Title: Maus, A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began.
Author: Art Spiegelman.
Artist: Art Spiegelman.
Genre: Non-fiction, WWII, war, graphic novel, memoir, biography.
Publication Date: Serialized 1986-1991 (this collection 1991).
Summary: This volume moves the reader from the barracks of Auschwitz to the bungalows of the Catskills. It once again ties together two powerful stories: Vladek's harrowing tale of survival against all odds, delineating the paradox of daily life in the death camps, and the author's account of his tortured relationship with his aged father. An ultimate survivor's tale—and that too of the children who somehow survive even the survivors.
My rating: 9/10.
♥ "I never felt guilty about Richieu. But I did have nightmares about S.S. men coming into my class and dragging all us Jewish kids away. Don't get me wrong. I wasn't obsessed with this stuff... It's just that sometimes I'd fantasize Zyklon B coming out of our shower instead of water. I know this is insane, but I somehow wish I had been in Auschwitz with my parents so I could really know what they lived through! I guess it's some kind of guilt about having had an easier life than they did. I feel so inadequate trying to reconstruct a reality that was worse than my darkest dreams. And trying to do it as a comic strip! I guess I bit off more than I can chew. Maybe I ought to forget the whole thing. There's so much I'll never be able to understand or visualize. I mean, reality is too complex for comics... So much has to be left out or distorted."
"Just keep it honest, honey."
"See what I mean... In real life you'd never have let me talk this long without interrupting."
♥ "When we came, they pushed in one way the men, and somewhere else the women. I waved very fast goodbye to Anja. But you understand, never Anja and I were separated."
"No! The war put us apart. But always, before and after, we were together."
♥ "We came to a big hall and they shouted on us. I was, at that time, still with my friend Mandelbaum. They took from us our papers, our clothes, and our hair... We were cold, and we were afraid."
♥ 'All around was a smell so terrible, I can't explain... Sweetish... So like rubber burning. And fat. When we came inside the gates someone ran to us from far away. Here was Abraham—Mandelbaum's nehew!'
"So, uncle... You've ended up here too."
"You told us to come! You wrote us about how happy you are in Hungary—that we should join you right away! Well... here we are."
"Hungary! Hah! The Poles who arranged our "escape" understood Yiddish. So they knew you were waiting to hear if I was safe. In Bielsko the Poles dictated that letter while the Gestapo held a pistol up to my head. What could I do? They'd have shot me then and there.
"Well... So here's our Hungary..."
"And there's only one way out of here for all of us... through those chimneys."
'Abraham I didn't see again... I think he came out the chimney. But I saw again once the Poles who betrayed us. The Germans didn't need them. So they finished also in Auschwitz.'
♥ 'Okay. So I was more sad. I was worn and shivering and crying a little. Nobody even looked. But from another room someone approached over.'
"Why are you crying, my son?"
"Should I be happy? Am I at a carnival?"
"Let me see your arm..."
'He was a priest.'
"Hmm... Your number starts with 17. In Hebrew that's 'K'minyan Tov.' Seventeen is a very good omen..."
'He wasn't Jewish—but very intelligent.'
"It ends with 13, the age a Jewish boy becomes a man. And look! Added together it totals 18. That's "Chai," the Hebrew number of life. I can't know if I'll survive this hell, but I'm certain you'll come through all this alive!"
'I started to believe. I tell you, he put another life in me. And whenever it was very bad I looked and said: "Yes. The priest was right! It totals eighteen.'
'Whew. That guy was a saint!'
'Yes... I never saw him again.'
♥ 'In Sosnowiec, everyone knew Mandelbaum. He was older as me... Nice... A very rich man. But now, in Auschwitz, Mandelbaum was a mess. 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, his foot was too big to go in. This also he had to hold so he could find maybe with whom to exchange it. One shoe was big like a boat, but this at least he could wear. It was winter, and everywhere he had to go around with one foot onto the snow.'
"Can I use your spoon, Vladek?"
"Of course, but where's yours?"
"I dropped it, and by the time I bent down, someone stole it."
'For a spoon you could get a half day's bread.'
