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Ms. Bowles
Posts: 20

Questions to Consider:

1. How does generational trauma impact the children of Holocaust survivors, like Spiegelman? How does the weight of the trauma experienced by direct ancestors as well as communities as a whole play into the lives of young people today? Is it possible to move beyond generational trauma, or is it better to live with and acknowledge it? (Please note you can also discuss generational trauma from other wars, conflicts or genocides in addition to what you notice in Maus).

Word Count Requirement:

500-750 words (one post) or 300-500 words each (two posts)

Sources to Reference:

Please refer to the ideas, either using a description, quote or paraphrasing, from Maus I or II in addition to one other source in your response.

Maus I (Spiegelman,1986)

Maus II (Spiegelman,1991)

Intergenerational transmission of trauma in Spiegelman's Maus (Stanislav, 2013)

Rubric to Review:

LTQ Rubric

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 12

Living with psychological effects of traumatic events is challenging, and these effects can be passed down to younger generations. This is generational trauma. Being the child of Holocaust survivors comes with a lot of pressure to live up to expectations and feelings of guilt, anxiety, and depression. They might even feel responsible for what happened to their parents, even though they weren’t there to experience it. In the Maus books, Spiegelman is mixed up with his dead brother, Richieu. Stanislav Kolář’s IntergeneratIonal transmission of Trauma In Spiegelman’s Maus discusses the effects of this on Spiegelman. “His awareness that he did not live through the Holocaust contributes to his feelings of incompetence. Put simply, Richieu was there, while he was not! Artie seems to be disqualified for his ‘combat’ with his brother because he knows that unlike Richieu, he does not share his parents’ tragic past” (Kolář 232). Spiegelman is almost alienated here, as he knows he will never really know what his family had to go through, however he is constantly reminded of it. Spiegelman expresses these feelings in his books, Maus I & Maus II as he describes the stories his father told him about living through the Holocaust. These books were a way for Spiegelman to move past his trauma in hopes to live his life without the some of the weight of the Holocaust.

Some people might think that Maus I & Maus II are inappropriate ways for Spiegelman to try and move past the Holocaust. They might think that people shouldn’t move beyond their generational trauma because it is important and should be acknowledged. While this is true and people shouldn’t want to forget their history, it would (and should) definitely be acceptable for people to want to have a life aside from being “the child of a Holocaust survivor” or just “a Holocaust survivor.” Suppressing generational trauma, or any trauma for that matter, would make the situation much worse and would lead to more, and worse, psychological effects. The books Maus I & Maus II are a way for Spiegelman to recognize his family’s history, provide the world with authentic stories of the horrors of the Holocaust, and might make it easier for the author to move past his trauma.

Another controversial part of these books are the drawings. The choice that Speigelman made to write his books as graphic novels comes with pros and cons. For example, the drawings alongside the images make what was happening in the stories easier to understand, but it can also make it harder to read, since there are actual drawings of people going through such horrible things. The drawings also definitely would’ve been hard for Spiegleman to draw, since not only did he have to write about the horrors his dad and other victims went through, he had to illustrate it accurately. An example of this is in Maus II, where on page 41 there is a drawing of the dead bodies of the prisoners from Auschwitz piled up. This is another problem that arises from the decision to turn Maus I & Maus II into graphic novels. Spiegelman had the weight of making his drawings as realistic as possible as to not misrepresent what happened while at the same time making them tuned back enough for people to be able to look at them while reading the book.
Charlestown, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 9

