of resistance. The Nazis tried to take away their humanity and individuality and relationships, and yet they still struggled to maintain them. Their survival would not have been possible without the aid of many others who risked their own safety to help them (and they also helped others)— this, too, is resistance. The Nazis tried to destroy solidarity that could potentially work against them, so the act of helping someone resist, even if it is a more “passive” resistance, is resistance in and of itself.

I think Vladek and Anja resisted in any way they could, because it was all they could do. I don’t know whether we can judge their decisions as ethical or unethical as modern readers because most of us have never been in conditions anywhere near the conditions they lived through. Their chances of survival were so impossibly low, and even those who resisted as much as them most often did not survive. Every decision was a matter of life and death, and many of their choices were really “choiceless” choices: for example, giving their child to a neighbor in the hopes that he might be safer with them, despite not knowing whether they would ever see him again. In such an extreme situation, I would think that ethics were almost meaningless, and when choosing between life and ethics, I think it would be difficult to not choose life.

Every survivor of the Holocaust has a story of resistance, and I know that even those who did not survive had a story of resistance as well. As Vladka Meer said, many people would rather die by their own choice than at the hands of the Nazis, which is an act of resistance. She also resisted in order to survive; for example, she said that even living in the ghetto was resisting, because all the odds were against life, and yet it continued. No one would have survived if not for those who resisted death in the ghetto. She also spoke about how her mother gave up her bread for her, even though she was also starving, and although she died, it was out of resistance— and her resistance helped Vladka’s resistance and survival. When I was in middle school, I remember hearing a Holocaust survivor speak, and while I don’t remember many of the details of her story, one thing especially stood out to me. She said that, before the Nazis came to take from from their homes, her family had planned to commit suicide so that they would let the Nazis kill them. I’ve seen this several times now: in her story, in Schindler’s List, in Vladka’s interview, and it really reminds me how having control over your own life is so important, and how keeping that control until the end was an act of resistance. When we all heard from Rena Finder, we heard how Oskar Schindler aided her and many others by resisting his own party, and by extension, all of his workers were resisting. In writing this post, I also watched the clip of Art Spiegleman’s interview with his father, and while the entire book was the story of his father and his resistance, it struck me that actually getting to hear his voice means that he was able to live to pass down his story, and not be forgotten.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 32

Reflections on Maus and Issues of Resistance and Rescue

There is a common misconception that resistance equates to a rebellion or to resist is to physically strike back. Yet, if there’s anything that I’ve learned from reading Maus and learning about the Holocaust in this class, resistance means to defy. Defy odds, defy plans, defy fate. This true definition of resistance is seen in every single chapter, page, and cartoon of Art Spiegelman’s The Complete Maus.

Spiegelman sets the scene of his father Vladek’s life before he was able to defy the Nazi regime. It’s difficult to read the beginning of Vladek’s story while knowing what he didn’t at the time— that he would have to face death and fear over and over again in the next few years. Then, once Anja, Spiegelman’s mother is introduced, it becomes even more difficult to read as we watch her mental health decrease and still harbor the visions of what is to come for her and her family. As their story progressed, I realized just how important relationships are in resisting. Yes, resistance must first be accepted within oneself; one must acknowledge what they are about to do. But, resistance is carried out by the hope for relations one may have with others and the love in those connections. Meaning, resistance comes from hope in a different and distinct future with others. With that said, connections with people aids resistance because of their shared dream of a different future. For example, because Vladek was able to build friendships with those in the ghetto with him like Miloch, he was able to hide in his shoe tunnel. When Vladek was in Auschwitz and Anja was in Birkenau he befriended Mancie, who helped bring letters and bread between the two lovers. Mancie’s help forced Vladek and Anja to keep going and to remind them of their love for each other. Mancie’s help aided resistance. Mancie’s help allowed Vladek and Anja to be reminded of what they are defying for— their hope to live and love together.

It is also important to mention the luck that played a role in Vladek and Anja’s resistance. For example, something as small as Vladek being positioned in the train so that he could reach out and grab snow to drink and trade for sugar could have given him enough strength to live the next few days. Moreover, something as big as Vladek having a great deal of versatile work experience gave him the ability to be seen as an essential worker, adding more days to his stay in the ghetto rather than the death camps. Lastly, money saved the lives of Vladek and Anja. Because they were fortunate to have been fairly successful in business, they were more able to pay and trade for their survival. They lived a fortunate life beforehand and that was able to follow them to a degree. Therefore, it was the mental strength that Vladek and Anja had to acknowledge their defiance, the bonds they created with people around them, and pure luck that aided them in their ultimate resistance during the Holocaust.