"I spilled most of my soup, too. When I asked for more, they beat me! I hold onto my bowl and my shoe fall down. I pick up the shoe and my pants fall down... But what can I do? I only have two hands! My God. Please God... Help me find a piece of string and a shoe that fits!"
'But here God didn't come. We were all on our own.'
♥ "Vladek died of congestive heart failure on August 18, 1982... Françoise and I stayed with him in the Catskills back in August 1979. Vladek started working as a tinman in Auschwitz in the spring of 1944... I started working on this page at the very end of February 1987. In May 1987 Françoise and I are expecting a baby... Between May 16, 1944, and May 24, 1944 over 100,000 Hungarian Jews were gassed in Auschwitz. In September 1986, after 8 years of work, the first part of MAUS was published. It was a critical and commercial success. At least fifteen foreign editions are coming out. I've gotten 4 serious offers to turn my book into a T.V. special or a move. (I don't wanna.) In May 1968 my mother killed herself. (She left no note.) Lately I've been feeling depressed."
♥ "Somehow arguments with my father have lost a little of their urgency... and Auschwitz just seems too scary to think about... so I just LIE there."
"It sounds like you're feeling remorse—maybe you believe you exposed your father to ridicule."
"Maybe. But I tried to be fair and still show how angry I felt."
"Even so, EVERY boy when he's little, looks up to his father."
"That sounds true, but it's hard for me to remember... Mainly I remember ARGUING with him... and being told that I couldn't do anything as well as he could."
"And now that you're becoming successful, you feel bad about proving your father wrong."
"No matter what I accomplish, it doesn't seem like much compared to surviving Auschwitz."
"But you weren't in Auschwitz... you were in Rego Park. Maybe your father needed to show that he was always right—that he could always SURVIVE—because he felt GUILTY about surviving."
"And he took his guilt out on YOU, where it was safe... on the REAL survivor."
"Um... Tell me, do you feel any guilt about surviving the camps?"
"No... just sadness. So, do you ADMIRE your father for surviving?"
"Well... sure. I know there was a lot of LUCK involved, but he WAS amazingly present-minded and resourceful..."
"Then you think it's admirable to survive. Does that mean it's NOT admirable to NOT survive?"
"I—I think I see what you mean. It's as if life equals winning, so death equals losing."
"Yes. Life always takes the side of life, and somehow the victims are blamed. But it wasn't the BEST people who survived, nor did the best ones die. It was RANDOM. I'm not talking about YOUR book now, but look at how many books have already been written about the Holocaust. What's the point? People haven't changed... Maybe they need a newer, bigger Holocaust. Anyway, the victims who died can never tell THEIR side of the story, so maybe it's better not to have any more stories."
"Uh-huh. Samuel Beckett once said: 'Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness.'"
"On the other hand, he SAID it."
"He was right. Maybe you can include it in your book."
♥ "The Gestapo what I fixed his boot recommended me, so his friends wanted I'll fix also their shoes and paid me food. I shared sometimes to the Kapo in charge. If you want to live, it's good to be friendly."
♥ "I thought only how happy it would be to have Anja so near to me in these new barracks. It could be "arranged" for 100 cigarettes and a bottle vodka, but this was a fortune. (One day's bread = 3 cigarettes, 200 cigarettes = 1 bottle of vodka.)"
"How could you get cigarettes?"
"Each week to the workers, they gave us three."
"They issued a luxury like that?"
"Ya. And if you don't smoke you can exchange for bread. I starved a little to pay to bring Anja over. All what I organized I kept in a box under my mattress. But, when I came back one tie from work..."
"I'm telling you I wanted to cry."
"You left the box in the barrack? How could it not be taken?"
"I didn't think on it..."
"But everyone was starving to death! I guess I just don't understand."
"Yes... About Auschwitz, nobody can understand."
♥ "So how did you get back into the tin shop?"
"When the Russians came near, the Germans made ready to run from Auschwitz. They needed tinmen to pull apart the machineries of the gas chambers. They wanted to pack it all to Germany. There they could take also all of the Jews to finishg them in quiet. The Germans didn't want to leave anywhere a sign of all what they did. You heard about the gas, but I'm telling not rumors. But only what I really saw. For this I was an eyewitness.
