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Art Spiegelman's 'Maus': The Story of a Holocaust Survivor and the Consequences of Such an Ordeal

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As we all know, the Second World War was the cruelest and most lethal war humankind has ever experienced. With over 70 to 85 million deaths, this is by far the war with the most deaths all-time. One of the main reasons this war has been so cruel was the advancements that humanity made since it’s last big wars. The biggest advancements are the development of nuclear weapons, technological improvements (weapons, transport), improvements from weapons in the air like for example the dog fights and the placements of bombs that were being dropped. All of this set up that cruel war.

There was a big variety of people who passed away. What I mean with this is that obviously there were a lot of countries involved in the war, so people were fighting and dying all over the world, but the people that died weren’t all soldiers serving their country. There were a lot of innocent people involved in this war. A lot of people who had no idea when their lives would end and in what way that would be. That made the common people scared and they were fearing their lives a lot. Also, the soldiers, of course, feared their lives as they could be killed by a random bullet or a bomb falling out of the sky. The point I want to make here is that everybody had to fear for their lives. It does not matter if you are a Jew, a normal civilian, a kid, a soldier or a leader, you all have a chance of dying in one way or another.

In some way, you should interpret that there isn't a high surviving rate during this time, but that doesn't mean that nobody or almost nobody survived the Holocaust. There were also a lot of survivors of this war. Most of the Germans survived because they gave up and fled to a place where they would not be convicted. The Jews survived in all different ways. They improvised and tried to hide as good as possible, which was probably the smartest thing to do. They all had a different way of surviving.

Vladek Spiegelman was a survivor too. He had found a very complicated and difficult way to survive. After his factory got vandalized and robbed, he left home to join the Polish army to fight against the Nazis. During a shoot-out, the Germans overpowered the troops where Vladek was a part of. A logical follow-up was of course that he got captured as a prisoner of war. He returns to Poland where he tries his best to make a living on the black market after he loses his factory to the Nazis. Scared of being deported he sends his son Richieu to another Polish town with the sister of his wife, but that didn’t help. The sister of Anja is so scared to be deported that she commits suicide and poisons her children and Vladek’s son. Vladek and his wife try to get to Hungary by paying smugglers, but this didn’t end well as the smugglers accepted the money and turned them in with the Germans. Vladek and his wife were being sent to different concentration camps. Vladek was sent to Auschwitz, and Anja was sent to Birkenau. Vladek gets two jobs: one as a tin worker and the other one as a shoemaker. In this way, he can survive in Auschwitz and also let his wife Anja transfer from Birkenau to Auschwitz. After a year or so, the Germans start to disassemble their camps because they fear the Allies. Vladek ends up catching typhus in a camp in Dachau. Not a long time after this, the Germans bring the people from the camp in Dachau to a forest at the Swiss border, with the plan to execute the people that are left, but Vladek gets very lucky as all the prisoners from the camp are released. The Germans are scared that the Allies will come to repercuss them. From this moment on he is a free man who reunites with his wife Anja back in Sosnowiec. Vladek and Anja pursue a better life as they immigrate to Sweden and after that immigrate to the United States to live in peace.

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The major factor for a Jew to have survived the Holocaust is probably having a very good guardian angel and being very lucky, but also having the perseverance to keep on hoping that one day you will be free again and to not give up. To answer the question ‘How does one survive the Holocaust?’. There isn't one plan to follow. The people tried to dig their way through hell on earth. They had to keep themselves strong and don't give up. They had to be brave and have a will to survive the Holocaust. I just gave the story of Vladek Spiegelman, which is one way to survive it. He shows a lot of bravery and perseverance. This may be what made him and his wife survive the war.

Everyone was happy that the war ended, but even though the people were as happy as can be, they could never forget how cruel the Second World War, the Holocaust was. Vladek and Anja made it out alive, but their child Richieu died. They both changed a lot since the beginning of the Holocaust. Anja had a hard time processing the loss of her first child, even though they had a second son, named Artie. She got into a depression and couldn't heal from the cruelties she has witnessed and experienced. It gets that bad that she eventually commits suicide. Vladek held strong for a long time, but when Anja died, he couldn’t bear to keep her notebooks because it hurt him too much.

At the beginning of the book, he also thinks that writing the book isn't such a great idea, because it brings up bad memories about the past which he would rather not talk about. Art says that his father didn’t survive the Holocaust in some ways. It changed his entire life in a way that is not really describable. It is something that he could never eliminate out of his mindset and something that he will always think about. Vladek and his current wife, Mala, don’t come along that well, and this is because he has high expectations. He wants to have Anja back, but Mala isn’t Anja, so whenever Mala does something wrong, he gets very mad with her. He also tells Art sometimes that his mother did things way better than Mala is doing right now, like, for example, cooking. Art didn't experience one moment of this war, but as a child of two survivors, he is still affected by it. One of the things that come back a lot in the book is when Art gets mad with his dad because he thinks it's his fault that his mother committed suicide. He can’t really use the memory of his dad because this is hurting his dad a lot. He also gets frustrated with his dad really quick and he doesn’t always respect his father.

World War II was a war that changed the world, but also changed people. The story was written by Art Spiegelman about the life of his dad Vladek Spiegelman is the perfect example. A lot of people died during the war and the survivors, the people who didn't die, probably never lived their same life ever again. If you wanted to survive, you had to be brave, work hard, make good decisions and have a good guardian angel. The things they saw and the way they had to fight through hell on earth back then was very impressive, and the numbers show that this wasn’t for everyone. Descendants from the survivors are also affected by the war in numerous ways. They can't really talk about memories without hurting their parents or themselves. They get a different look on life which is passed through by their parents, the survivors of World War II, the most lethal and cruel war man-kind has ever seen.

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Art Spiegelman’s ‘Maus’: The Story of a Holocaust Survivor and the Consequences of Such an Ordeal. (2023, September 19). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 6, 2023, from
“Art Spiegelman’s ‘Maus’: The Story of a Holocaust Survivor and the Consequences of Such an Ordeal.” Edubirdie, 19 Sept. 2023,
Art Spiegelman’s ‘Maus’: The Story of a Holocaust Survivor and the Consequences of Such an Ordeal. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 6 Dec. 2023].
Art Spiegelman’s ‘Maus’: The Story of a Holocaust Survivor and the Consequences of Such an Ordeal [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Sept 19 [cited 2023 Dec 6]. Available from:
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