To answer the question of my “view” of their resistance and evaluate their decisions is way beyond my ability. I did not have to suffer the way Vladek and Anja did. I did not lose a son. I did not nearly die from starvation or typhus. I did not watch people drop dead in front of my eyes. I merely read their story. With all that said, how can I be able to judge if they made good decisions in the world they were placed in? How can I even have an opinion on how they fought to survive? As for the ethics, I believe all ethics are thrown out the window in war for the enablers and perpetrators, yet Vladek and Anja, the victims, remained human. They did everything they could to resist (even if that meant unpurposely endangering another), while still being human and that is ethical and honorable.

Another survivor testimony that we have learned about is that of Rena and her account of the way in which her relationship with Oskar Schindler helped her survive. In many ways her survival story is like Vladek’s out of the luck she had to have met Schindler and be on his list and also the relationship she and him shared which kept her motivated to survive. This pattern is seen again in Vladka’s testimony as she recounts the strong bonds she shared with those in the illegal youth group. Vladka also was able to have intense mental strength to face and acknowledge the resistance that she was taking part in and the dangers that came with it. Something that Vladek, Rena, and Vladka all have in common is that they want to share their stories. They were willing to share the most horrifying and painful parts of their lives with others so that the rest of the world may be able to know their suffering. This sharing of their stories is their final strike of resistance. They are proving that they had defied what was their set fate and are now alive and able to tell of how they turned from victims to survivors.

As I was listening to Art Spiegelman’s interview of why he chose to tell his parents' story something that he said struck me: “[this] was about telling a story worth telling, at a time where this story wasn’t that well told.” This then remained me straight away of what Vladka had mentioned of the decrease in recognition and education of the Holocaust. And finally, I was able to fully understand the purpose of stories like Maus. The purpose is not only to recognize how Holocaust survivors defied all odds and survived. The purpose is not only to examine how people are willing to sacrifice and suffer for hope. This purpose is not only to honor those strong enough or lucky enough to persist. The purpose of these stories is to simply expose history— a history that holds too much weight to be forgotten. And this exposure is the strongest form of resistance that can strike even decades after.
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 27

Maus and Resistance

The book Maus has forced me to really think about what resistance looks like. While talking about his experience at Auschwitz, Vladek said, “In some spots, people did fight…But you can kill maybe one German before they kill fast a hundred from you.” Resistance is not necessarily directly standing up to the oppressor, as it was in this case; it can take many forms. Like Vladka Meed said, survival in itself is an act of resistance. Hitler’s goal was to exterminate all the Jews, and Anja and Vladek’s survival counters that goal. Vladek’s hope of seeing his wife made him keep his will to live. Going back to Vladka Meed’s words, the “daily struggle for life” from those imprisoned was resistance and this struggle pushes against the cruel and horrific intention of the Nazis. In the concentration camps, Vladek resisted by using his relationships with guards and fellow prisoners to help himself and others, whether that was sharing food and clothes or spreading messages. Anja and Vladek’s survival and resistance could not have persisted without the help of others. The two of them received aid from friends and family before they were sent to Auschwitz and Birkenau. In the camps, Mancie risked her life to relay messages and food between Anja and Vladek. Without her, Anja probably wouldn’t have survived. Knowing her husband was alive gave her strength, and it gave Vladek strength in return. Anja’s survival depended heavily on aid from others because she was struggling severely from physical and mental problems. At Dachau, the Frenchman Vladek befriended saved his life by sharing food.

Vladek and Anja also resisted by documenting and sharing their stories. Vladek mentioned Anja’s diaries about her experiences and how she one day hoped that Art would be interested in them. She clearly wanted him to read and understand her story. Vladek willingly spent so much time retelling his own experiences for Art, even though it often left him feeling weary and fatigued. In return, Art wrote the book Maus. He said that he wanted to write a comic book, but not one that people could pick up, read, and forget. Art definitely accomplished this and created a masterpiece that weaves his relationship with his father and his family’s history together. One part that stood out to me was Art’s use of his father’s photograph near the end. It is so riveting and it forces the reader to put a real face to this entire story. The passing on of Holocaust survivors’ experiences is a form of resistance at any point in time.

