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Ms. Bowles
US
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

souplover
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 10

Generational Trauma

In ‘Intergenerational transmission of trauma in Spiegleman’s Maus’, Marianne Hirsch is quoted as saying, “[p]ostmemory characterizes the experience of those who grow up dominated by narratives that preceded their birth, whose own belated stories are evacuated by the stories of the previous generation shaped by traumatic events that can neither be understood or recreated”. The quote acknowledges the profound effect that trauma has on second generation survivors: Even though Spiegelman himself did not experience the Holocaust, it has been a perpetual aspect of his life, a shadow that he lives under. His trauma from both his life and the Holocaust has been overshadowed and unrecognized by the horrific experiences of his parents. Ipiegelman expresses this in Maus II, writing, “I feel so inadequate trying to construct a reality that was worse than my darkest dreams”. Because it was on no level similar to that of his parents, his own trauma is overlooked. Marianne Hirsch argues that Spiegelman’s use of animals instead of people in Maus is his attempt to create “generational distance from events of which he has no firsthand experience”, saying that it, “enables him to avoid a total identification with the Holocaust, and hence to forestall the ethically unacceptable appropriation of an event he has not lived through.” In this quote, Hirsch claims that Spiegelman has exploited his father’s experiences, which goes against the earlier definition of postmemory, that even the children of survivors have trauma. In this, I disagree: Since Vladek’s trauma influenced Art’s childhood, Art has some ownership over the Holocaust too. And his purposes for writing Maus aren’t bad: He states clearly in the first book that he doesn’t want to turn Maus into a money-making enterprise. He wrote Maus to confront his family’s past. It’s undeniable that the trauma from the Holocaust contributed to his mother’s mental health and he explicitly describes a rivalry he felt with his dead older brother. Even though Maus helped him better understand Vladek and their relationship, it isn’t just his family or his father’s story, it’s part of his story.

Vladek is scrupulous to the point that it infuriates Art. Mala exclaims “He’s more attached to things that people!” (Spiegleman 93). But owning things was how he survived the war. Trading food and goods saved him his life in the concentration camp, giving him better treatment. As a child, he forced Artie to eat everything. “when I was little, if I didn’t eat everything Mom served, Pop and I would argue ‘til I ran to my room crying [...] Mom would offer to cook something I liked better, but Pop just wanted to leave the leftover food around until I ate it. Sometimes he’d even save it to serve again and again until I’d eat it or starve” (Spiegelman 43). And this of course was a response to his own life, where he was deprived of food. As a prisoner of war and as a prisoner in Auschwitz, Vladek was hungry. His own father starved him to avoid the draft. Spiegelman cites in detail how even his career has been influenced by his father: “He made me completely neurotic about fixing stuff [...] one reason I became an artists was that he thought it was impractical– just a waste of time…it was an area where I wouldn’t have to compete with him” (Spiegelman 97). But, similar to his stinginess, Vladek’s skill was how he made it out of Auschwitz alive. Artie sees Vladek as controlling and becomes angry when Vladek throws out his coat. But this stemmed from Vladek’s lack of proper clothes during the war. He describes in detail how many prisoners in his camp did not have clothes that fit him. “His pants were big like for 2 people, and he had not even a piece of string to make a belt. He had all day to hold them with one hand … one shoe was big like a boat. But this at least he could wear. One shoe, his foot was too big to go in. This also he had to hold so he could find maybe with whom to exchange it. It was winter, and everywhere he had to go around with one foot onto the snow” (Spiegleman 29). Everything comes from a desire for his son to have a better life than him.

