Europe, Cambodia, Darfur

Maus is a book about the holocaust; The holocaust is likely the most famous genocide of all time. Though it’s the most famous, it is not the only one. Besides the holocaust in Europe, there have been many other genocides that were very horrible but did not involve the U.S. and did not evoke a world war so not as much is known by the general public. In 1975 the “Cambodian holocaust” took place. The communist leader Pol Pot took control of the country, and with the help of his troops, killed over two million people. These two million people were 20% of the population of Cambodia at the time. Pol Pot looked to create what he considered a utopia, a utopia where there were no cities, no higher intelligence, and no religion. Anyone who lived in a city was forced into living in the country side and work on farms and labor camps. If you wore glasses you were considered an intellectual and would be assassinated. This genocide continued until their Vietnamese neighbors invaded and took control from Pol Pot’s regime in 1979. In more recent news the genocide in Darfur has taken an estimated three hundred thousand lives and still continues to this day. In the holocaust and in the Cambodian genocide many of the victims were killed quickly, or worked to death, in Darfur the citizens are starving to death. One of the slowest and most painful deaths that someone could suffer. The Darfur genocide became a very popular topic for a short time in pop culture, but as with most trends it passed quickly. To end a genocide someone has to interfere, it can’t be the U.S. every time, but how long until we do stand up to help?

The Night in Maus

20120930-141652.jpg In the book “The Complete Maus” by Art Spiegelman, the discription of the holocaust was very disturbing. Just like any holocaust book, we are let with the question of how can a human being put someone through this kind of torcher? My freshman year of high school, we had to read a book called “Night”. This book was all about the authors experience in the holocaust. Just like Vladek in Maus, Eli Wiesel was taken to the concentration camps and was ripped apart from his loved ones. I feel that in Eli’s description of the holocaust was more tramatic. I am not sure why I get this feeling, but it might be because Vladek had a different more “luxurious” stay than most Jews in the concentration camps. Eli and his father were put through several forms of torcher which led to his fathers death. I think that the book “Night” and “The Complete Maus” are along the same lines of literature. They are both forms of historical events that are from a person’s point of view who attended these dramatic and unlawful camps. Lets make sure that no human being has to be put through that torcher ever again.

Stars

In my opinion, Art Spiegelman’s book “The Complete Maus” does an incredible job of showing the reader how very real the incidents of the holocaust were.  Throughout its pages, we constantly see names. Names we forget only minutes later, but names nonetheless of each and every Jew that a single man new in his misadventures through that horrific event. We see into the lives of the Jews themselves. The lives of both the rich and the poor being portrayed as pictures, documenting  everything these Jews lived through before, during, and after the holocaust. I think it is very helpful for history’s sake to have a special look into these sorts of things. To understand not from the perspective of the person watching from afar, but from the eyes of the victim or conqueror of a real moment. People do not turn on their televisions to hear an announcer speak on the affairs of a football game. They turn on their televisions to actually see the game itself, to watch what is happening so that they themselves may have a better understanding of what really goes on on that field. For this reason, the book of Maus is a great telling of an inside view of a very important event in history. A telling that opens the eyes of the reason and lets them think for themselves on what the character may truly be going through. I picked this picture of the stars to say what Maus does as a story. It shows that even though names were taken by the Germans and replaced with number and stars, that true history will never forget the real names and that stars, no matter how many, will always be beautiful when you take a better look at them. Maus says this very well.

Armenian Genocide

After going through middle school and high school I got tired of reading books about the Holocaust. Everybody acknowledges the fact that the Holocaust was a horrible crime against humanity and a severely punishable offense. What infuriates me is the fact that before the Holocaust, during World War I genocide occurred, the first genocide of the 20th century, the Armenian genocide.

Armenian intellectuals hung on the streets, April 24 1915.

The Armenian genocide was the deliberate and systematic murder of Armenians during WWI. It was characterized by massacres and the use of deportation under conditions that led to the death of the deportees.

Armenian deportees.