Vladek and Anja did everything they possibly could to stay alive. Our judgment of whether peoples’ decisions in these situations were “ethical” or “good” are not really relevant in this context. It was every man for himself, so their actions in order to keep themselves alive were justified. Even if they had knowingly or intentionally done something “wrong,” like harming loved ones or fellow Jews, it would not have been their choice to do it. These are the “choiceless choices” that Ms. Freeman mentioned earlier. The Nazis had put these people in situations that pitted them against each other and forced them to make extremely difficult decisions. It is so hard to even comprehend what was going through Vladek and Anja’s minds; the constant fear and uncertainty about everything. Looking at the two of them specifically, they used their wealth to their advantage in order to save themselves and their family. Later, Vladek put his survival first in order to reunite with Anja, but he helped so many others along the way when he could. For example, he used his connection with the Kapo to give Mandelbaum new clothes when he knew it was dangerous. While reading Maus, I continued to be blown away by peoples’ compassion and willingness to help others in the exact same situation, even when they themselves were suffering or in danger.

Holocaust survivors Rena and Vladka made it a point to share their stories, especially with younger generations. While speaking about her time in the ghettos, Vladka said that heroism didn’t exist among people, but the daily struggle for life and preservation of human dignity was their most powerful way of resisting the Nazi regime. She mentioned the formation of illegal groups like choirs, schools, and theaters that contributed to this type of preservation of life. Reflecting on Schindler’s List, Oskar Schindler was responsible for saving the lives of thousands of Jews and because of his aid, their generations were continued. After reading the scene in Maus with Art’s therapist, we can consider Art a kind of survivor as well. In an interview about Maus, he explained his depiction of Jews as mice with human bodies, stating that he was “taking [Nazi] rhetoric and turning this notion of the subhuman back on itself and letting these mice stand on their hind legs and insist on their humanity.” From individuals who survived the Holocaust to descendants like Art, those whom I have heard stories from have all depicted different forms of resistance, often in the ways we least expect.

Posts: 23

Reflections on Maus, Resistance, and Rescue

The main way Valdek and Anja showed resistance in Maus was by ultimately surviving. Their journey through the holocaust took many different paths each containing different locations, people, and experiences. The goal of Hitler and the Nazi party was to eliminate all Jewish people in Germany and it’s conquered territories. As emphasized by holocaust survivor Vladka Meed the largest form of Jewish resistance was survival, this is exactly what Valdek and Anja achieved. They maintained hope for their future together and in the end they got lucky enough to make it out alive. Along their path Anja and Valdek received help from many friends, family and strangers, in the forms of shelter, information, goods and more. It is evident that Valdeks smarts helped him on his path of resistance; there are multiple occasions where he gets special treatment from Nazis because he is helping them with job he has special skills in. This reminded me of Itzhak Stern's role as Schindlers accountant in Schindler's List, using his abilities to protect himself by making himself more valuable than others. However it is important to remember that Valdek was also lucky at many points, in the end victims' smarts couldn’t fully determine whether they would survive or not. The randomness of death vs survival seems to also be a reason why one may lose hope, because no matter how hard they resisted, still millions were unable to make it out.

Something that stood out to me was the isolation Jewish people were forced into during Hitlers reign. We know that it was the Nazis goal to eliminate the Jewish population, and in order to do so they tried to isolate them as much as possible. Not necessarily in the physical sense, because clearly there was lots of overcrowding involved in concentration camps, but more so in the mental sense. The feeling of every man for himself was evident in Maus as we saw Valdek using his riches to pay for each and every ‘favor’ given to him. Even though he was friends with many of the people he traded with, they were all extremely desperate and could not conduct risky favors for each other for free. This isolation was extremely intentional on the side of the Nazis, if there was any sort of division within the population they were controlling it would be harder for that population to resist. Nazis used cruelty to incite fear in the Jewish population, causing them to prioritize their own safety before helping others. Their resistance shows their immense strength, by maintaining their hope, using their resources, and getting lucky, they survived.

I think Valdek and Anja made good decisions throughout their journey. They used their best judgment, based on the information that was available to them, during all of their decision making. They prioritized themselves while helping others when possible, this seems like the best way to go about things given the position they were in. However it doesn’t really feel fair to judge any victims of the Holocaust in their decision making, given I have never been in their position nor one remotely similar. The decisions of Jews (or anyone persecuted) in the holocaust are not up for judgement by me.

Another person who resisted by surviving the Holocaust was Rena Finder, who we heard from after watching Schindler's list. She received help from Oscar Schindler, by working in his factory she was able to avoid staying in a concentration camp. He helped keep hope alive for the people on his list. This hope and survival was their way of resisting Hitler and his goals. Other forms of resistance by survival we have encountered are hiding from Nazi officers, or becoming part of the Nazi’s Jewish police in hopes of protecting themselves and helping others when possible.