Maus Question 1 LTQ

Although the comic form is commonly used in non-serious literature, Spiegelman is able to convey the emotional and historical weight of the Holocaust through telling the story of his father’s experience. In many novels that portray the realities of the period, there may be some included dialogue from survivors and overall just general information. However, this does not allow for readers to develop a genuine relationship with those individuals nor does the event seem very “tangible” in their mind. Rather in Maus, the comic format with Artie’s and Vladek’s father-son relationship does the opposite perfectly. Throughout the entirety of the novel there are snippets of where Artie and Vladek take a break from discussing the Holocaust to living out everyday situations. This can be seen when Vladek, Artie, and Francoise go back to return grocery items, “You see? I exchanged and got six dollars worth of new groceries for only one dollar” (Speigelman 90). In regular novels, it would be hard to connect to the survivors because it was so long ago and we have never been through something like the Holocaust; this ultimately makes them seem otherworldly. Instead, Vladek and Artie feel like real people who have flaws that also do similar things like us. This is amplified even more so when using visuals. It may be hard to imagine people getting physically abused, but with the lightness of the comic format and Spiegelman’s use of animals, it makes it easier to visualize and it avoids using any stereotypes to differentiate the groups. The argument that the medium lacks the seriousness needed to discuss the Holocaust can come from the fact that these snippets can be seen as “childish and off-topic”. One should take into account that Spegielman tried to make the novel come off like Vladek was telling the story to the reader, themselves. Because Speigelman directly recorded his conversations with his father about his full experience of the Holocaust it was fully transparent and real. There seem to be very few times where Vladek went around the bush about the things he did or saw such as when he needed to use the bathroom in on of the Nazi camps he stayed at, “You had to go on their heads, and this was terrible, because it was so slippery, the skin, you thought you are falling. And this was every night” (Speigelman 95.) When times like that do happen, however, you can see the reality of Vladek’s survivor's guilt and who Vladek is as a person. His experience during the Holocaust made him into the man he was until he died. That is why he is always so critical of Artie and always wants him around. He constantly regrets not giving up his first son, Richeau, to another family. If he had then he would have lived and maybe they could have been with each other again. He also lost his wife and most, if not all, of his family and friends. He wants the best for Artie but it makes him come off as arrogant and inconsiderate. This fully conveys the emotional burden that Vladek now holds.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 7
Art Spiegelman didn’t interview Vladek and write Maus for the general public, he did it for himself, to learn and to connect. Art does not want to remain detached from the Holocaust, and by trying to learn more about his family's history he is making it a part of his personal narrative that he will pass on to future generations of his family. Throughout the story, Art talks about how he feels disconnected to his family because he didn’t experience the Holocaust and he feels guilty that he didn’t have to endure all of it. He is trying to take some of the burden off of Vladek and make it his own, learning how to cope. At the same time, Art seems disconnected with himself and his relationship with Vladek. The first lines of Maus is Art setting the scene by saying, “I went out to see my father in Rego Park. I hadn’t seen him in a long time- we weren’t that close,” setting up the struggle of familial relations present in the book, especially accounting for the generational trauma experienced and the lack of understanding between generations. Maus continues to define Spiegleman’s life, through media attention and questions directed at him, likely making him feel like an inaccurate representation of the Holocaust, because he didn’t experience it, but he was shoved into the spotlight from his books. Maus is Vladek’s story, but it would not have been preserved if not for Art. While reading Maus, it felt, to me, like Art had exploited his father, in the sense that the interviewing is their only connection and Art’s biggest priory. Simultaneously, that is juxtaposed with Art’s ‘repaired’ relationship with Vladek, if not for creating this story then they would have never reconnected. This disconnect is a large part of generational trauma and the repercussions on individuals and communities. Vladek has never been able to move past his trauma, no matter what he has tried. In Stanislav Kolář’s Intergenerational transmission of Trauma In Spiegelman’s Maus he describes how “the original recipients of trauma…is often characterized by the feeling of displacement, living in temporal and spatial exile, estrangement and the experience of a lack and absence which frequently leads to an identity crisis” (Kolář 229). This is an accurate description of how Vladek responds to his trauma. He is insecure of his money and his family, to the extent that he saves everything and finds ways around paying for items. Art and Francois are visiting Vladek and they witness the extreme of his trauma induced tendencies, returning open groceries. Vladek argued with a grocery store manager and managed to exchange the open groceries he had and get “six dollars worth of new groceries for only one dollar!” Vladek is constantly worried about wasting, which makes sense given the lack of food and poor conditions he experienced. Art comments that he would “rather kill myself than live….everything Vladek went through. It’s a miracle he survived” but then Francois counters Art’s view saying that “in some ways he didn’t survive” which sums up how people can be trapped in their trauma. Trauma like this is carried on by individuals who experienced it and their descendants who find ways to cope, it can never fully disappear, but it can fade into the background of a larger tapestry of family history. It felt to me that Art’s goal was that while Vladek is alive Maus is his story, then it becomes part of the Spiegelman family narrative.
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 10