Ottoman officials uprooted thousands of Armenians from their homes in order to lead them to “supposed safety”, but instead forced them to march hundreds of miles through the deserts of Syria, without food or water. The Armenian genocide occurred due to the strong Muslim presence in the area. By removing the only Christian country in the region, Turkey and Azerbaijan would link up and form a chain of Muslim nations extending from the Mediterranean to the Caspian. After massacring one and a half million Armenians, the Young Turks failed in their mission of achieving Muslim domination in the Caucuses. As an Armenian it is my responsibility to inform people everywhere what the Armenian genocide was and enlighten them about this crime that has occurred in this world and has yet to be brought to justice. It is my responsibility to disprove Hitler that stated “Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” It is necessary to not be ignorant and blind to issues that have occurred and are going to occur, and treat everyone justly without discrimination.

Maus

when I first found out we were reading a graphic novel i thought to myself “are you serious”. I did not look at on an educational level at all. after reading the first few pages I then discovered how the book possessed a great visualization of how the events of the Holocaust could have been portrayed. Giving the Jews the character of the mouse made it easier to understand  how they were treated, viewed, and processed into camp. The Germans were given the character of the cat making it easy to see them as hunters and acted juvenile towards the Jews. Overall it was a good read and goes deep into a parallel story of Vladek’s life and the events of the Holocaust. Also thought the way they showed his emotions and attitude by making his size increase and decrease regarding the mood he is in. Art Spiegalman did a great job making the Holocaust more visual and showed a different point of views using Vladek.

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Old Man Vladek

The man himself.

Maus has the interesting effect of a parallel story going on. Vladek tells the story and as he does he antagonizes Art. This makes for what I feel is an absolutely fantastic dynamic. The story weaves in and out of the narrative of the holocaust to show this character we’re rooting for in one area being a cantankerous old man in the narrative of the contemporary times. The disconnect of rooting for him in one area while being quite off-put by them the next moment is something I deal with in my father. As much as I don’t always get along with my father, I still love him, and I imagine Art is the same way, otherwise he wouldn’t put up with all his father’s issues. For instance, Vladek is always asking Art to come and help him do this or fix that. He constantly criticises the labors Art does, save it seems his comics. He expects what seems an impossible amount from his son. Even with all this, even when Vladek tells Art that he has burned Anja’s journals, after Art’s initial outburst and exclamation of, “Murderer!” he still apologizes to his father. We even see he still holds it against his father, yet he comes back to help him. He flies down to Florida. He helps his father return home for a hospital visit and stays by his side when he’s unwell. Vladek puts Art through a tremendous amount of hardship as a father, acting an excellent antagonist, yet you can’t help but put up with him, especially as the reader. He went through hell in the holocaust. Even with him getting more demanding, you’re hearing about how his life was worse and worse. The see-saw of pity and irritation balance out and you stick with Vladek because you’re invested in him. This duality lets you explore the character deeper while not being as offputting as he might otherwise be and I think Mr. Spiegalman showed tremendous restraint and thoughtfulness in his portrayal of his father.

Maus and railroads: Walk not the same tracks.

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Yes, it’s my religion this book it’s over and no, I’m not so much sad any longer over the holocaust but being reminded is to bring forth cold fury yet again. This book and the story outlined within are the experiences of but one being and represented the views of only a few viewpoints. If anyone needs know why I am militantly hostile towards any willful ignorance or apathy, it is because of these events. Humans have certain tendencies and group-think and group polarization are but two of them and they are incredibly destructive. Case in point: When the nazi needed a rallying point around which to point their hate bound mob at, the Jews were a clear and convenient scapegoat, somewhat common, often persecuted and vulnerable. With a common enemy and decenters repressed, the extremist position prevailed. Make a distinction between nazi and German, they were one and the same but one is redeemed, the other remains an enemy.
The average German had no idea these crimes against humanity were being committed within their lands and what was learned after the war is that most of the nonmilitary population was horrified by what some within their ranks had done. They might have been lost in the moral myopia provided by their post WW1 abuse but after their second war ended, they looked back in despair. When questioned, the classic phrase “I was only following orders” echoed throughout the lower ranks of the German military and that is really is pathetic. Evading small arms fire is intelligent but evading one’s duty to humanity via foisting your responsibility onto a superior or leader of some kind is a pathetic act of cowardice popularized on the basis of making their subject considerably easier to control. Art Spiegelman’s story is indeed important as it shows the personal side of the tragedy however the lessons that should be taken from the events in question are neglected within Maus. Equally important to the points of survival and perseverance in the role of the victim are restraint, empathy and thoughtfulness when one is the aggressor for without them, none of us are any better than the nazi. No human a mouse, no human a cat no human a frog. We are all human, we are the source of this suffering and we are the relief.