Maus Prologue, Ch. 1 & 2 Questions



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Maus Prologue, Ch. 1 & 2 Questions

"Prologue"

  1. What is your first impression of Vladek Spiegelman? What does his remark about friends suggest about his personality? How does it foreshadow revelations later in the book?

"The Sheik"

  1. What has happened to Artie's mother?

  2. How does Vladek get along with Mala, his second wife? What kind of things do they argue about?

  3. How long has it been since Artie last visited his father? What do you think is responsible for their separation?

  4. How does Vladek respond when Artie first asks him about his life in Poland? Why might he be reluctant to talk about those years?

  5. On page 12 we see a close-up of Vladek as he pedals his exercise bicycle. What is the meaning of the numbers tattooed on his wrist? How does this single image manage to convey information that might occupy paragraphs of text? Auschwitz

  6. Describe Vladek's relationship with Lucia Greenberg. How was he introduced to Anja Zylberberg? Why do you think he chose her over Lucia?

"The Honeymoon"

What does the image for Ch. 2 “The Honeymoon” tell us?



  1. What is Vladek doing when Artie comes to visit him? How does his health figure elsewhere in the book?

  2. How does Vladek become wealthy?

  3. What does Vladek see while traveling through Czechoslovakia?

  4. Why does the artist place a swastika in the background of the panels that depict the plight of Jews in Hitler's Germany (p. 33)?

Maus Ch. 3 & 4 Questions

"Prisoner of War"



  1. When Artie refused to finish his food as a child, what did Vladek do? How does he characterize Anja's leniency with their son?

  2. Why was Vladek's father so reluctant to let him serve in the Polish army? What means did he use to keep him out?

  3. What is the meaning of the beard and skullcap that Vladek's father is shown wearing in the panels on page 46? What happens to his beard later on?

  4. How does Vladek feel after shooting the German soldier?

  5. How did the Germans treat Vladek and other Jewish prisoners after transporting them to the Reich? How was this different from t heir treatment of Polish P.O.W.'s?

  6. What is the significance of Vladek's dream about his grandfather? What recurring meaning does "Parshas Truma" have in his life?

  7. How does Vladek arrange to be reunited with his wife and son? What visual device does Spiegelman use to show him disguising himself as a Polish Gentile?

"The Noose Tightens"

  1. Describe the activities depicted in the family dinner scene on pages 74-76. What do they tell you about the Zylberbergs?

  2. Although Jews were allowed only limited rations under the Nazi occupation, Vladek manages to circumvent these restrictions for a while. What methods does he use to support himself and his family?

  3. During the brutal mass arrest depicted on page 80, Vladek is framed by a panel shaped like a Jewish star. How does this device express his situation at that moment?

  4. What happened to little Richieu? When Vladek begins telling this story on page 81, the first three rows of panels are set in the past, while the bottom three panels return us to the present and show the old Vladek pedaling his stationary bicycle. Why do you think Spiegelman chooses to conclude this anecdote in this manner?

  5. What happened to Vladek's father? What does the scene on pages 90-91 suggest about the ways in which some Jews died and others survived?



Maus Ch. 5 & 6 Questions

"Mouse Holes"

  1. This chapter and the one that follows both have the word "mouse" in their titles. And, in fact, in the concluding sections of this book Spiegelman's mice seem to become more "mouse-like." How does the author accomplish this? What reason might he have for doing so?

  2. Why does Artie claim that he became an artist?

  3. How does the comic strip "Prisoner on the Hell Planet" depict Artie and his family? How did you feel on learning that Artie has been hospitalized for a nervous breakdown? Why do you think he has chosen to draw himself dressed in a prison uniform? What is the effect of seeing these mice suddenly represented as human beings?

  4. Why did Anja finally consent to send Richieu away? Was his death "better" than the fate of the children depicted on page 108?

  5. Describe the strategies that Vladek used to conceal Anja and himself during the liquidation of the ghetto. How did the Germans flush them from hiding?

  6. What eventually happens to the "mouse" who informed on the Spiegelmans? What becomes of Haskel, who refused to save Vladek's in-laws even though he accepted their jewels?

  7. What does the incident on pages 118 and 119 tell us about relations between Jews and Germans? Does the knowledge that some Nazis fraternized with their victims make their crimes more or less horrible?

  8. How did Vladek care for Anja after the destruction of the Srodula ghetto? Contrast his behavior toward his first wife, during the worst years of the war, with the way he now treats Mala.

  9. Why, on page 125, is the road that Vladek and Anja travel on their way back to Sosnowiec also shaped like a swastika? What other symbolic devices does the author use in this book?