Generational trauma in Maus I and II

The horrors of the Holocaust more than devastated the Jewish communities of Europe and around the world. Not only were 6 million Jewish people murdered, but the survivors faced trauma as a result of their experiences during the Holocaust. However, survivors were not the only ones affected by trauma. The effects of the Holocaust didn’t end after one generation but lasted through the effects of generational trauma on the ancestors of survivors. Stanislav Kolar’s “intergenerational transmission of trauma in Spiegelman's Maus” asserts that, “Art’s story confirms the assertion that generations which have never been exposed to a traumatic event can ‘inherit’ the trauma of their ancestors and that the most common channel of this intergenerational and transgenerational transmission is through the family,” (Kolar 228).

In Maus, Art Spiegelman clearly details his trauma through his conversations with his therapist about his father. When the therapist, an Auschwitz survivor himself, questions Art about his feelings about the Holocaust, Art realizes, “No matter what I accomplish, it doesn’t seem like much compared to surviving the Holocaust.” What Vladek Spiegelman, Art’s father, went through, overshadows Art’s whole life.

Additionally, a form of generational trauma that Art experiences is a strained relationship with his father. Vladek’s personality was hardened and otherwise shaped because of his Holocaust trauma. Throughout his story, Art continues to characterize his father as frugal and paranoid. This led to disagreements between Art and Vladek such as the one they had over wasting cereal in Maus II. “I can’t forget it… Ever since Hitler, I don’t like to throw out even a crumb,” said Vladek. Art responded, “Then just save the damn special K in case Hitler ever comes back (Spiegelman 78). To someone who lost friends, family, his wife, and even one of his own children due to the Holocaust, Art’s comment was insensitive and even cruel. But, Art’s lashing out at his father demonstrates the effects of his generational trauma.

Today, Jewish communities as a whole still face generational trauma from the Holocaust. This year following the Hamas massacre on October 7, 2023, Jewish students on various college campuses have been afraid to go outside. The collective fear in the Jewish community since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war is rational because of the alarming rise in antisemitism in the United States. However, even before this year, Jewish communities were still scared.

The Holocaust is a large part of Jewish culture today. But, even though most Jewish people’s families were affected by the Holocaust, the amount of communities with remaining survivors is dwindling. As we lose the last generation of Holocaust survivors it is important that Jewish people do not choose to move past our collective generational trauma so that we continue to acknowledge and remember the Holocaust. In doing so, it will contribute to combating antisemitism and all other forms of hate. I agree with behappy19’s point that acknowledging trauma is the first step to accepting it and getting over it, but in the case of the Holocaust, it is also important to also keep it in memory.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 15

“How can the children of survivors be survivors themselves?” Amy Hungerford asks. I would have once said that they cannot since they did live through the experience. But after reading Maus, I have come to realize that these children of survivors did in fact live through the experience, in this case the Holocaust. They lived through the Holocaust by means of their parents' memories and the way these experiences changed their parents, changing their own experiences. These children may poke fun at their parents, making jokes about their experiences, but in reality these stories have also shaped them. They have heard these stories over and over for their entire lives.

In my own experience, there are certain stories that have just been repeated so much that I myself could tell them as if I had been there, as if I had been alive. These stories have shaped my life, the way I behave, and my very identity.

However, despite this pain and trauma, there will always be a level of understanding which the children of survivors lack. As people say, hindsight is 2020, and because of this it can be quite difficult to understand the choices the people who came before you made. This can create a kind of alienation between generations and anger on both sides, which we can see in Art and Vladek’s relationship.

With this comes a sense of guilt that you yourself didn’t experience the hardship and suffering. This is best seen in a conversation Art has with Francoise where he talks about how when he was younger he used to think about if he would save his mother or father if he had to choose between them and imagine that there was Zyklon B coming out of the shower head. These memories passed down from his parents became so vivid they became part of his own reality.