Overall it was difficult for Jews in the Holoocaust to resist Nazi oppression in the conventional ways we think of resistance. However the hope that persevered the desire for life from Jewish victims, and the survival of some was resistance. The persecuted people of the holocaust faced cruel tourture and extremely unlikely odds of survival during their time under Hitler. For many resistance was not an option given the conditions they were forced into.

Bumble Bee
Posts: 25

Before reading Maus and hearing testimonies from survivors, I had a different idea of what resistance is. It was an idea created by movies like The Hunger Games or The Maze Runner. It was people somehow by the power of their own will breaking down a system routed into their society that had killed so many. Now I see that is an unrealistic notion of resistance. When the Jews were being persecuted, trying to physically fight back was futile. They couldn’t tear down the system because if they stepped out of line hundreds would immediately be killed. Extermination was the end goal so surviving was resistance. Jews, and other minority groups targeted by Nazi Germany, munipulated and bent the system instead of uselessly trying to shatter it. Through strength, smarts, allies, and luck, some survived and continued to resist by making their stories heard.

When Vladek, Anja, and her family were moved to the ghetto, they took advantage of their resources and made due with what they had. Anja’s family was rich, millionaires according to Vladek. They used the money and valuable possessions they had hidden away to exchange for food and safety. Anja’s father and brother-in-law, Wolfe, used their influence to get a little bigger space when they first moved to the ghetto. Before and during their move, Vladek did business on the black market and the others had jobs around town. They resisted by trying to have some essence of normalcy. As Vladka said, at that time Jews were starving and Vladek’s family fought to not go hungry. Others in their family helped them out. Wolfe’s uncle Persis took the children to his ghetto where they thought it would be safer. The woman who was taking care of Richieu and two other children poisoned herself and them because she wouldn’t let them be taken to the gas chambers. Though tragic, choosing her own way of dying, as Vladka said in the interview, was a form of resistance. Once the Germans started taking anyone regardless of if they had work papers, Vladek built a bunker for his family to hide in. When they were in their second bunker, a man spotted them. Instead of killing him to insure their safety, they spared him. Even though he later turned them in, the family kept their humanity. They resisted a fall into violence and disproved any Nazi propoganda that painted Jews as selfish and inhumane.

Vladek clearly had good people skills as he used his ability to form bonds with others to help protect him and Anja. When they ran away from the ghetto, they needed a place to hide and fast. They went to Vladek’s father’s old house since the janitor had known their family for years. The janitor let them hide in the shed in the back. Then Vladek needed to find food for them so he went to the black market under direction of a fellow stowaway Jew. He quickly formed a bond with a woman who would sell him food. She offered to let them move out of the barn they were hiding at and live with her and her son. Of course they had to pay her, but she put herself in danger in order to keep them safe. She was Polish so there was no need for her to lend them a hand, but she resisted the antisemitism and let them in. In Auschwitz, Vladek taught English to the block supervisor, a kapo. He used this relationship to help get his friend clothes that fit and a spoon for food. He also took advantage of the perks that came with the job; he got more food, fitted clothes, and didn’t have to work in physical labor. Since the kapo took a liking to him, he was able to get a job as a tinsmith after this. While working he made friends with a nice supervisor, Manice. She helped him make contact with Anja. His boss also protected him since Vladek gave him smuggled bread. He used this relationship to get a job over at Birkenau, the part of Auschwitz where Anja was. There he actually got to speak to his wife. He later became a shoe maker and again used gifts of smuggled food to gain rapport with his boss. These good relationships helped him gain a good reputation which spared him from too much brunt work or beatings. Vladek resisted the order of the camp and managed to keep himself and Anja alive with the help of companions who risked their positions, goods, and lives.

Based on Maus, Vladka’s interview, and other survivors’ stories, I’ve learned that in order to survive Nazi Jermany as a Jew you had to be clever. You had to think outside of the box and take risks. Vladka was apart of an illegal youth organization and, because of her polish features, she was sent to the other part of the ghetto to make contact with Polish people, try to find guns and dynamite on the black market, find places where Jewish children could hide, and contact other people in camps in other cities. She said there was no question as to whether she would take on this mission. She was able to help, so she did. Resistance was doing what you could to make a difference.