buttercup
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

LTQ 7/8

Generational trauma is passed down through genetics, environmental factors, Vladek’s parenting style, his relationship with his son, and the mentality/behaviors/stories he passes down to Artie. There are many examples of Vladek’s personal trauma from the Holocaust throughout Maus I and Maus II. First, Vladek’s relationship with food is briefly highlighted in pages 43 to 45 in Maus I. He mentions being forced to eat everything on his plate or starve when he was younger, which can lead to disordered eating habits (Spiegelman 43-5). This behavior was further reinforced when he was sent to the concentration and labor camps during WWII. Food was extremely scarce and resources were unstable, so it made him develop a scarcity mindset around food and even other things. This is why he is so intent on saving every last bit of food and every last cent, as well as being extremely frugal by taking free things and demanding refunds on half used products. Another example of him being cheap is when he picks up the trash telephone wire to use (Spiegelman 116). Artie gets frustrated with him, and I think this is because he does not have the same outlook on life where he must save everything and spend as little money as possible; he is not in a scarcity mindset. This does not mean that Artie has not been impacted or has not inherited trauma from Vladek’s experiences. In fact, something that stuck out to me was the scene about Artie’s reaction when he learned that Vladek destroyed Anja’s diaries. I think that his reaction was partially because he felt frustrated with his father for severing one of his only connections with his family history. Artie feels guilty for being the only one in his family that did not suffer through the Holocaust, like survivor’s guilt, so he feels obligated to learn as much as he can about his family’s experiences and their trauma. I think Vladek burned the books because he does not want to confront his trauma, but Artie wants to understand the generational trauma. Another example of Artie experiencing survivor’s guilt is in Maus II, as he has nightmares of the SS and Zyklon B coming out the shower, which represents his subconscious guilt of having an easier life than they did. Artie is definitely willing to confront his family’s past, which cannot be said for the majority of older generations, whether that be Jewish people in the Holocaust or just in general. As Stanislav says, “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. Spiegelman’s book mirrors Art’s fraught, very complicated relationship with his father, and, although his autobiographical character shows a certain resistance to his identification with Vladek’s experience, and sometimes even appears to lack empathy towards his suffering, there is no doubt that this trauma is grafted onto his psyche” (Stanislav 228). I agree with his statement and analysis of Artie’s relationship with his father. Generational trauma is complex and layered, and each person handles it differently. The weight of trauma experienced by direct ancestors heavily influences the identity of young people of today’s world, their perception of the world around them, their relationships with their ancestors/family history, and how they develop as people. As souplover said, “Even though Maus helped him better understand Vladek and their relationship, it isn’t just his family or his father’s story, it’s part of his story” (souplover). This shows that generational trauma is complex and multi-faceted, exploring this trauma through mediums such as re-telling of these stories can help people understand their family and understand themselves. I think it is possible for people to move past generational trauma, but living with it and acknowledging it can also be helpful. It ultimately depends on the person and the situation, because each person handles trauma differently, as I said earlier. Moving past it can mean that the person just ignores the pain and white-knuckles through it, which may not be beneficial in the long run when all the suffering and emotions catches up to them. Acknowledging the trauma is important because it can help break the cycle of trauma being passed down, it validates the experiences of those who suffered, it promotes recovering from the trauma, and it helps one understand the cultural and family history associated with the event(s).

behappy19
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 10

Generational Trauma

Tragic events can leave a permanent scar on a person’s brain, this is called trauma. This trauma stays with that person for the rest of their life and even if not seen it will always be in their brain. The Holocaust was one of the worst atrocities to happen in history and those who went through this genocide were left scarred for life. Art Spiegelman writes the story of his father, Vladek, during the Holocaust and what he went through as a Jewish person. The experiences of his father were portrayed through comics, but this did not diminish their impact. The scenes of his father and mother losing countless of their family members was heartbreaking. When Art asked his father about his family he could only list those who had died showing how much his father had lost. The trauma that Vladek carries is exhibited after the Holocaust as he does not trust many people and saves everything as if he needs to prepare for the worst to come. This particularly impacts his second wife, Mala, who gets frustrated with his refusal to spend any money. This all stems from his trauma and this took Art the majority of the book to understand how his father was still impacted. Although Art was not alive during the Holocaust he has trauma as well as it has been passed down from generation to generation. His mother, Anja, ended her life due to the Holocaust and this greatly impacted him as this is the only scene in the books where the characters are portrayed as people and not animals. The Holocaust not only took his mother and father’s families away, but his own. The article, “Intergenerational transmission of trauma in Spiegelman's Maus” by Stanislav states, “Yet he connects this tragedy with the Holocaust, because his mother’s death can be said to complete the violent annihilation of his family.” A family member that Art never met was his older brother who had died during the Holocaust, but Art constantly compared himself to him. Art grew up with a family who went through purgatory and this isolated him. Art according to the article mentioned above, “is aware of the fact that he has failed to meet his parents’ expectations and has become a source of disappointment for them.” The first scene in Maus I shows how even when Art was younger he could not connect with his father as Vladek had a completely different mindset.