I, for instance, have a hard time connecting with my grandparents. While I know the facts of their story and why they came to the United States, I don’t understand the rationale behind their following decisions. I don’t understand why they have only made friends with other Colombians and other people from Spanish speaking countries, but I know that this community has for them created a sense of normalcy and continuity. I don’t understand why my grandfather never really tried to learn English, but I know that they were in their late 40s when they got here. I myself feel simultaneous guilt that I am not more understanding and frustration that they cannot mold to my expectations.

This weight and sadness spans more than just one or two generations, it spans centuries and creates communities bound together on the basis of their shared trauma, something that has historically been especially true for Jewish communities around the globe. This further perpetuates the Us vs Them mentality which is a major contributor to war, conflict, genocide, and other atrocities. It is impossible however to move beyond generational trauma, as it becomes so integrated in people's psyches. As a result, the only way for communities like this to move forward is to live with generational trauma and acknowledge it.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 15

Originally posted by shortdog on March 06, 2024 10:00

Being the child of Holocaust survivors comes with a lot of pressure to live up to expectations and feelings of guilt, anxiety, and depression.

I think that this is a very important point to make. These feelings of pressure, guilt, anxiety, and depression are also very common among children of immigrants. I myself find my family, especially my grandmother, quite intimidating. How their entire lives were uprooted and how they had to start over in the US. Their success at times can feel like an unreasonable expectation that I must somehow meet and even exceed.

Posts: 12

The generational trauma depicted in Maus is a particularly realistic and effective portrayal. Spiegelman is not afraid to show casual, candid, unpolished scenes between him and the other characters who survived the Holocaust, even including bits of conversation in which him and his father joke about the Holocaust and openly criticizing his father rather than idolizing him. Spiegelman’s repeated use of authorial intrusion also helps to fully articulate the difficulties of understanding one’s own generational trauma, as he openly explains how difficult making this book was and the complexities of his relationship with his father. Additionally, Spiegelman’s struggle to cope with his generational trauma are depicted in a more subtle way: the drawings themselves. His use of animals to represent each type of character—Jewish, German, Polish, etc.—shows “authorial distance from the past” as it “enables him to avoid a total identification with the Holocaust,” as he did not live through it himself and thus, is only familiar with it via “postmemory” (“Intergenerational transmission of trauma in Spiegelman’s Maus”).

Furthermore, Maus illustrates how it is never possible to move beyond generational trauma, as even Spiegelman’s struggle to understand his father and his lack of knowledge regarding what his parents lived through does not stop these events from still impacting him in his everyday life. His family dynamic was greatly affected, namely by the death of his brother, his mother’s suicide, and his father’s character, and this is a large part of the legacy of the Holocaust. Spiegelman certainly presents a strong argument that it is better to live with and acknowledge generational trauma, as the process of writing Maus itself, during which he finally took the time to speak with his father and hear his story in full, is what allowed Spiegelman to build a closer relationship with his father and also work through his own issues as a second-generation survivor. If he had not taken the time to address his family’s trauma, he would likely have missed the opportunity to learn about an event that shaped his life and will always have a great impact on him.

Posts: 11

Maus is a convoluted tale of grief, loss, and discovery as Art Spiegelman departs on a painful journey of self-discovery through conversations with his father. He attempts, as deepwaternearshore wrote, to make his family’s history “part of his personal narrative that he will pass on to future generations.” Book one, subtitled “My Father Bleeds History,” already suggests how deeply interwoven WWII and the Holocaust were into Vladek Spiegalman’s identity. Having endured a lifetime of horrors, a large part of Vladek is defined by the Holocaust. His blood---the very fabric of his being---contains history and tales that very few have survived to tell. This is further proven by how, as his memory worsens in the final months of his life, he cannot remember a phone call that took place yesterday but says to Artie, “The war. Yah. This I still remember” (Spiegalman 128). After the traumatic events of the Holocaust, the “feeling of displacement, living in temporal and spatial exile, estrangement and the experience of a lack and absence,” his father felt directly affected Artie (Kolář 229). Children of Holocaust survivors often go through “what LaCapra calls “empathic unsettlement” and/or “muted trauma”” where “trauma is grafted onto his psyche” despite not having gone through the Holocaust himself (Kolář 228). This is seen in Art Spiegalman’s youth experiences where he would “think about which of [his] parents [he’d] let the Nazis take to the overs if [he] could only save one of them” (Spiegalman 14). Even as a small child, he had at least some knowledge and understanding of the events of the Holocaust and it affected his psyche. Now, in adulthood, he expresses confused and conflicting desires about the past. Once, he tells Francoise “I somehow wish I had been in Auschwitz with my parents so I could really know what they lived through” (Spiegalman 16). Another time, he expresses that he'd “rather kill [him]self’ than go through what his parents did. I think that this is likely a feature of the generational trauma that children of Holocaust survivors endure, where they cannot even begin to wrap their heads around what their family has survived.