"Mouse Trap"

  1. What does Vladek mean when he says that reading Artie's comic makes him "interested" in his own story (p. 133)? Is this statement just a product of broken English, or does it reveal some deeper truth about what happens when we record our personal histories?

  2. On page 136 Vladek says that he was able to pass for a member of the Gestapo but that Anja's appearance was more Jewish. What visual device does Spiegelman use to show the difference between them?

  3. Given the fact that the Spiegelmans are "mice," what is the significance of the panels on page 147, in which Vladek and Anja's hiding place turns out to be infested with rats? Why might the author have portrayed this incident?

  4. On page 149 Vladek is almost betrayed by a group of schoolchildren. What stories did Poles tell their children about Jews? How do you think such stories—and perhaps similar stories told by German parents—helped pave the way for the Final Solution?

  5. Why does Vladek want to flee to Hungary? How are he and Anja eventually captured? What is the significance of the letter from Mandelbaum's nephew (p. 154)?

  6. Why does Artie call his father a murderer? Is he justified? Who else has he called a murderer, and why?

The Characters of Maus I

  1. What kind of man—or mouse—is Vladek Spiegelman? What details does Spiegelman use to establish his character? What traits do you think enabled him to survive events in which the overwhelming majority of Jews were killed?

  2. The opening pages of Maus portray Vladek Spiegelman as an old man. Only later, when Vladek is telling his story, do we see him as he was in his thirties. What differences do you see between the old Vladek and the young one who emerges in his memories? How do you account for these changes in his character?

  3. How does Spiegelman establish the old Vladek's "foreignness"? In what specific ways, for example, does his speech differ from his son's? Why does the author show the young, remembered Vladek, as well as his family, speaking "normal" English?

  4. How would you sum up the character of Artie? How would you compare him with his father? What things about Vladek irritate him? Which of Artie's traits does Vladek seem incapable of understanding? In what ways do you think Vladek has influenced his son?

  5. How does the author portray Anja as a young woman, and later as a depressed and suicidal older one? How are your earlier perceptions of her altered by the comic-within-a-comic "Prisoner on the Hell Planet"? If Anja had written a suicide note, what might it have said?

For in-class discussion

  1. What does Maus do that pure text narratives cannot? In what ways do Spiegelman's crude drawings help us visualize things that words alone, or more "realistic" images, might be unable to portray? How does Maus differ, both in its subject matter and visual format, from other comic books you have read?

  2. One of the problems inherent in representing human beings as cats and mice is that animals have a narrower range of facial expression. Are Spiegelman's animals as emotionally expressive as human characters might be? If so, what means does the cartoonist use to endow his mice and cats with "human" characteristics?

  3. On page 23, Vladek asks his son to refrain from telling the story of his youthful involvement with Lucia Greenberg, claiming that "it has nothing to do with Hitler, with the Holocaust." Artie argues that this story "makes everything more human." Which of these statements do you agree with? Should the Holocaust be treated as an event so catastrophic that it makes private experience irrelevant? How do other books and films about the Holocaust, like Schindler's List, Night, or The Painted Bird, deal with this predicament?

  4. Why do you think some Jews assisted the Germans, either by policing the ghettos or by informing on their people (see pp. 113 and 117)? Why might Vladek still send gift packages to Haskel, who betrayed his in-laws (p. 118)? In Vladek's place, would you do the same thing?

  5. Maus contains several moments of comedy. Most of these take place during the exchanges between Artie, Vladek, and Mala. But humor even finds a place in the ghetto and the bunker, for example on page 119, when the cake sold to the starving Jews of Srodula turns out to have been made with laundry soap. What is the effect of this humor? Was it inaccurate or "wrong" of Spiegelman to have included such episodes within his survivor's tale?



For further study

  1. Keep a journal recording your responses to Maus I. If you were initially startled or put off by seeing the cartoon format used in the service of material that is profoundly serious, did those feelings change in the course of your reading? At what point, if any, did you find yourself accepting Spiegelman's visual and dramatic conventions? You may wish to put away your journal for a few weeks and then reread them, while skimming through Maus a second time. Do the responses you first recorded still hold true? In what ways has the book stayed with you?

  2. On page 33, a character says, "There's a pogrom going on in Germany today." The Random House Dictionary defines "pogrom," a word of Russian origin, as "an organized massacre, especially of Jews." Elsewhere it defines "the Holocaust" as "the systematic mass slaughter of European Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II." How well do these definitions describe the events through which Vladek Spiegelman lived? Using independent research, describe the difference between a pogrom and the Holocaust. Why are such words—along with others like "victim," "survivor," and "genocide"—considered controversial today?