The Maus series is the reality for so many families who had ancestors who went through the Holocaust. These tragic years in history caused millions of people to die and families to be broken apart. The Jewish people were never the same after this genocide and how could they be. These innocent people lost everything they had and even after the camps were left to pick up the pieces with little help. In Maus II Vladek describes life after the war had ended and all of the Jewish people were still trapped with nowhere to go and little to no family to reunite with. Throughout the course of the book the relationship between Art and his father improves as they get to know each other more and this conveys that expressing one’s feelings can help move past trauma. Vladek, although it was difficult, was able to tell his story and this shows an immense amount of growth. Art also benefited from his time with his father as he began to close the distance between him and his family’s past. Trauma can never fully go away as it is something that leaves a scar in the brain and that can never fully heal, but with help it can get fainter. People can let this trauma take over their entire life similar to guilt as they attack a person at their core. Throughout the two books Art goes through ups and downs, but writing this comic was his outlet. A person can not ignore their trauma and in order to carry on they must learn to accept it and live with it. Trauma does not have to take over people’s lives for generations to come if they start to acknowledge that they need to be open with their feelings.

pinkavocados
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

Trauma leaves scars. Either physically or mentally, it lingers, shaping one’s perception of the world, whether they like it or not. This is something Art Spiegelman, the son of two Holocaust survivors, must grapple with, throughout his life, in every setting. Art writes “no matter what I accomplish, it doesn’t seem like much compared to surviving Auschwitz” (Spiegelman). Despite the fact that he was not alive when it happened, the holocaust was a formative event itn artie’s life, and clouds his vision. He feels guilt that despite the fact that he did not directly experience the Holocaust, the trauma still affects him so deeply. He fights with himself about whether he will let the Holocaust, a passed down but central event of his life, affect who he is, and how he goes about life, because he doesn’t believe that it should, but it does.

Stanislav writes that 'Art's ‘inheritance’ of his parents’ trauma leads to his obsession with the Holocaust, although he is at pains to deny that it is an obsession.’ Externally, Art wants to remain detached from the Holocaust, but he is unable to because it has shaped everything about him (whether he notices it or not). The collective memory of trauma has been steeped so deeply in him, and everyone around him, that he knows nothing else. Art is thus magnetically drawn to learning and making art about the Holocaust, because he sees the world through the lens of the Holocaust and the trauma it caused. Interestingly, an obsession with the Holocaust is a common thing to see in young Jewish children, trying to understand the history of their people. It is one of the most frequent ways the generational trauma of the Holocausts manifests itself, and one of the most jarring.

Art’s relationship with both his Father and his mother clearly demonstrate the lingering effects of the Holocaust on family dynamics. Art and Vladek both have clear issues with attachment and showing love. This, for Vladek is brought on by the loss of all of his loved ones, both during the Holocaust, and with Anja’s suicide afterwards. For Art, Anja’s suicide is the primary reason for his difficult with love and other emotions, while the generational trauma plays a secondary role. Stanislav writes that in “Prisoner on Hell Planet,” a mini-comic within the novel Maus, “Art is recognizing that his emotional estrangement from his mother’s suffering is a transmitted effect of the original genocidal violence. In this respect, Hitler did this too, and continues to perpetrate acts of violence and suffering through the generations.’ Every action in Vladek or Art takes, every emotion they feel, carries the weight of those who were lost in the Holocaust, and therefore, every moment, positive or negative, is more intense. The reason Artie is able to draw Vladek’s experiences so vividly is that he can see himself in that same place, and it is as though he lived those events too.

