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UCSB Hist 133D: The Holocaust in European History
http://marcuse.faculty.history.ucsb.edu/classes/133d [33d]

Prof. Harold Marcuse, UCSB

Reading Questions and Resources for Art Spiegelman's Maus (1986, 1991)
last updated Feb. 12, 2022

cover of Maus, vol. 1
Introduction about Maus
Timeline of Events in Maus
Links to onine articles,
print articles,

Introduction about Maus (back to top)Arft Spiegelman

Maus is a story within a story: Art Spiegelman, the son of two survivors of the Holocaust, tells how he interviewed his father Vladek about his father's Holocaust experience, and he also tells the story of the father's persecution and suvival. It is written in a comic book format, with various types of animals representing the various nationalities (and religions: Jews are generally mice, no matter what nationality they are).

Timeline of Events in Maus and Spiegelman's Life (back to top)

  • 1906, Oct. 11: Vladek Spiegelman born
  • 1912, March 15: Anja Zylberberg born
  • 1927: Vladek starts his first service in the Polish army (conscripts must train every 4 years)
  • 1937, Feb. 14: Vladek and Anja marry (he is age 30, she 24)
    • 1937, Oct: Vladek and Anja's son Richieu is born in Sosnowiec
  • 1939, Aug. 24: Vladek is called to serve in the Polish army
    • Sept. 1: Germany invades Poland
    • Sept. 4: Germans enter Sosniwiec
                   Vladek is arrested as a prisoner of war
    • Sept. 28: Poland surrenders
    • Nov. 5-6: Jews in Poland must wear an armband or yellow star patch
    • Dec. 23: Jewish property in Poland is confiscated
                    Vladek and Anja's father lose their factories
  • 1940, Feb.: Vladek is released from the POW camp and sent to Lublin
  • 1941, Dec.: All Jews in Sosnowiec are forced to live in the ghetto section
    • Dec. 7: Japan attacks US at Pearl Harbor, US enters World War II
  • 1942, May 10-12: "Aktion" (deportation) of 1500 from Sosnowiec, includes Anja's parents
    • June: 2000 more Jews deported from Sosnowiec to Auschwitz
    • Aug. 12: 8000 Jews called to Sosnowiec stadium, then deported to Auschwitz
    • Vladek's parents are also deported and murdered in 1942
  • 1943, Spring: all remaining Jews in Sosnowiec are sent to Srodula ghetto
                          Richieu is sent to Zawiercie with his aunt Tosha
    • Aug. 16: most Jews in Srodula are deported to Auschwitz
                    Vladek and Anja are in hiding
    • Aug. 26: Tosha poisons herself, Richieu, her daughter Bibi and her niece Lonia to avoid deportation
  • 1944, Jan.: all remaining Jews in Srodula are murdered; Vladek and Anja are still in hiding
    • March: Vladek and Anja are sent to Auschwitz; quarantine til mid-May (II, 68)
    • May-Aug.: Vladek works in Auschwitz tin shop
    • Summer: Vladek sees Anja in Birkenau
    • Aug.-Oct.: Vladek works in Auschwitz shoe shop, then tin/metal working again
    • Sept/Oct: Anja is moved from Birkenau to Auschwitz I
  • 1945, Jan.: Vladek is marched to Gross Rosen (Anja, too, then to Ravensbrück)
    • Feb.: Vladek is sent by train to Dachau
    • April: Vladek is evacuated from Dachau
    • Apr. 29: Dachau is liberated
    • May 7: Germany surrenders
    • Summer: Vladek is in a US displaced persons camp in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
    • he goes to Bergen-Belsen, learns that Anja is in Sosnowiec, and goes there to meet her
  • 1946: Vladek and Anja move from Poland to Sweden; Vladek starts a business
  • 1948, Feb. 15: Art Spiegelman is born in Stockholm
  • 1951: Spiegelman family immigrates to US, Art grows up in Queens, New York
  • 1965: Art attends the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan
  • 1968, ca. March: Art has a brief but intense nervous breakdown & is hospitalized
    • May 21: Anja commits suicide after Art returns home
    • Art leaves Harpur college/SUNY Binghamton (major: art & philo)
  • 1970: Art publishes "Prisoner from Hell Planet" (reproduced in Maus)
  • 1972: Art publishes "Maus" in Funny Animals (3 page comic; one panel, six panels)
  • 1975: Art meets the woman he will marry, Françoise Mouly (b. 1955)
  • 1978: Art Spiegelman starts drawing Maus
  • 1979, Aug.: Art and Françoise spend time in the Catskill mountians (NY) with Vladek
  • 1980: Art and Françoise start the avant-garde magazine RAW
    • Art begins drawing Maus, which is serialized in RAW
  • 1982, Aug. 18: Vladek dies of congestive heart failure
  • 1986: first volume of Maus published
  • 1987: Art and Françoise's daughter Nadja born
  • 1991: second volume of Maus published
  • 1992-: Art starts working for the New Yorker (he resigns some time after 9/11/2001)
    • 1992: Art wins a Pulitzer Prize for Maus
    • 1992: son Dashiell born
  • 1993-: Françoise works as art editor at the New Yorker
  • 2004: Art publishes In the Shadow of No Towers
  • 2005: Art begins publishing a comix format memoir, Portrait of the Artist as a Young !@##$%!, which incorporates some of his most significant early underground comix.
    He is also assembling a book about the making of Maus, titled Meta-Maus.
  • 2011: Meta-Maus is published (see below)