  3. The situation of Polish Jews worsens steadily and dramatically throughoutMaus, a deterioration that is aptly summed up by the chapter heading "The Noose Tightens." Chart the progress of this escalation, citing specific incidents in the book. What happens to Spiegelman's mice as they are forced deeper into "mouse holes"? In what way do they become more "mouse-like"? How might they have responded differently if the Germans had begun their program of mass extermination from the start?

  4. Most art and literature about the Holocaust is governed by certain unspoken rules. Among these are the notions that the Holocaust must be portrayed as an utterly unique event; that it must be depicted with scrupulous accuracy, and with the utmost seriousness, so as not to obscure its enormity or dishonor its dead. In what way does Maus obey, violate, or disprove these "rules"?

  5. Over the next month, interview a parent or grandparent about an episode of his or her life. Record not only the story that emerges, but your responses to that story. In what way is that story also your own?

Chapter Summaries



Maus I: 
My Father Bleeds History (Mid 1930s to Winter 1944)


One - The Sheik
Art visits his dad, Vladek, in Rego Park, New York, after being away for about two years. Vladek has married Mala after the suicide of Art’s mother. Art persuades Vladek to begin telling him the story of his life, which Art hopes to use for a book. Vladek begins at the time that he is a young man working in the textile business near Czestochowa, Poland. He has an affair with the beautiful Lucia before he is introduced to Anna Zylberberg. Anna (Anja) is from a wealthy family and is well educated but nervous and sickly. Vladek and Anja are married in 1937, and Vladek moves to the town of Sosnowiec, Anja’s hometown.

Two - The Honeymoon
Art visits his father in Rego Park several times over the next few months. Vladek is focused on the many pills he takes and on his failing health. Art is focused on trying to get the details of Vladek’s story. The family prospers since Anja’s father has given them money to invest in a textile factory. Vladek and Anja have a son, Richlieu, but after his birth, Anja suffers a deep depression. Vladek accompanies her to a sanitarium in Czechoslovakia, where she is to be treated. On their trip to the sanitarium they see a Nazi banner and hear of the first actions against Jewish people. Anja recovers from her depression, and they return to Poland only to find that their factory has been robbed. Anja’s father helps them financially, and for a time, their life is good. But in August of 1939, Vladek is drafted into the Polish army and sent to fight the Germans.

Three - Prisoner of War
During additional visits to see his father, Art hears Vladek tell about his service in the Polish army. Vladek has little training and shoots his gun only for appearances, but he manages to kill a German soldier. He is later taken prisoner by the Germans and sent to a POW camp in Germany where he cleans stables. It is cold, and the Jewish prisoners are treated worse than the other Polish prisoners are, but Vladek volunteers to work for the German soldiers and gains some additional food and warmth this way. He has a dream in which his grandfather appears to him and tells him that he will be free on a specific day in the future. The dream comes true, and Vladek is sent back to Poland where Jewish authorities are able to connect him with a friend of his family. After much difficulty, he is eventually reunited with his family. Art ends the chapter in the present with Vladek complaining about Mala and throwing away Art’s coat because it is shabby.

Four - The Noose Tightens
Vladek works out on his exercise bicycle while he talks to Art. Art begins using a tape recorder to document Vladek’s stories. It is now 1940. Vladek and Anja live a comfortable life in her father’s household. Food and clothing are rationed, but they have money, so they can get things on the black market. Life for Jews in Poland is very restrictive, and the threat of being sent away is ever present. Germans round up Jews, beat them, and kill them, but Vladek and his family always manage to avoid being taken. Vladek gets a job working in a tin shop so that he can have the required working papers. Vladek and Anja talk briefly about sending Richlieu to live with a Polish family but decide to keep him with them. During the winter of 1941-42, the Jews are moved to a segregated area of Sosnowiec. Vladek trades gold and jewelry for food and clothing but must be careful as those selling items without coupons are hanged. Anja’s elderly grandparents are hidden from the Germans for a time but are eventually taken and sent to Auschwitz. One day all Jews in the city are required to report to the stadium for sorting; the able-bodied are allowed to remain, but those who are weak or old or who have many children are sent away. In the present, Mala tells about her own experiences of Sosnowiec. She complains about Vladek’s domineering ways and miserliness. Art looks for his mother’s diaries, which contain her account of her life during the Holocaust.