While simultaneously knowing and understanding more about loss than many people do, Art is isolated by what he does not know---what he has not been through. Throughout Maus I and II, his guilt is palpable. He is guilty and angry for not understanding: for not understanding what his parents endured, for “having an easier life than they did,” for not understanding himself, and for not understanding his brother, whom he has never met. The millions of people murdered in the Holocaust are not just statistics: they were family members and loved ones whose absence was felt deeply by the survivors. However, Art never knew Richeau, his brother who died during the war and feels his loss differently. He knows he will never be the first child, but he will always be an only child in a sense. This affects him psychologically while growing up, mentally feuding with the old photograph of Richeau; Art resents the brother he never had and also feels desperately lonely without him. Overall, this leads him to feel further disconnected from his parents, because this is yet another thing that he will truly never understand about their lives.

There is a reason that there are so many stories from the children of survivors. Authors work through their generational trauma through creative expression and tell heartbreaking beautiful stories by doing so. I think that there is a special connection between these stories, especially those of survivors who have lost children. The first examples that come to mind are The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui and The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. A graphic novel similar to Maus, The Best We Could Do is about the author’s family and is told in a dual past-present narrative. Survivors of the Vietnam War and part of the “boat people,” Bui and her siblings experience similar generational trauma to Art Spiegelman. She reflects on how her mother had two children pass away before she was born, saying “How does one recover from the loss of a child? How do the others compare to the memory of the lost one?” (Bui 57). Although it is later discovered that they lived, Jingmei Wu’s twin sisters in The Joy Luck Club were disguised from her. After being forced to abandon them as war took China, Jingmei’s mother frantically searched for them but was never successful. This impacted how she acted as a mother toward Jingmei, who, in turn, built resentment toward her mother similar to Art’s resentment toward his father. I highly recommend reading either or both of these works, as they are wonderful and powerful stories that I do not have the time to deeply analyze here.

I believe that generational trauma cannot simply be moved on from and neglected. I think that many adults suppress their experiences and unintentionally take out emotions on their children who do not understand the history of what their families have been through. It is not entirely possible to move beyond generational trauma, but I think that the first step comes from listening, learning, and acknowledging emotions healthily. Graphic novels (or any other type of recorded story) like Maus help retain stories and, as deepwaternearshore said, keep them from fading “into the background of a larger tapestry of family history.”

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 14

Spiegelman expresses guilt over being the “dissapointment son” and not suffering from the Holocaust. He often compares himself to his dead brother Richieu, who died during the war, and imagines the great things he would have done if he had survived. Artie believes that he will never be able to live up to what he could have been. Along with the fact that Vladek barely talks about Richieu, it causes Artie to create false narratives about his brother, even though he was merely a child when he died. Understandably, Artie also struggles to understand what his parents experienced and often questioned if it was wrong to be the one telling his father’s story because it felt “inadequate trying to reconstruct a reality that was worse than my darkest dreams” (Spiegelman,1991). He feels guilt over living an easier life than what anyone else in his family endured, only to feel as if he wasn’t living up to their “expectations” of being a perfect, caring son. Artie and his father didn’t have the healthiest relationship, as Artie found his father irritable, especially as he grew older and ill. Vladek ends up referring to Artie as “Richieu '' on his “death bed”, showing how Vladek was never able to discard memories of the Holocaust, even if he tried to do so physically with the destruction of Anja’s diaries. The Holocaust has become part of Artie’s personal narrative, despite not experiencing it first-hand, because the long-lasting toll it took on his father impacted their relationship.