"I came to one of the four cremo buildings. It looked so like a big bakery... From below ground, in the gas room, we tinmen had to take out the pipes and fans for ventilating. This was a factory make—one, two, three—ashes and smoke from all what came here. Special prisoners worked here separate. They got better bread, but each few months they also were sent up the chimney, One from them showed me everything how it was. People believed really it was here a place for showers. So they were told. They came to a big room to undress their clothes what looks so, yes—here is a place so like they say. If I saw a couple months before how it was all arranged here, only one time I could see it! And everybody crowded inside into the shower room, the door closed hermetic, and the lights turned dark. It was between 3 and 30 minutes—it depended how much gas they put—but soon nobody anymore alive. The biggest pile of bodies lay right next to the door where they tried to get out. This guy who worked there, he told me..."
'We pulled the bodies apart with hooks. Big piles, with the strongest on top, older ones and babies crushed below... Often the skulls were smashed... Their fingers were broken from trying to climb up the walls... And sometimes their arms were as long as their bodies, puled from the sockets.'
"I didn't want more to hear, but anyway he told me... They pulled the bodies with an elevator up to the ovens—many ovens—and to each one they burned 2 or 3 at a time. So such a place finished my father, my sisters, my brothers, so many. ..And those what finished in the gas chambers before they got pushed in these graves, it was the lucky ones. The others had to jump in the graves while still they were alive... Prisoners what worked there poured gasoline over the live ones and the dead ones. And the fat from the burning bodies they scooped and poured again so everyone could burn better."
♥ "Y'know... Last night I was reading about Auschwitz... Some prisoners working in the gas chambers revolted. They killed 3 S.S. men and blew up a crematorium."
"Yah. For this they all got killed. And the four young girls what sneaked over the ammunition for this, they hanged them near to my workshop. They were good friends of Anja, from Sosnowiec. They hanged a long, long time."
♥ "All night I heard shooting. He who got tired, who can't walk so fast, they shot. The more we walked, the more I heard shooting... And in the daylight, far ahead, I saw it. Somebody is jumping, turning, rolling 25 or 35 times around. And stops. 'Oh,' I said. 'They maybe killed there a dog.' When I was a boy our neighbor had a dog what got mad and was biting. The neighbor came out with a rifle and shot. The dog was rolling so. Around and around, kicking, before he lay quiet. And now I thought: 'How amazing it is that a human being reacts the same like this neighbor's dog.'"
♥ In the morning they chased us to march again out, who knows where... Through the town we were going. It was empty, with no private people. And we saw, from far, a train. It was such a train for horses, for cows. They pushed until it was no room left. We lay one on top the other, like matches, like herrings. I pushed to a corner not to get crushed... High up I saw a few hooks to chain up maybe the animals. I had still the thin blanket they gave me. I climbed to somebody's shoulder and hooked it strong. In this way I can rest and breathe a little. This saved me. Maybe 25 people came out from this car of 200.
♥ "I'd rather kill myself than live through all that..."
"What? Returning groceries?"
"No. Everything Vladek went through. It's a miracle he survived."
"Uh-huh. But in some ways he didn't survive."
"Maybe we should stay with him a few days longer. He needs help."
"Are you kidding? I don't think we'd survive."
♥ "But after a few weekds I got too sick even to eat... TYPHUS! I got very hot fever and I couldn't sleep. Typhus! Every night people died of this. At night I had to go to the toiled down. It was always full, the whole corridor, with the dead people piled there. You couldn't go through... 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. So now I had typhus, and I had to go to the toilet down, and I said, 'Now it's my time. Now I will be laying like this ones and somebody will step on me!'"
♥ 'Everybody out! Line up in fives!'
"Here was the end of our ride. We had from here to go by foot to the frontier... And I saw, it's not everywhere, my hell. It's still life things going on. We march. We stop. For hours we stood.
'What's going on?'
'They're taking us back to Dachau!'
'No, no. The Americans are coming.'
"It was commotions and rumors. The shouts: THE WAR IS OVER! It was over."
'March back to the tracks! 'Schell!'
"They didn't leave us go, but put us to a freight train."
'The Americans will be in the next town. They can have you.'
"On this train no guards came. So really we saw, it is over now."