Five - Mouse Holes
Vladek wants Art to help him with some house repairs. Art is not good at this kind of thing and talks about his feelings of inferiority and competition with his father. The next time he visits his father, Art finds that Vladek has seen a copy of “Prisoner on the Hell Planet,” a comic of Art’s that had been published years ago. The story is about Art’s time in a mental institution and his mother’s suicide. The characters in the story are people, not animals. Art is depicted as a prisoner, guilt-ridden over his mother’s death. The story moves back to 1943. All Jews in Sosnowiec are now moved to a ghetto in Srodula. They are marched to work each day and locked in their crowded rooms at night. A relative comes from another town and takes Anja’s sister Tosha with her husband and child and Richlieu to what they hope will be a safer place. Vladek and Anja later find out that Tosha feels she and the children are going to be sent to Auschwitz, so she poisons herself and the children. Vladek draws pictures of the bunkers he devises so that his family can hide from the Germans. But they are turned in and Anja’s parents are sent to Auschwitz. A scheming relative is able to get Vladek a job in a shoemaking shop. Anja and Vladek hide in a bunker behind a large pile of shoes, and when they believe the Germans are no longer in the town, they dress as Poles and leave.

Six - Mouse Trap
Mala complains to Art that Vladek is unreasonable and that she feels like she is in prison. Art sympathizes with her and draws a parallel between Vladek and the racist caricature of the miserly old Jew. Mala and Vladek look at some of Art’s work for Maus and approve because the comic strip format will draw readers who would not ordinarily read about this subject. Now it is 1944, and Vladek and Anja are walking back to Sosnowiec. There, Vladek is able to trade jewelry for marks and marks for food. First they stay in a Polish woman’s barn, then in the home of another Polish woman, Mrs. Motonowa. They live there for a time until the Gestapo searches Mrs. Motonowa. She makes Vladek and Anja leave for her own safety. They move here and there, always hiding, until they hear of some smugglers who might be able to get them to Hungary. But the smugglers take their money and then report them. Vladek and Anja are put in prison with their friends the Mandelbaums and then shipped to Auschwitz. The chapter ends with Vladek telling Art that he burned Anja’s diaries. Art is furious and calls Vladek a murderer.

Maus II: 
And Here My Troubles Began
(From Mauschwitz to the Catskills and beyond)


One - Mauschwitz
It is 1979 and Vladek says he is having a heart attack to get Art and his wife, Françoise, to visit him. Mala has left him. On the way to the Catskills to see his father Art wonders how he can make sense of the Holocaust if he can’t make sense of his relationship with his father. And he wonders what his “ghost-brother” Richlieu would be like. Struggling with “sibling rivalry with a snapshot,” he also feels guilty about leading on easier life than his parents led and about using a comic strip to tell such an important, serious story. When Art and Françoise arrive at Vladek’s rental home, Vladek is his usual difficult, miserly self. He picks up the Auschwitz story in 1944 as he and Anja have been separated. Vladek and his friend, Mandelbaum, endure the first few weeks. Vladek is recruited by a Polish prisoner Kapo (supervisor) to teach him English. This job provides him with better clothes and food, which he shares with Mandelbaum, but Mandelbaum is ultimately sent away with a work detail and never seen again. Returning to the Catskills, Vladek takes Art and Françoise to the Pines Hotel where he often sneaks in as a guest to dance and play bingo.

Two - Auschwitz (Time Flies)
Vladek Spiegelman dies in 1982. Art now talks about the process of working on Maus II starting in 1987. In these frames he is a human wearing a mouse mask as he sits at his drawing board. There is much humor in this section, but Art is clearly depressed about his mission. What is his message? Is he making money on the Holocaust? Overwhelmed by his father’s memory, Art visits his psychiatrist, Pavel. They talk about Art’s problems in portraying his father. As he works on the book, the story moves back to Auschwitz in 1944. Vladek talks about daily life in Auschwitz – bartering for food, working in the shop. Anja is in Birkenau, another camp near Auschwitz. Vladek meets a Hungarian woman named Mancie who can bring him news of Anja. He is even able to send some food to Anja, and she sends him several letters. When Vladek is sent to work on a tin roof at Birkenau, he sees Anja briefly. Later he begins repairing shoes for German guards and is able to get food in return for his work. Vladek says that he was in Auschwitz for ten months. At the end of this time he worked on dismantling the gas chambers. Vladek wants Art to be sure to tell about this in case people don’t believe they existed. He tells about the horrors of the chambers and the ovens. Art does not want the responsibility of taking care of Vladek and hopes Mala returns soon.

Three - …And Here My Troubles Began
The Germans move all the prisoners from Auschwitz, march them for two days, and then put them on a train. They are on the train for many days, and many prisoners die from the crowded, unhealthy conditions. They eventually arrive at Dachau. Vladek says it is here that his troubles began because he contracts typhus and nearly dies. He survives, however, and the prisoners are taken to the Swiss border where they are to be exchanged for German prisoners of war. Returning to the present, Art is embarrassed when Vladek returns Mala’s opened food to the supermarket. Françoise chides Vladek for making racist comments when they pick up an African-American hitchhiker.