It is not possible to move past generational trauma because of the immense role it plays in shaping one’s identity and upbringing, However, acknowledging and working through this trauma is beneficial because it helps establish understanding about oneself as well as about the lingering effects of these events. Learning about how generational trauma impacts people helps to understand the severity of trauma, as well as the nature of humanity, and how people grow and change.


tatertots
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 10

A Wound Not Recovered Can Infect Others

For children of Holocaust survivors like Spiegelman, the trauma of the Holocaust is not something they directly experienced. However, it profoundly shapes their identity, worldview, and mental health. Growing up with parents who survived such trauma can result in a complex interplay of emotions, including guilt, fear, and a sense of duty to remember and honor the past. This can be seen throughout Maus I and II, specifically through a conversation Artie has with Pavel at therapy. On page 44, Artie says, “No matter what I accomplish, it doesn’t seem like much compared to surviving Auschwitz” to which Pavel replies, “But you weren’t in Auschwitz… you were in Rego Park.” Artie bears the burden of the suffering his parents survived, trying to match up to it, because of the “Guilt for not being good enough. Guilt for growing up in easier circumstances. Guilt for feeling anger toward one’s parents. Guilt for inflicting further pain on a survivor” as stated on page 239 of Intergenerational Transmission Of Trauma In Spiegelman’s Maus. However, Pavel counters his thought process with what is the truth, he didn’t live through that time and it is not his fault, so he shouldn’t feel that way. While understanding why Artie feels that way, he pushes Artie to move towards acceptance of what happened and lifting that weight off of him. He then acknowledges the own suffering that Artie has lived through. Though what his father experienced was hard, it didn’t mean he was right to take it out on Artie. That he could have “felt guilty about surviving” and so “he took his guilt out on you, where it was safe… on the REAL survivor.” His father hadn’t properly learned how to deal with his trauma, passing it on to his son by taking it out on him, resulting in Artie being traumatized as well. And so the pattern continues. However, the fact that Artie met with a psychiatrist and puts effort into healing, provides hope in ending this cycle.

Leading to the point that it is possible to move on beyond generational trauma with a lot of work and resilience, but it’s perfectly okay to live with it as well. The key is living with it, without being consumed by it, because there is nothing that can be done. The past cannot be changed nor is it the child’s fault; it was beyond their control. Openly discussing and confronting the past can be a cathartic experience and whatever work that is done by a person, although not fully healed, helps move future generations forward. Steps are taken for things to get better, but it is okay to be forgiving about the process. Moving beyond generational trauma is a complex and ongoing process. Although it's important to acknowledge and honor the experiences of past generations, it's also crucial for individuals and communities to find ways to heal and rebuild. This can involve therapy, community support, education, and efforts to break the cycle of trauma in hopes of intergenerational healing. This exactly reflects the conversation between Pavel and Artie, as previously mentioned.

However, generational trauma doesn't just affect individuals; it also permeates entire communities. The trauma experienced by Holocaust survivors creates a collective memory that influences cultural norms, familial relationships, and societal attitudes towards suffering and resilience. The weight of the trauma manifests through feelings of anxiety or depression, or difficulty forming healthy relationships. Artie’s mother, Anja, is an example of this. Her depression and survivor’s guilt swallows her whole, with Richieu’s death playing a huge factor in this, pushing her to her own suicide. The absence of Artie’s younger brother and loss of his mother leaves a deafening silence between Artie and his father, Vladek. This manifests into them bickering, as their personalities clash due to the different mindsets developed as a result of their different experiences. Vladek, who was once rich and grew up comfortably, continued to maintain his frugal spending habits that he developed during the Holocaust. His wounds infect not only Artie, but Mala and Francoise as well. Everybody’s relationships are interconnected deeply as this web and everybody’s actions create a ripple effect that plays into everybody else’s life.

supercoolguy5000
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

Generational Trauma in Spiegleman's "Maus"

The everlasting cycle of generational trauma is inescapable. No matter how much someone differs from their parents, traumatic events, and related traits and diseases are always passed down to a certain degree.

Although Art did not experience the Holocaust directly, both of his parents were survivors of the Nazi death camps. The extremity of the atrocities that Vladek and Anja faced did not stop at simply impacting them, but were carried onto Art. This is illustrated well in “Maus” through the deaths of Art’s mother and brother. Art includes a break in the first edition of “Maus” where he shows a comic that he created earlier in his life. It reflects the events after Anja’s suicide, which was both tragic and shocking especially because she left no note behind. In “Intergenerational transmission of trauma in Spiegelman’s Maus” Stanislav emphasizes the importance of this comic being the only part where the people were not depicted as animals. Since Art experienced this directly “there is no need for the author to distance himself from it by formal means” (Stanislav 229). In this way, the trauma from the Holocaust which led Anja to commit suicide made its way to directly affect Art, losing his mother. At the funeral Art is pushed further into survivor’s guilt as the guests comment to him that he should’ve “cried when your mother was still alive” (Spiegelman 102). Because Art did not go through the Holocaust, he is blamed for reacting badly to what is happening around him, even though the things that happen to parents have such drastic effects on a child. Art is not only affected by the death of his mother, but also by the death of his brother, who he did not ever meet. Throughout the story, Art’s younger brother Richieu is mentioned, and it is said by Vladek that he did not survive the war and they still did not know how he died. Art feels like his parents expect more of him even though they don’t say it, and he says he feels like he is competing with a picture. It was unfair for Richieu to not be able to grow up, but it is also unfair for Art to not feel like he deserves his chance at life.