Not only is their guilt in Maus, but also self-accusation from Artie. His mother committed suicide and it seems as if Artie barely got the chance to know her. He and Vladek never expected that Anja would commit suicide and“He feels responsibility for her death because he realizes that his resentment, be it a pose or a sign of the alienation from his parents, could be interpreted as a betrayal” (Stanislav, 2013). Feeling at fault for someone’s suicide is a truly awful feeling, and Artie regrets that he didn’t do enough for his mother to stay alive.

Many of the direct ancestors who experienced a weight of trauma are not aware of the burden it puts on future generations because they have already survived and endured horrifying events, they may believe that they are able to endure these burdens. Another reason why generational trauma exists is because many family members don’t recognize it within their families, or only when it is too late. Ignoring generational trauma doesn’t necessarily mean it goes away, only piling up for the next generation. Dealing with generational trauma is not always linear. Artie constantly deals with the simultaneous presence and absence of a Holocaust memory. By hearing his father’s stories, he is able to feel more connected to his family and understand how the Holocaust changed his father’s nature.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

Spiegelman’s use of comic form is relatively effective in conveying the emotional and historical weight of the Holocaust as it conveys the constant struggle to find extra rations of food and monetary value, the intricate ways in which status could affect someone’s chances of survival and a display of appropriate violence for a comic book. Although the comic style is perhaps seen as a childish rendition of a very serious topic, the book never frays away from displaying the horrors of the Holocaust and its effect postwar. Unlike many comic books depicting superheroes or childhood fables, Maus is written with a clear element of realism that places the reader in the middle of the Holocaust while also after the war is over with the narrative of his widowed father. The best example that demonstrates the realism in this series would be in book 1 pages 100-103 in which Art is sharing a comic book he created that displayed the tragedy of his mother’s suicide and how it effected both myself and his father. This is an extremely sensitive topic in which traditional comic books would never experiment to narrate. The illustrations demonstrate an intense moment in which everyone depicted are deeply distraught by the tragedy, wearing faces that scream of years of torture and pure anguish. Although this comic book is brief it resonates with readers as it easily shifts their focus from a stranger’s family to their own. Having the ability to relate a story so tragic to one’s own family will most likely make us rethink about the way family is prioritized in one’s life. In the second book a scene that stood out as realistic was the one depicted on page 107 as it sets the setting well enough for a reader to picture what it looked like to be there in real life. The visual of the man trying to escape by swimming in the lake is something that readers initially think they would most probably do. As a reader this scene demonstrates the pure darkness both literally and figuratively and it is a testament to the fact that Maus is able to supplement darker elements into comic books. In addition the contrast between the present and past is a brilliant way of explaining the effects of the Holocaust without deliberately stating what exactly affected families after the war. For example throughout the graphic novels, Vladek is constantly battling his health as well as his cheapskate nature. His health concerns are most likely due to the stress he underwent in the tribulations he faced as a victim of the Holocaust. His heart fails on Vladek consistently and as a result he has to take various medications in order to preserve his body as healthy as he possibly can. His cheapskate nature as displayed throughout the book derives from the years of struggle under Nazi control, trying to find a way to gain an extra ration or opportunity to survive the Holocaust. Vladek is seen trying to return open food, picking up a wire from the street, and risking injury on his roof all in the name of preserving the money he currently has. Vladek's subconscious is gathering as much money as possible in order to have the opportunity to react to another tragedy if something were to happen. It is clear that he has not recovered from the Holocaust as his nature was completely different to citizens of the same age. By clearly displaying Vladek’s struggle to return to living a normal life in which he would live to use his money in retire, Maus is demonstrating its presence as a serious comic book on the Holocaust.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

Generational Trauma in Maus I and II

Trauma is something that never goes away. Although therapy and other tactics can be used to lessen the burden that trauma is, it always stays with the carrier. Once someone has experienced something traumatic, that person lives with that mark their entire life. And this affects the way that this person interacts with not only the world around them, but the people.