Four - Saved
In Rego Park, Vladek is ill. He asks Art to help put up his storm windows, but Art is not very understanding and pushes Vladek to finish his story. Vladek recounts his troubles at the Swiss border, as the Auschwitz prisoners are taken first by one German patrol group and then by another. They fear for their lives, and many are killed. As always, Vladek is resourceful and seems to avoid harm. Finally, they meet the American troops, and Vladek works for them doing housekeeping chores. Vladek stops his story to show Art a box of family pictures that puts faces to the names in Vladek’s stories.

Five - The Second Honeymoon
Vladek has gone to Florida to be with Mala but has an attack and is in the hospital. Art joins them and they fly back to New York at Vladek’s request. Vladek reminisces about flying from Poland to Sweden in 1946. There he was able to get a job as a salesman in a department store until he and Anja could get a visa to go the United States. Vladek’s story ends at the close of World War II when he returns to Sosnowiec and reunites with Anja. They had agreed to meet there if they were ever separated. Vladek ends his story confusing Art with Richieu and saying, “it’s enough stories for now.”

    1. How do you think Vladek and Anja survive Auschwitz?

    2. Why do you think Anja kills herself?

    3. Explain what you believe will happen to Vladek and Mala’s marriage?

    4. What will happen with Vladek and Art’s relationship? Why?

    5. Why did Spiegelman write this book? Why did he call it Maus?

    6. Why did Spiegelman portray his father’s story as a comic strip?

    7. Maus portrays the Holocaust or a genocide. A genocide is a d eliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group . Do you know of any recent genocides? How are these genocides similar to the Holocaust? How are they different?

    8. What would you have done if you were a Jew living in Poland during the Second World War? What would you have done if you were a Pole? A German? Why?

    9. How did people survive in Poland during the Second World War? How do you think these survivors felt after the war? Why?

    10. In Maus, Art interviews Vladek about the Holocaust. How reliable do you think Vladek’s memory is? Why?

    11. What happens to people who live under a terror regime for a long period of time? Should people adapt to a terror regime? Explain.

Study Questions for Spiegelman's Maus, General Questions


  1. In general, how does Art portray his father? Do you think this is a fair representation? Why do you think he portrays him in the way he does?

  2. To what extent do you think Art accurately represents his father's story?
    Do you think he has embellished it any way? What might have been added or left out?

  3. How does Art portray himself? Why does he include himself in his father's story of the Holocaust?

  4. What is the importance, throughout the text, of Art's reflections on the process of putting together this book?

  5. What is the relationship between history and the present in the book? Why are many episodes from the present included?

  6. To what extent are the characters caught in the past?
    Are all Holocaust survivors and their children prisoners of history?

  7. What are some of the features that characterize Spiegelman's graphic style?
    How do these contribute to his memoir? How do they shape our understanding of his father's story?

  8. In general, how is the Holocaust represented in Spiegelman's text?

  9. How does the comic book format affect this representation?

Study Questions for Spiegelman's Maus, Vol. 1, Ch. 1


  1. What is the first thing you notice about Spiegelman's method of presentation? 
    What characterizes his comic-book style?

  2. Before the memoir proper begins, why does Spiegelman (Artie) present us with the roller-skating episode from his childhood?

  3. When and where does the first chapter take place? What was Vladek's profession?

  4. When he goes to see his relatives in Poland, how are the Poles depicted?

  5. Whom does Vladek marry and where do they live?

  6. Why does Art include the story about Lucia, when his father told him to leave it out?
    What does Art mean when he says he wants to make the story more real, more human?

  7. In Chapter One, is there any sense of what's about to happen to Vladek, his family, and his people?

Study Questions for Spiegelman's Maus, Vol. 1, Ch. 2


  1. What gets Anja in trouble, how does Vladek react, and how do they get out of it?

  2. What happens to Anja shortly after the birth of their son, Richieu?

  3. What do they see when they go to Czechoslovakia in 1938?

  4. What do they hear about what is happening in Germany?

  5. What is the situation when they return to Poland?

  6. What happens to Vladek shortly after they return?

  7. Why do you think Art concludes the chapter in the way he does, just as Vladek goes to war?
    What do we learn by this brief return to the present?

Study Questions for Spiegelman's Maus, Vol. 1, Ch. 3


  1. How does Art open chapter three? What do we learn?

  2. What did Vladek's father do when Vladek was called to join the army as a young man?

  3. What happens to Vladek in the war?

  4. What is life like for Vladek in the prisoner of war camp?

  5. What dream does Vladek have in the camp?

  6. What happens when the POWs are returned to Poland?

  7. How does Vladek get out of the POW camp?

  8. How does Vladek get back to Sosnowiec?

  9. How does Chapter Three conclude? What do these episodes from the present show us about Vladek? About Art? Why does Art include them?

