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Final Paper Courtney Kendrick

Page history last edited by Courtney Kendrick 7 years, 11 months ago












Negative Effects of the Holocaust on Its Survivors

Courtney Kendrick

American Literature

April 25, 2016



The Holocaust was a period where there was genocide, meaning that the Germans were targeting the Jews and other races. People all over the world were impacted by these traumatic events. Art Spiegelman, the author of  Maus, was extremely effected by the events of the Holocaust because both of his parents experienced the horrors first hand. In the picture I chose for my artifact, the little boy will never know what the ideal American life would be like. Just like Spiegelman. Since Arts’ parents, the things they survived would make them see their world in an utterly new way; effecting how they raise their child. Through descriptive details throughout the book, Spiegelman shows us how the Holocaust negatively affected his parents thus causing Artie to resent his parents.

The events of the Holocaust were horrifying and outrageously cruel. During the 1930s to the end of the 1940s Germany was experiencing one of the most heart-wrenching periods of all time; Jews were being killed because they were not of the same race they were not seen as human beings, they were seen as outsiders From the beginning of the 30s Jews were first set apart for other races, forcing them into different schools then the segregation became worse they started forcing the Jews to were the ‘star of David’ in their sleeves so everyone could look down on them for being Jews,(Longerich, 133-147) in the book, Artie’s father talks about wearing the stars and how they were treated because of it.

 In the book Maus, we are introduced to Valdek and Anja parents of Art, who grew up in fear for their life due to the era in which they were raised. This fear haunted them as they raised their very own child in a totally different time. For my artifact, I choose a picture of a Jewish family during the 1930s-40s. By looking at the artifact, I sense the spirit of depression over the family. I adamantly felt as though the son’s eyes in this picture are just crying for help, screaming for some positive attention, something to help get him through this hard time. I feel as though the picture ties into the book because Artie was seeing the brokenness in his parents that the people in the photo are portraying visually. These people are experiencing first-hand what Artie was seeing in his parents’ day by day in the way they treated him and the way they acted towards him.   Just like Spiegelman, Since Arts’ parents, the things they survived would make them see their world in an utterly new way; effecting how they raise their child. Through descriptive details throughout the book, Spiegelman shows us how the Holocaust negatively affected his parents thus causing Arts to resent his parents. Throughout this paper when I use the name Spiegelman, this is referring to the author if the book. While when you see the name Artie, I am referring to the character in the book.

In the Maus, Spiegelman using mice to characterize the Jewish people and he uses cats to portray the Nazi’s, what does this mean to Spiegelman? Why would he use this way to portray the Jews? I believe that he uses this specific imagery because he is painting the picture of how Artie, victimizes himself and Jewish people. Did He saw himself as less than others’, why? Because he knew that before being a Jew was something to be shameful of. Spiegelman also uses this depiction, because he wants the reader to be reminded of the analogy that cats prey on mice, and this is how the Nazi’s treated the Jewish people during this time in history. Specifically, there is a place in the book where a mouse is holding as the sign that reads “I am a filthy Jew”.  Then Spiegelman goes on to say that the man is telling him about the treatment of the Jews, he could remember that a relative of his had police(cats) that went to his home and he was never heard from again. I feel as though the cartoons in the books helps you actually visualize what those people went through during that time. (Spiegelman,35)


In the book, Spiegelman uses cartoons for the illustrations throughout the entire book which really helps you get a better grasp on what was taking place. Cartoons really visualize what the author is trying to portray within the book. The cartoons make you see what the author is really thinking and feeling; Spiegelman used different animals to characterize the different groups of people, because of these pictures; we can see how he really feels about certain situations. Like the usage of the mice, the cats, and pigs. He is using these different animals to help us see his point of view or wants us to take his side in a way, or feel the way he feels about the situation he and his family went through.

My artifact is portraying the lack of the “ideal American life.” We as Americans have come up with life goals or wishes. We all want to be wealthy, with nice cars, a beautiful home, and an adorable family. We want our lives to be as easy as possible, and we want as much opportunity to accomplish amazing things. In my artifact, That Jewish family never got the opportunity to attempt even at having the “ideal American life” because they were Jews, so they were looked down on. Just by what they believed in and how they looked caused them to become victims of genocide. This is why that little boy never got to grow up into a big successful business man, and he never got the chance to get married and to have that adorable family of his own.


 In the book, he uses the actual picture of the brother he lost during the Holocaust. (Speigelman,165) Richieu, was actually murdered during his time at the concentration camps. This is Spiegelman giving us an emotions tie to Artie, you can see the tiny little boy, and you can kind of feel for Artie because he did lose his brother and you are actually seeing this picture of him for yourself. It is not just using your imagination trying to come up with what you believe he looked like. This picture, in my opinion, is letting us as the reader see that Artie had this right to the way he was feeling about being a Jew, because that fact that he and his family were Jews his brother had to die in a concentration camp because of it. Also, His parents and the way he was raised by them because of the Holocaust. He is letting us have an inside look at this very personal thing he experienced in losing his brother. In turn giving us a deeper meaning behind his feelings.