As Vladka said, resistance came from Jews defying the persecution they were under by continuing to live their lives. In her ghetto they had illegal schools, libraries, choirs, theaters, and writers. The moral lines previously drawn by society had been crushed by this new regime. Vladka stated, “It was an illegal life going on.” In other circumstances, having these black markets and a culture of bribery would be considered immoral, but in this time it was resistance. Morality changes based on who is drawing those lines. Even though many of the people in Maus would only help Vladek and Anja in exchange for payment, they still were putting a lot on the line for them. It would be safer to turn them in to the Nazis. Whether it was just to get more resources due to Nazis food stamps policies, it was still a form of resistance because it went against the dictatorial leaders. People did what they could. Sure some could’ve done more, but at least some did something.

Resistance didn’t stop once the war ended. People continue to resist by sharing their stories. They don’t let the Holocost get swept under the rug; they try to hold people accountable. First hand accounts like Vladka’s help stomp out Holocost deniers and force people to remember the horrid events in hopes that history won’t repeat itself. Documentations of others’ stories like Maus or Schindler’s List aid in the preservation of these accounts. They honor those who were lost and those who survived. Even though the last survivors won’t be around for much longer, these second hand accounts will act as a monument to them and to this despicable moment in history.
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 12

Reflections on Maus

In Maus, Anja and Vladek resist against the Nazis by staying alive throughout the Holocaust. Being alive is a form of resistance because the Nazis wanted to eradicate Judaism first in Germany and then in the Europe and, by being alive at the end of the war, Vladek and Anja endured and prevented the Nazis from achieving their goal of annihilation. In Maus, Anja and Vladek were assisted in their resistance by a multitude of persons. At first they were aided by family while they were in the ghetto but as time went on and Vladek and Anja’s families were sent to the concentration and extermination camps, Vladek and Anja began to be aided by friends from Sosnowiec and from people Vladek has met as well as Vladek’s cousins and siblings. By the time that Vladek and Anja were transferred to Auschwitz in 1944, most of their families were dead. While Vladek and Anja were at Auschwitz, Vladek was aided by the Kapo which helped him for two months to survive and then by the foreman when he was transferred to the metal shop. In order to survive, Vladek sent the foreman eggs and tried to be nice to him by trading gold items he still had for food.

I believe that Vladek and Anja’s resistance was courageous and truly extraordinary. Vladek’s resistance was courageous because he was able to survive and thrive just by choosing the right jobs and knowing the right people. He was able to help Anja survive by getting someone to check in on her and send her letters that he wrote. He was also able to bribe Anja in to work in the workshop near where he repaired shoes so that she was safe from getting killed. I do believe that Vladek and Anja made good, ethical decisions most of the time but sometimes they did have to bribe people in order to survive.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 24

Reflections on Maus and Issues of Resistance and Rescue

Spiegelman never intended for Maus to be a lesson to the world he was shocked by its popularity. I do not think he ever meant for his father and mother’s choices to be judged or scrutinized under a microscope. There was not meant to be a clear right or wrong or a lesson about ethics, there is no way for us to determine whether Anja and Vladek made “good” decisions since there are an infinite amount of ways this could be interpreted. Should they have joined a resistance group? Was it unethical for Vladek to “play the system”? Should they have given up Richieu earlier? Was it fair that they left Anja’s parents behind? Without a way to predict or understand the outcomes of their decisions, there was no room for them or any other survivors to consider whether or not their decisions were “good.” They did whatever they could to survive, just as everyone around them did, one of the most powerful forms of resistance. I will say that along with all the decisions they were forced to make for themselves, Anja and Vladek found a way to do what “good” people would do by maintaining a sense of community in the most harrowing of circumstances. Anja made friends with the other women in Auschwitz, she helped them and shared what she had and in return, they gave her their loyalty. Under the circumstances of Auschwitz, betraying Anja and selling her out to the guards at the camp would have been a “good” option to survive, which is what the Nazis wanted as they implemented genocide partially through the fracturing of communities, turning friends and families against each other. Those women in Auschwitz resisted the methods used to kill them by staying united despite impossible odds. Similarly, Vladek became friends with a man named Mandelbaum, who could only communicate with him, since English was the only language he had in common with anyone. Vladek did not have to befriend this man or even help him, but he chose to find a much-needed companion in the process. Just like Anja, this was another form of resistance, Vladek and Mandelbaum found hope in each other, and hope is one of the most important aspects of survival, something Vladek and Mandelbaum refused to let the Nazis take from them.

