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I had to quit reading “Maus,” a graphic description of the Holocaust, after 229 pages



… Spiegelman’s book is spell-binding, gut-wrenching


This is one of the books that fanatical parents are banning from schools around the country, but “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale” is a spell-binding account of the Holocaust that took place in Germany under Adolph Hitler.


I have been transfixed by what Artie Spiegelman did with this account. It is a graphic novel, one written is symbolic terms as figures in a cartoon — except that this is not humorous at all.


Spiegelman’s contains his interviews with his father about how he and his mother lived through the horrific period of life in Poland from 1935 to 1944, leading up to their period of time in the death camp at Auschwitz.

It also recounts the death of Artie’s brother who was put to death by the Nazis for one reason: He was Jewish.


The story that Artie relates is fabulous, about how his family lost its money, property, and dignity at the hands of the anti-Semitic Nazis. HIs parents avoided death at the hands of the Nazis, though both came close. However, Artie’s mother, who gave birth to him about three or four years after his parents left Auschwitz, committed suicide later in life without leaving a note or any indication of why she did so.


That devastated his father, Vladek, who suffered from its effects and never recovered, leading him into another marriage that was terribly toxic.




Auschwitz


When Artie finally convinced Vladek to talk about Auschwitz, he was not complete certain how it was going to impact the son. It is an essential part of the narrative, and to a point, I was intently interested in what he was saying.


Then, what finally hit me like a blow to the solar plexus, were the pictures he created of the buildings in which the Jewish people were killed and then cremated. I tried to find one online, but it is probably good that I could not post one here.


The aspect that emotionally devastated me was the depiction of the smoke coming from the crematories. At that point, I was traveling on an airplane, and I had to put down the book and say to myself, “I cannot finish this.”


Depictions


Spiegelman uses animals to convey his message. The first of these are mice who represent his parents and family, all of whom are Jewish. The mice are symbolic of all Jews in the story, while the Polish are drawn as pigs and the Germans as cats.


This is very effective, but when I thought about the smoke coming out of the chimneys, I could not help thinking of the smells that went through Auschwitz. Can you imagine realizing that all of these smells are of people of your ethnicity? Or of any ethnicity?


It simply turned my stomach.


Perhaps I will return and complete it. Yesterday, however, as I sat on that plane in Clarksburg, W.Va., I simply said that I had to put it aside — at least for now — perhaps forever.


It simply made me realize that people are often so vile that they were not even human.


Yet, in America, a country that fought hard to remove these people in Germany, many are now fascists.





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