Study Questions for Spiegelman's Maus, Vol. 1, Ch. 4


  1. How is Vladek able to get by in Sosnowiec?

  2. Describe the increasingly difficult conditions in the town.

  3. What does Ilzecki propose to Vladek? What is the outcome, both for Vladek's family and Ilzecki's?

  4. What happens to some of Vladek's black market business contacts? How does Vladek react, then and now?

  5. What happens to Anja's grandparents? What does Vladek say here about Jews's attitudes toward turning in other Jews?

  6. What does Vladek say about their knowledge of Auschwitz?

  7. What happens at the massive registration in the stadium?

  8. What do we learn in the concluding scene with Mala and Art?

Study Questions for Spiegelman's Maus, Vol. 1, Ch. 5


  1. What does the drain-pipe incident show us about Art's relationship with his father?

  2. Discuss Art's comic strip "Prisoner on the Hell Planet." 
    How does Mala react to the strip? Vladek?

  3. After they are relocated from Sosnowiec to Srodula, what happens to the family?
    Shortly afterward, what happens to many children in Srodula? What later happens in Zawiercie (where Tosha and the children have gone)?

  4. How do Vladek and his family survive in Srodula?

  5. How do they get arrested by the Gestapo and how are they able to get out of detention?

  6. What kind of person is Haskel Spiegelman? What is his fate? How does Vladek feel about him?

  7. What happens to the people who decide to bribe the Germans and leave the bunker?

  8. How do Anja and Vladek eventually get out of the ghetto?

  9. What does Vladek have in his safe deposit box?
    How does he feel about Mala? Do you think his characterization of her is accurate?

Study Questions for Spiegelman's Maus, Vol. 1, Ch. 6


  1. Coming as it does after the concluding episode of Chapter Five, what is the significance of Mala and Art's conversation?

  2. What is Art worried about with respect to the portrayal of his father in his book?

  3. What is Mala and Vladek's appraisal of Art's book?

  4. What happens to Vladek and Anja when they return to Sosnowiec?
    Where do they end up finding food and shelter? How does Vladek help them to survive?

  5. What happens on Vladek's trip to Kawka's farm to meet with the smugglers?

  6. What plan to do they undertake to get out of Poland?

  7. Whom does Vladek visit before they leave and why?

  8. How do they get arrested, and what does Vladek say when they arrive at Auschwitz?

  9. What happened to Anja's diaries? How does Art react?

  10. Having come to the end of Volume One, what do you think is the significance of the volume's subtitle, "My Father Bleeds History"?

Themes/Issues

Maus is a complex work with multiple levels of meaning. It can be read as a fable with a moral for the future, as a personal account of the Holocaust, and as a story in which the tensions and conflicts of a family parallel those in the public world. The animal characters are metaphors for the racial and political conflicts of Germany and Poland in the 1930s and 1940s,



  • Family conflict (between Art and Vladek, between Vladek and Mala, between Art and his dead brother Richlieu)

  • Racism (German racism, Vladek's racism, Art's possible racism in portraying races and nationalities as animals))

  • Guilt (Art's - about surviving when his brother did not; about not being worthy as the child of parents who went through so much; about putting Vladek's personal stories in print when Vladek had asked him not to; about not treating his father as well as he should; about how he treated his mother when she turned to him for love just before committing suicide)

  • Survival (Vladek's, Anja's, Mala's, Art's)

  • Dominance, racial and personal (Vladek is as dominant to Mala and Art as the Germans were to him; dominance of favored prisoners over those less fortunate; dominance of cats over mice)

  • Depression, suicide (Art's, Vladek's, Anja's)

  • Prisons and prisoners (including POW camp, concentration camp, and more figurative experiences in which characters feel like prisoners)

  • Artistic process (Art's various struggles with telling this story both in words and pictures)

  • Irony (Anja survives the Holocaust only to commit suicide; Vladek dominates everyone just as the Germans dominated him; Richieu is sent to a relative to be safe, but the relative poisons him so he won't be taken by the Germans; Vladek makes racial comments about an African-American though he was the victim of racism; the success of Maus makes Art feel guilty)

  • Main characters

  • Vladek Spiegelman:

  • Born in Poland in 1906; husband of Anja and later of Mala; father of Richieu and Art.

