Maus II Travel Blog
A Taste of Tragedy
At one point in the graphic novel, Maus II, by Art Spiegelman, Art’s therapist attempts to describe the horrors of Auschwitz to Art by saying, “What Auschwitz felt like? Hmm… How can I explain?... BOO!... It felt a little like that. But ALWAYS! From the moment you got to the gate until the very end” (46). Much like Art, we are unable to truly grasp what it would be like to be in the Holocaust. Even though Vladek gives us vivid descriptions of the atrocities that he and his family members and friends faced, we are not completely able to transport ourselves to that time and place because the travesties that occurred are too unimaginable.
Even though Art tries to understand his father’s past and current life through hearing his stories about the Holocaust, he can never fully travel into his father’s shoes because he is from a completely different lifestyle. For example, when Art juxtaposes events in his life to events in his father’s we are able to see the stark contrast between them. Spiegelman says, “In May 1987 Francoise 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…In May 1968, my mother killed herself” (41). Art knows the tragic facts of his father’s life, but still must live in the present moment and deal with his own problems. He struggles with his newfound fame, the media, and his father. Art also says, “no matter what I accomplish, it doesn’t seem like much compared to surviving Auschwitz” (44). At this point, Art is depressed and feeling unfulfilled, but it is understandable that he feels that whatever he does will never compare to his father’s amazing tale of survival. The two men are on completely different playing fields and as much as Art tries to understand and capture the feelings of his father from the Holocaust, it can never truly be accomplished. Vladek’s descriptions of the beatings, deaths, work, and people he encountered while in Auschwitz give a chilling picture of what it would be like to be a prisoner in Auschwitz, but it is only a small taste of what it would actually be like, since we are able to remove ourselves from the book. It seems that the events of the Holocaust are simply too horrid for a human to understand unless he or she was actually there.