In Maus, the way that Vladek interacts with his son tells the story of his trauma. Vladek likes to ignore, and almost pass by little problems, because he would rather not acknowledge them than fix them. He is also very much a help rejecting person, which is seen whenever someone tries to do anything for him without him asking for help. Vladek almost lives with the burden of being alive. He feels guilty because he survived, and so, so, so many did not.

I too see this in my own life. I see how hard it is for my mother to calmly communicate her feelings to me and my father, because the way she was taught to communicate them was through violence and yelling and ignoring. I see how self-sustainable my father is, and how there is always food in the house, because he didn’t have anyone to depend on when he was younger, and he never knew if there was going to be food on the table. I saw how ashamed he felt when he couldn’t find work, although he never communicated that to me. Because that is how he was raised, to acknowledge the problem but never speak on it.

I do think it is possible to heal generational trauma, and I think that starts with a conversation. Art Spiegelman was right to start collecting his father’s story, because that is how he started healing. To heal you first need to understand. Spiegelman understood his father’s story, understood why his father was the way he was, and in that way he was almost able to forgive his father and not pass that same trauma onto his children.

I pick bits and pieces of my parent’s pasts out, and I try to make sense of them. Now, when I fight with my mother, I try to sit and talk about it with her. I try to assure my father that I am there for him and love him no matter what, and let him know that I know he’s here for me too. Healing from generational trauma is hard, and everyone's healing is different. Ignoring trauma, and trying to forget every bad thing that has happened to you, your mother, your father, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles may feel easier, but that just feeds into the cycle of generational trauma. And talking about trauma and traumatic experiences is hard, and it hurts to hear about the people you love being hurt, but that hurt is necessary. That conversation is necessary. Trying to understand that story and that trauma is where the healing starts.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

Generational Trauma

Generational trauma can impact the children of Holocaust survivors in several different ways. In Spiegelman’s case, he grew up to be deeply affected by Vladek’s experiences. In addition, his father’s behavior and attitude were shaped by his experiences in the Holocaust, which profoundly affected his relationship with Art. Throughout Maus I and Maus II, present day Vladek has a lot of anxiety over things in his day to day life, and Art had adopted this behavior as well. This reveals that trauma experienced by direct ancestors certainly plays into the lives of young people.

Another large part of Spiegleman’s generational trauma is survivor's guilt, especially in relation to his brother, Richieu. Art grew up in the shadow of his older brother, but he never got to meet him. His parents kept a portrait of Richieu in their room which can be hard for Art as he feels compared to him. The portrait serves as a constant reminder of his family's hardships, and the memory of Richieu creates an atmosphere of sadness. Furthermore, Vladek always compares Art to Richieu, which only makes his survivor’s guilt worse, and he feels that he cannot live up to Richieu’s memory. In a way, Art feels like he is just a replacement for the son that his parents loss, instead of being valued in his own way. Ultimately, this creates a lot of tension between Speigelman and his father.

I am able to see some generational trauma in my family as well. My grandfather was a US combat medic in WWII and witnessed extremely difficult things in the war, including the liberation of Dachau in April of 1945. This caused a lot of anxiety and sadness surrounding the topic, which I have noticed my mom internalized as well. This reflects how it is difficult for the children of those who experienced traumatic events to come to terms with the fact that their loved ones went through something so hard.

Posts: 11

Generational Trauma in Maus

Generational trauma in Maus usually presents itself in the form of Vladek trying to save one thing or another. He most commonly tries to save money for the family which can be seen when he does things like refuse to hire help of any kind. During the war, Vladek’s money was a scarce and valuable resource. It seems that post-war his mindset did not change. He has thus put this pressure on his son as he constantly reminds him how saving money is paramount. Vladek also emphasizes saving food for the same reasons. This is seen when Art tells of how Vladek would make him eat all of the food on his plate and if he didn’t it would be re-served to him until he ate it all or Anja threw it out. Art did not live in a time of food scarcity when he was a child, but because Vladek had experienced such desperation for food, he tried to make his son live the same way. Trauma is not going to disappear and it is one thing to process what you have been through, but forcing some of the same stress Vladek experienced onto his son creates “obvious tension and [a] very complicated relationship between father and his son” in Maus (Kolář 12). It is this generational trauma and treacherous relationship between father and son that make Maus such a crucial piece of work. Not every Holocaust survivor expresses their trauma the same ways as Vladek as seen by Mala complaining about his actions, but every Holocaust survivor does carry their trauma with them. Maus reveals how trauma experienced by a parent can affect their relationship with those around them, especially their children.