Questions to consider while reading (back to top)
(pdf print version of these questions)

  1. Note 4 or 5 panels where Vladek's character traits are evident. Do the same for Art.
    Pick five adjectives that describe Vladek's personality. Do the same for Art.
  2. What are some of the central characteristics of the Auschwitz that Vladek experienced?
    How does it compare to Dachau? Note which panels convey this information.
  3. To what extent is Vladek's story typical of what Jews experienced during the Holocaust?
    In what ways is it not typical?
  4. From these books do you get a sense of what caused the Holocaust? Select some panels that indicate how Art or Vladek might explain why the Holocaust happened.
  5. Why did Art Spiegelman choose the animals he did to represent different nationalities?
    What stereotypes do they convey?
  6. What reasons does Art have for researching and recording his father's story?
    Is this book fiction? If not, explain how mice can talk in the real world.

Maus vol. II, p. 16


Links (back to top) [links checked Jan. 23, 2012]

  • Quotations and Resources about Maus
    • Comprehensive Study Guide (2016) at litcharts.com. It has detailed sections on:
      • Context, Plot, Summary-Analysis, Themes, Quotes, Characters, Symbols
      • All can be read online in expandable sections; downloadable as a single pdf with a $10 subscription
      • This is really VERY comprehensive and high-quality
    • Chapter summaries, questions, cast of characters and other resources (e.g. on graphic novels), by the Bucks County, Pennsylvania Free Library project (2005; 2014 web archive version)
    • Annotated Bibliography of nine articles and book chapters from 1991 to 2003 discussing Maus, by Prof. Marcuse's student Erin McGrath, Jan. 2008.
    • Free Maus "Cliff notes" at GradeSaver.com--character sketches, chapter by chapter summaries, glossary, quizzes, etc.
    • Maus site with study questions, by Eveyln Burg at LaGuardia Community College in 2005, developed to accompany a lecture by Spiegelman.
      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.
    • Chapter by chapter and general study questions, for Cary Henson's Honors Composition Seminar at the University of Wisconsin, Osh Kosh, Sept. 2007 (Jan. 2010: web archive version)
    • Teacher's Guide and Discussion Questions from Random House publisher
    • 5 study questions by Eric Goldstein at Michigan State, for his 1999 "Focus on American Jewish Culture" course
    • Geri Speace, "Maus," entry in St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture. Jan. 29, 2002, at FindArticles.com.
    • 2 quotations about Maus, one from author Art Spiegelman, published in Oral History Journal in 1987, the other from scholar Stephan Feinstein in Witness and Legacy (1996) (with references). [most links on the page don't work]
  • Online Articles and Lectures about Mause
  • Print Articles and Book Chapters about Maus
    • Bosmajian, Hamida. “The Orphaned Voice in Maus,” in: Considering Maus: Approaches to Art Spiegelman’s “Survival Tale” of the Holocaust, edited by Deborah R. Geis. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2003.
    • Doherty, Thomas. “Art Spiegelman’s ‘Maus’: Graphic Art and the Holocaust,” American Literature 68, no. 1 (1996): 69-84. (16 page pdf)
    • Gordon, Ian. "'But Seriously, Folks...': Comic Art and History," Review of History of the Comic Strip: Vol. 2, The Nineteenth Century by David Kunzle, and Comic Books as History: The Narrative Art of Jack Jackson, Art Spiegelman, and Harvey Pekar by Joseph Witek. American Quarterly 43:2(1991): 341-346. (6 page pdf)
    • Levine, Michael G. “Necessary Stains: The Bleeding of History in Spiegelman’s Maus,” chapter X of Levine's The Belated Witness: Literature, Testimony, and the Question of Holocaust Survival. Stanford University Press, 2006.
    • Mikics, David. “Underground Comics and Survival Tales,” in: Considering Maus: Approaches to Art Spiegelman’s “Survival Tale” of the Holocaust. Edited by Deborah R. Geis. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2003.