  • Vladek is a survivor -- of the Holocaust and in life -- but he is not portrayed as a hero. He uses his abilities and takes advantage of any opportunity to stay alive. In the United States, he is portrayed as a miserly, demanding, unpleasant old man who seems to communicate with his son best when speaking into the tape recorder. Vladek clearly loves his son, but he seems unable to show his love in a way that connects with Art. The extremes of his postwar character and his broken English provide some of the humor in the book.

  • Anja (Anna) Zylberberg Spiegelman:

  • Born in Poland in 1912; wife of Vladek; mother of Richieu and Art. Anja was born to a prosperous family and was well educated. She is often depressed and relies on Vladek to care for her. She is devoted to her child, Richieu, and in love with her husband. Not able to separate herself from her experiences in the Holocaust and the death of her son, she commits suicide in 1968, leaving no note of explanation.

  • Art(ie) Spiegelman:

  • Cartoonist; author of Maus; son of Vladek and Anja Spiegelman; husband of Francoise Mouly. As a child of Holocaust survivors, Art seems driven to tell their story but obsesses about how to tell it and how to maintain his relationship with his difficult father. Art, too, is a survivor -- of feelings of guilt, of his mother's suicide, of dealing with his father, of the burden of being a child of Holocaust survivors.

  • Richieu Spiegelman:

  • Born in Poland in 1937; son of Vladek and Anja Spiegelman. Richieu, described by his father as a happy child, is sent by his parents to live with a relative so that he will be safe, but he does not survive the Holocaust. He haunts Art, and his picture reminds Art that he must compete with a memory, which to Vladek is that of a perfect child.

  • Mala Spiegelman:

  • Vladek's second wife and herself a Holocaust survivor. Though Vladek accuses her of trying to steal his money, she is supportive of Art and his attempts to tell Vladek's story. She finds Vladek domineering and difficult, but she ultimately comes to his aid when he really needs her. She must always live with Vladek's love for Anja.

  • Francoise Mouly:

  • Wife of Art. Though she is French, Art portrays her as a mouse because she has converted to Judaism. Francoise supports Art in his work and acts as a sounding board for his ideas.. She seems more supportive of Vladek than Art does, but she does not push Art to improve his relationship with his father.

  • About Maus…..

  • Background notes

  • Art Spiegelman's Maus: A Survivor's Tale is published in two volumes:

  • Maus: A Survivor's Tale, I: My Father Bleeds History. New York: Pantheon, 1986. (ISBN 0-394-74723-2)

  • Maus: A Survivor's Tale, II: And Here My Troubles Began. New York: Pantheon, 1991. (ISBN 0-679-72977-1)

  • Written over a thirteen-year period, the books tell the story of Spiegelman's attempts to learn about his father and mother's experiences as Jews during the Holocaust and later as survivors in the United States. Maus also documents Spiegelman's difficult relationship with his father, his own search for understanding as a survivor of this relationship, and his artistic odyssey in creating the work. The historical content is based on dialogues between Spiegelman and his father, Vladek, over many years. Spiegelman uses animal heads with human bodies to portray characters: Jews are mice, Germans are cats, Poles are pigs, Americans are dogs, Frenchmen are frogs, Swedes are reindeer. While the subjects treated in the books are serious, there is also humor. The setting moves from Rego Park, New York, to various cities and towns in Poland, to a resort in the Catskill Mountains, to Germany, to Florida to Sweden. This device helps Spiegelman tell the larger story of the Holocaust with the authority of a survivor's memories while at the same time telling the story of his family's history and relationships during and after World War II. The books are hard to classify since they have elements of fiction, nonfiction, biography and autobiography.

  • Chapter summaries

  • Maus I: My Father Bleeds History (Mid 1930s to Winter 1944)

  • Chapter One/The Sheik

  • Art visits his dad, Vladek, in Rego Park, New York, after being away for about two years. Vladek has married Mala after the suicide of Art's mother. Art persuades Vladek to begin telling him the story of his life, which Art hopes to use for a book. Vladek begins at the time that he is a young man working in the textile business near Czestochowa, Poland. He has an affair with the beautiful Lucia before he is introduced to Anna Zylberberg. Anna (Anja) is from a wealthy family and is well educated but nervous and sickly. Vladek and Anja are married in 1937, and Vladek moves to the town of Sosnowiec, Anja's hometown.

  • Two/The Honeymoon

  • Art visits his father in Rego Park several times over the next few months. Vladek is focused on the many pills he takes and on his failing health. Art is focused on trying to get the details of Vladek's story. The family prospers since Anja's father has given them money to invest in a textile factory. Vladek and Anja have a son, Richlieu, but after his birth, Anja suffers a deep depression. Vladek accompanies her to a sanitarium in Czechoslovakia, where she is to be treated. On their trip to the sanitarium they see a Nazi banner and hear of the first actions against Jewish people. Anja recovers from her depression, and they return to Poland only to find that their factory has been robbed. Anja's father helps them financially, and for a time, their life is good. But in August 1939, Vladek is drafted into the Polish army and sent to fight the Germans.

