Friday, June 27, 2014


It moght sound odd to say that a graphic novel about the Holocaust is inspiring, but in the case of "Maus" that seems an apt descriptor.

"Maus" is a Pulitzer-winning account of Vladek Spiegelman in the years leading up to World War II and the Holocaust. Interwoven with the story is the tale of the hero's twilight years, where he has become a bitter and difficult old man, and his son, the comic book writer and artist Art Spiegelman, tries to bridge the gap between the two of them by trying to understand his father's experiences.

Vladek Spiegelman makes no claims that he and his wife survived the Holocaust because of any special merit on their part, but his story shows a man who seized opportunity when he could. He used those opportunities not only to keep himself alive, but also to give hope and assistance to other Jews during the darkest period of the 20th century.

And while Vladek's story conveys much misery and loss, it ends on the happy note of reunification, as he finds his wife after the war has ended, and the two are able to start a new family.

The younger Spiegelman at times uses the narrative to offer commentary on the medium he's telling it in, and even expresses doubts as to whether the book adds anything of value to Holocaust literature. To that, I'd have to add my own unequivocal "yes." Although "Maus" chronicles the same horror found in books like "Night" and movies like "Night and Holocaust," it also expresses something about the resilience of the human spirit.

For all the horror and nightmare of the Holocaust and other periods where we give way to hatred and fear, and the other woes released from Pandora's box, "Maus" reminds us that hope also is at loose in the world, and cannot be extinguised even by the likes of Hitler and those who support them.

Copyright © 2014 by David Learn. Used with permission.

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