While there was no “right” or “wrong” when it came to their survival, one question that I thought about when considering their resistance through survival, was their money. I wondered whether or not they would still be alive if Anja’s family hadn’t been so wealthy or if Vladek hadn’t so cleverly created his own business through the black market. The truth is, they probably wouldn’t be. I guess that’s the part of their survival that had to do with luck, but it took so much more than that for them to be able to survive. This by no means made their lives easy, it just gave them the smallest possible chance of survival over someone that didn’t have the same resources, since we know from the book that people were killed by the same soldiers that they attempted to bribe, so valuables were not a guarantee.

I also feel as though Vladek and Anja’s love for each other was one of the fiercest forms of resistance that they used, finding a way to stay connected no matter what their circumstance was, living for each other. Anja and Vladek’s strength through each other was incredible, and they were able to keep this hope and strength through a woman who found that their love was something worth fighting for and would help them communicate, essential to both of their survival. This is an especially admirable form of resistance for Anja since even before being sent to concentration camps she struggled with mental illness and even had to go to a treatment facility. Postpartum depression ravaged her mental state and impacted her for the rest of her life. She would then go on the lose the son she had to fight to stay alive, and once again she was forced to fight a war in her mind as well as the one she was facing alongside Vladek as the Nazis came to destroy everything she loved. I know that in the end, she committed suicide but she survived and she lived for years after the war, living long enough for her son to know her and for her story to be shared with the world. Anja fought to stay alive, not only considering the circumstances around her, but the circumstances of the camp must have made the fight in her mind much more difficult. When she was separated from Vladek near the end of the book she continued to fight when all hope seemed lost and she didn’t know whether he was dead or alive. At that point Vladek himself said in the interview that they knew everything, they knew that Auschwitz was a death camp, they knew they could be killed at any moment for no reason and they knew that survival would take more than doing what they were told, it took hope that through Anja’s strength she was able to hold onto. By the end of the war, she had won and as a result, the Nazis lost.

There is no right way to resist and other Jewish people such as Vladka Meed participated in a more direct form of resistance as well as a cultural one. While Meed may have been involved in resistance fighting she also agreed that survival was a form of resistance, “Life in the ghetto was an act of resistance.” Meed said that in the ghetto, people could not make a living and had to fight a typhus epidemic and starvation. She said their philosophy was to survive, “The daily struggle for life was resistance.” While people were fighting for their lives they still found it in themselves to show kindness to others even when they had nothing. Meed told the story of a mother whose eyes were puffed from starvation but still hid a piece of bread for a rabbi that she could have easily eaten. Despite the Nazi's deliberate effort to break every person in the ghetto down into they either died or couldn’t stand to live, they failed to do so. Meed belonged to an illegal youth organization that sent her out to other parts of the ghetto to make contact with pOlish people that would help her find guns, and dynamite, tell her where to hide Jewish people, and help her contact other people in work camps. She was only 16, making her one year younger than me. There was no question for her of whether or not she would use her ability to speak Polish fluently to help, she said it was a “question of life.” At such a young age her mother and brother were taken from her and she took it upon herself to do what she could to resist.

Besides the resistance that occurred within the camps and the ghettos, there is the resistance that will last until the end of history and that is the stories of the survivors and the generations that came after them. In Vladek’s interview, he was not reluctant to tell his story, giving his entire story to his son in incredible detail. Even though Vladek burned Anja’s journals after she died, her ability to write down what she remembered was still a symbol of her strength. When Meed came to the US, she found that people thought that Jewish people were passive, which hurt her. She had a deep desire that people should know that their lives and the world were destroyed by the Nazis and wanted people to know her people’s culture especially as she watched the number of survivors diminish. Meed decided to organize teachers to teach the story of the ghettos with global history. Through her efforts to keep the stories of her people alive she has reached over 80,000 students.

By telling his parents’ stories Spiegelman also became a part of their resistance, unmasking Nazi cruelty that countless people likely had no idea had occurred, “My father was one of the collaborators on the book, but so was Hitler.” Spiegelman pushed past rejections from people who told him the Holocaust could not be discussed in this way and was still able to share this story with the world. When asked why he used mice to symbolize Jewish people he said he was, “Turning the notion of subhuman back on itself,” and, “letting them stand on their humanity.” He wanted people to understand that extermination is “what one does to vermin” and is not unique to the Nazis. He made the story re-readable, while still making a case for comics to be, “more than escapism.” Not to mention that after his mother’s suicide he experienced a mental health crisis that left him institutionalized, but just as his mother had before him he fought for his survival and his mental state, surviving to create a masterpiece that would affect the lives of millions.

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