While in the book the cartoons help the reader better understand the events taking place, throughout this book I felt as though Artie was in his mind lessoning the things going on around him, like he did not want to deal with everything until after his father died in the book does he actually come to terms with everything, (Speigelman,201) Artie is talking about how his father had just passed away, and he is sitting with a mouse mask on instead of just being

pictured as a mouse. I feel like this is the turnaround in the book where we actually see Artie realize that he is not just a Jew, and that is his only identity so he can “take off the mask” and not blame being a Jew on the negative things in his life. Artie talks about the finishing up of the book the Maus, and he says that his mother committed suicide but left no note and that his book was becoming a huge hit. (Speigelman,201) I feel like the picture of him sitting on the all the dead bodies of those killed in the concentration camps was like an eye opener, that what happened was not just a made up story for him to turn into a great book, those were actual people and actual events and this is that moment he is “depressed” because he is coming to terms with that.

In this way, I feel as though Spiegelman is showing the reader that Artie is now starting to feel bad for the way he felt about his father while his father was still living. In the next few pages, Artie needs to talk to someone about how he feels so he talks to a Czech Jew and a survivor of Auschwitz named Pavel. (Spiegelman, 203-207) Because of all the things Artie is coming to terms with, he explains that he felt that the arguments he had had with his father while he was stilling seem so small and Auschwitz was too scary to come really to terms with. Artie felt as though he was exposing his father too much in his book, but I feel like he really just was comparing himself to his father, like he felt as though nothing he could ever even compare to what his father had to go through, because of the things his father would say to him when he was alive which were basically down playing that thing he had done. I think this is him again blaming the Holocaust for his and his father relationship. Because his dad had to go through something so tough, he probably feels like he missed out on a “normal” childhood, because his dad always made sure Artie felt that he could not do anything as well as his father could.  So that is why I feel that their relationship was so strained. At the same time, Artie does admire his father for surviving a thing like Auschwitz and still does not feel as though becoming so successful or anything positive he could do was even comparable to what his father had survived and done. Again, Artie is playing the victim. He wants this man to feel bad for him. We all at one time or another crave sympathy from others because it helps us feel better about what we have gone through or what we are going through. It is nice sometimes to have someone else on your side what you are confused or feeling down. (Royal)

One of the only times in the book does Spiegelman use cartoons of people instead of mice. This was when he found out that his mother committed suicide by slitting her wrists. I believe Spiegelman did this because for Artie, this was something that obviously really impacted him and it had nothing to do with him being a Jew. There was no reason for him to be hiding behind a mask or cover himself as the mouse. This, at that moment, was real for him and his father. He came to the realization that his mother was gone, and she did not even leave them a note as to why she did it would take you back. He was confused because he did not understand everything that happened with his mother.

In one part in the book, Artie is visiting with his father. His dad is explaining when he became a prisoner of war in 1939 and ended up having to work for the Nazi’s. (Spiegelman,53-55) As his dad is explaining, he stops and yells at Artie for letting the ashes from his cigarette fall on the floor. I feel as though this paints the picture for us just how hard Artie’s father was on him. He was upset at him for something so minute and small; Valdek was just used to how he


 Was treated while he was the prisoner of war and I feel as though that is some of the reason his and Arties relationship was so strained and messy. I seemed as though Valdek was easily agitated with Artie because of his life experiences. So Artie’s feelings toward his father are explained thorough this scene because we see how tough his father was on him even for something so small.

    Another place in the book that paints how the Valdek’s treatment of Artie was negative due to the experiences he went through during the Holocaust was when there was some cereal that Valdek wanted to get rid of, but Artie would not take it because he did not like it and his dad states that he hated wasting food because of Hitler. This is another example of how Valdek was really effected by the things he had to go through during his time in the concentration camps. I feel like Artie does not really understand why his dad is like that because he did not personally experience all that his dad did. So there was a lack of understanding between the two of them. This is the lack of understanding between Artie, and his father was part of the reason he resented him because he did not understand the reasons behind everything his dad said and wanted from Artie.  This is where you can really grasp the impact the Holocaust had on Valdek and how that impacted not only how he raised Artie but, how he interacted with him on a daily basis even after Artie was a grown man.

    After all, things had considered, the Holocaust was a very horrific time in history, trying to wipe out an entire race of people is inhumane and outrageous. Sometimes, though, in life, we go through certain situations that affect us, and this was shown by the way Artie was raised by his parents who were strong enough to survive the traumas of the Holocaust. We have seen that because of the things experienced in Arties’ mother and fathers lives that caused a rift in the relationship with them and their son. Especially the relationship Artie had with his father and we see how tough he was on Artie about the little things in life. This, in turn, gave Artie a bitter outlook on his parents but, not only on his parents but also about being a Jew and the hardships that came with growing up as a Jewish person. This also effected how Artie viewed his childhood and the things that he never got to experience. This is also seen in the artifact, the picture of the Jewish family from that period and how they just liked Artie and his family never got the opportunity to experience the “ideal American life” because of the events of the Holocaust. Through descriptive details throughout the book, this is how Spiegelman shows us that the Holocaust negatively affected his parents thus, causing Artie to resent his parents and his religion.






















Works Cited

Longerich, Peter. Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.


Photo from Library of Congress


Royal, D. P. "Introduction: Coloring America: Multi-Ethnic Engagements with Graphic Narrative." MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States 32.3 (2007): 7-22. Web.


Spiegelman, Art. Maus: A Survivor's Tale. New York: Pantheon, 1986. Print.







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