By the time Art is an adult, Vladek is the only blood-related family member that he has left. All of Vladek’s family were killed in the war, and this has a profound effect on his relationship with Art. At the start of the second “Maus” book, Vladek calls Art to come be with him after Mala leaves, but disguises this call as him having a heart attack. After Art and his girlfriend arrive, Vladek tells them that “for the whole summer you can be comfortable here!” (Spiegelman 17). Because Vladek lost so much of his family in the war, he feels the need to keep Art close to him. Art has mixed feelings about this, as he wants to live his own life without having to constantly worry about his father, but he still loves him and has empathy for him.

While Art wants to know more about Vladek’s life in order to create his comics, it is also important for him to acknowledge the weight that these experiences carry. If these traumas are not recognized and talked about, it can lead to resentment and conflict over issues that have clear roots. Vladek and Art’s relationship is complex, but they still are bonded together by things such as their shared grief for Anja. Conflicts and genocides have effects that are not stationary, but create a chain reaction of impacts on people throughout generations. Generational trauma from the Armenian genocide is still felt by Armenians of today, especially those that live in a country that does not recognize that the event truly happened. In this case, the lack of recognition causes a build up of anger that the Armenians feel today. Acknowledging trauma generationally is not the solution to escaping its effects, but talking about it and understanding how it impacts people can help to create better relationships that are honest and truthful, like that of Art and Vladek.


pigeondrivesabus
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

Generational trauma is defined as “psychological and emotional wounds that have accumulated and transferred to future generations.” In Maus I and Maus II by Art Spiegelman, Artie’s generational trauma from his father’s being in the Holocaust is evident. For example, on page 43 of book I, Vladek, the father, makes Artie eat all of his food so as to not to waste it, and this is a parallel to when he didn’t have food in the Holocaust. Moreover on page 69, when Vladek buys Artie a new coat because his coat was getting too old, it is a response to not having anything in the camps and now having to hoard everything. Vladek still treats Artie as a child even though he is now an adult, because he didn’t have control during the Holocaust, and now uses Artie as something that he can control. He also is very stingy with money and will not give up money, because he had nothing and couldn’t save money or buy things when his freedom was stripped. Another traumatic event is how Vladek was unable to go home to Sosnowiec because Polish people were killing Jews there, and he was separated from where he grew up and the culture that came with that. The Holocaust became part of Artie’s personal narrative and he has to embody the traumas that his father holds. One symbol in the book was Richieu, Artie’s “ghost brother,” and a boy who died during the Holocaust. Nobody talked about Richieu and that signifies how a small inside part of the parent dies after the Holocaust. In the end of the book, when Vladek calls Artie by his brother’s name of Richieu, it closes the story with the fact that he associates both of his children with the Holocaust now, and that it will forever be a part of Artie’s identity and story. I don’t think it is possible to move past generational trauma, especially considering it becomes genetic, and is something that is passed down throughout generations no matter how hard a person tries to stop it. According to Stanislav, “Art's ‘inheritance’ of his parents’ trauma leads to his obsession with the Holocaust, although he is at pains to deny that it is an obsession.” He seemingly wants to share the story with others to educate, but part of him needs to tell this story for himself, to try and figure out what is going on inside of his head and putting it to paper makes the story set in stone. Another point in the story is when Artie says “No matter what I accomplish, it doesn’t seem like much compared to surviving Auschwitz.” He is constantly trying to understand his father’s pain, so much so that it has become his pain as well. He compares himself to his father because he is trying to put himself in those shoes, but it is impossible and Artie is forced to live with that guilt and inability to understand.


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