    • Rothberg, Michael. “‘We Were Talking Jewish’: Art Spiegelman's ‘Maus’ as ‘Holocaust’ Production,” Contemporary Literature 35:4(1994): 661-687. (27 page pdf)
    • Versaci, Rocco. "How Comic Books Can Change the Way Our Students See Literature: One Teacher's Perspective," The English Journal 91:2(2001): 61-67. (7 page pdf)
    • Walser Smith, Helmut (ed.), The Holocaust and Other Genocides: History, Representations, Ethics (Nashville: Vanderbilt Univ. Press, 2002), 100-130. (12 page pdf)
    • Young, James E. “The Holocaust as Vicarious Past: Art Spiegelman's "Maus" and the Afterimages of History,” Critical Inquiry 24:3(1998): 666-699. (34 page pdf)
  • Interviews and Biographies of Art Spiegelman
  • Pages with more resources (most links are included above already)
    • 1996 bibliography of articles about Maus with ca. 110 items, by Steven M. Bergson, librarian at the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto [1/10: web archive version] In June 2012 Mr. Bergson, now a UJA researcher, wrote to me to correct the spelling of his name and suggest several articles not yet listed here:
      • "'When Time Stands Still': Narrative Organization and Traumatic Immediacy in Art Spiegelman's Maus and In the Shadow of No Towers," in Baskind & Omer-Sherman's The Jewish Graphic Novel: Critical Approaches.
      • "The Raw Signing" by Scott Russo, Jizz #4 (3-page story) May 1991. Fantagraphics, in which Art is drawn as a Maus and he gives his reaction to Pekar's criticism of Maus.
      • Simpsons episode "Husbands and Knives" Nov. 18, 2007 in which Art Spiegelman appears--with & without his Maus mask on.
      • Fink #1 [Direct From Israel It's Fink! (Tales from the Ragin' Region, by Uri Fink)--Comic] amazon.com page; contains the story I reproduced. See page 10 here.
      • Michael Abate's "The Night I Met Art Spiegelman He Just Won the Pulitzer Prize" is offline, but the first 3 pages are archived. In it, all the characters are drawn as mice. page 1, page 2, page 3. 7/16/13: The full comic series is again online at: http://babygorilla.com/warehouse/Stories/abate/abate1.html. In the last image, the author-artist removes his mask.
    • 1999 bibliography on Maus with 51 articles and 13 reviews, by UC Berkeley librarian Gary Handman. Includes Library of Congress catalog call numbers. (Good if you want to head for the library)
    • Michigan State's library bibliographies of Spiegelman's works, original publications of Maus graphics, and some secondary works.
    • 2002 linkography on Maus by Holly Schneider. Unfortunately, many links are dead. Includes a brief bibliography. [1/10: web archive version]
  • Reviews
    • Review of the Maus CD-Rom by Roy Rosenzweig, included in his 1995 article "So, What's Next for Clio?: CD-ROM and Historians," originally published in The Journal of American History 81, 4 (March 1995): 1621-1640.
    • Short review of Maus by Jill Murphy, one of the founders of the UK site TheBookBag, 2007 [1/10: web archive version]
  • Books MetaMaus cover
    • Art Spiegelman, MetaMaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic, Maus (New York: Pantheon, [Oct.] 2011), 300 pages. ($22 at amazon; Random House page)
      "In the pages of MetaMaus, Art Spiegelman re-enters the Pulitzer prize–winning Maus, the modern classic that has altered how we see literature, comics, and the Holocaust ever since it was first published twenty-five years ago. He probes the questions that Maus most often evokes—Why the Holocaust? Why mice? Why comics?—and gives us a new and essential work about the creative process. MetaMaus includes a bonus DVD-R that provides a digitized reference copy of The Complete Maus linked to a deep archive of audio interviews with his survivor father, historical documents, and a wealth of Spiegelman’s private notebooks and sketches."

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