  • Three/Prisoner of War

  • During additional visits to see his father, Art hears Vladek tell about his service in the Polish army. Vladek has little training and shoots his gun only for appearances, but he manages to kill a German soldier. He is later taken prisoner by the Germans and sent to a POW camp in Germany where he cleans stables. It is cold, and the Jewish prisoners are treated worse than the other Polish prisoners are, but Vladek volunteers to work for the German soldiers and gains some additional food and warmth this way. He has a dream in which his grandfather appears to him and tells him that he will be free on a specific day in the future. The dream comes true, and Vladek is sent back to Poland where Jewish authorities are able to connect him with a friend of his family. After much difficulty, he is eventually reunited with his family. Art ends the chapter in the present with Vladek complaining about Mala and throwing away Art's coat because it is shabby.

  • Four/The Noose Tightens

  • Vladek works out on his exercise bicycle while he talks to Art. Art begins using a tape recorder to document Vladek's stories. In 1940, Vladek and Anja live a comfortable life in her father's household. Food and clothing are rationed, but they have money, so they can get things on the black market. Life for Jews in Poland is very restrictive, and the threat of being sent away is ever present. Germans round up Jews, beat them, and kill them, but Vladek and his family always manage to avoid being taken. Vladek gets a job working in a tin shop so that he can have the required work papers. Vladek and Anja talk briefly about sending Richieu to live with a Polish family but decide to keep him with them. During the winter of 1941-42, the Jews are moved to a segregated area of Sosnowiec. Vladek trades gold and jewelry for food and clothing but must be careful as those selling items without coupons are hanged. Anja's elderly grandparents are hidden from the Germans for a time but are eventually taken and sent to Auschwitz. One day all Jews in the city are required to report to the stadium for sorting; the able-bodied are allowed to remain, but those who are weak or old or who have many children are sent away. Vladek's father, sister, and sister's children are sent away. In the present, Mala tells about her own experience in Sosnowiec. She complains about Vladek's domineering ways and miserliness. Art looks for his mother's diaries, which contain her account of her life during the Holocaust.

  • Five/Mouse Holes (Includes "Prisoner on the Hell Planet")

  • Vladek wants Art to help him with some house repairs. Art is not good at this kind of thing and talks about his feelings of inferiority and competition with his father. The next time he visits his father, Art finds that Vladek has seen a copy of "Prisoner on the Hell Planet," a comic of Art's that had been published years ago. The story is about Art's time in a mental institution and his mother's suicide. The characters in this story are people, not animals. Art is depicted as a prisoner, guilt-ridden over his mother's death. The story moves back to 1943. All Jews in Sosnowiec are now moved to a ghetto in Srodula. They are marched to work each day and locked in their crowded rooms at night. A relative comes from another town and takes Anja's sister Tosha with her husband and child and Richlieu to what they hope will be a safer place. Vladek and Anja later find out that Tosha feels she and the children are going to be sent to Auschwitz, so she poisons herself and the children. Vladek draws pictures of the bunkers he devises so that his family can hide from the Germans. In spite of his efforts, they are turned in and Anja's parents are sent to Auschwitz. A scheming relative is able to get Vladek a job in a shoemaking shop. Anja and Vladek hide in a bunker behind a large pile of shoes, and when they believe the Germans are no longer in the town, they dress as Poles and leave.

  • Six/Mouse Trap

  • Mala complains to Art that Vladek is unreasonable and that she feels like she is in prison. Art sympathizes with her and draws a parallel between Vladek and the racist caricature of the miserly old Jew. Mala and Vladek look at some of Art's work for Maus and approve because the comic strip format will draw readers who would not ordinarily read about this subject. Now it is 1944, and Vladek and Anja are walking back to Sosnwiec. There Vladek is able to trade jewelry for marks and marks for food. First they stay in a Polish woman's barn, then in the home of another Polish woman, Mrs. Motonowa. They live there for a time until Mrs. Motonowa is searched by the Gestapo. She makes Vladek and Anja leave for her own safety. They move here and there, always hiding, until they hear of some smugglers who might be able to get them to Hungary. But the smugglers take their money and then report them. Vladek and Anja are put in prison with their friends the Mandelbaums and then shipped to Auschwitz. The chapter ends with Vladek telling Art that he burned Anja's diaries. Art is furious and calls Vladek a murderer.



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