Critical Thinker
Posts: 10

Generational Trauma :)

As a fourth generation holocaust survivor, I would say that generational trauma does not go away, can not be ¨moved beyond¨, nor should it. It is unfair to minimize or shove behind you the trauma that people have suffered, and being able to live with, acknowledge, and respect it is incredibly important. Personally, while I felt for Spiegelman I thought he was incredibly uncaring and inconsiderate towards his father throughout the book. There are clear moments that show both of their trauma, such as Vladek´s need to do everything himself and not waste food, and Artie´s feelings towards his brother, that he wished he had someone to push his father off on.

I believe that the children of holocaust survivors, and from what I have heard and read most children with parents of any kind of real struggle, feel this need to prove themselves to their parents, to show that they are just as strong as them. They feel the guilt of living a happy life, of not having experienced and never being able to understand what it is that their parents went through, even if they get the play by play story as Artie did. Artie clearly struggles with the fact that his father does not approve of his career, or how he sees himself as a failure in the scene with him and the therapist. I see this in how the children of other holocaust survivors act as well, too. Both of my grandparents (and my mom and her siblings, as a result), along with great Uncles were and still are extremely high-achieving individuals. They continue to work, travel the world for conferences, and do everything they can to, I assume, prove their worth. I also see in my grandfather this incessant need to save money, to not waste anything, which I assume was pushed upon him by his parents. I never knew my great grandparents, who survived, but I hear stories of them from my mother, hear how much they impacted her life. Trauma often pushes people, pushes the next generation to do better.

I´ll be honest, the holocaust does not influence the lives of young people, or my generation, too much anymore. My theory is that you need to have sufficient contact with the original person with trauma to truly gain an understanding of how it affected them, and to be largely affected by it. Even Spiegelman, as Vladek´s child, does not really understand his pain. He tries to, of course, but while reading Maus it felt more like a telling of events than a capture of emotion. And he makes it clear that his father angers him, that he does not understand his thinking. He does not want to live with him, to take care of him. He wants to forget, to move on from the guilt he feels talking to his father (I know, it is not explicitly stated in the book, but as much as he tries to portray his true thoughts you can never trust the narrator). It is easier for him to forget entirely, and that is exactly why we can't allow it to happen.

An article on generational trauma in Maus states ¨it is possible to say that the transmission of the cataclysmic wartime experiences across generations has formed a significant part of the identity of the children of survivors, and has become one of the crucial constituents of their Jewishness, regardless of the extent of their assimilation¨, and I think this is so true (Stanislav 3). In current generations, trauma has become more a part of an identity, rather than an individual struggle. When I was younger, I wasn't even able to separate the two. I used to think that everyone who was Jewish were descendents of holocaust survivors, that it was normal, common even. That generational trauma is something I acknowledge, respect, but do not cry over, it does not bring pain. However I am pretty far down the line, and as I said I can see how it has affected closer descendants. I believe to move forward for them communication is key, as is understanding. The trauma that people have suffered can be respected without being forgotten. For example, my mom refused to let me learn German because of the memories she has of her grandmother breaking down whenever she heard it spoken even decades after the war. And my mom refused to use my dad's last name while in Israel, because it´s meaning (DeCapo, ¨The Kapo¨) still brought horrible memories to many. This is a way to acknowledge the pain that has been caused, but to still move on with your life, to not let it drag you down. Moving beyond the trauma of your ancestors is a disservice to what they went through, to their memory, and while it still affects people, over time wounds heal and stories are the only thing left to keep the memory alive.

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