What makes Maus different from the other literature circle books (besides Persepolis), is that Maus is a graphic novel. It was published in 1991 by Art Spiegelman and it tells the story of his father as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. In the book, the Jewish characters are portrayed as mice, the Germans as cats, and the non-Jewish Polish characters as pigs. Art in the book, represents the author himself while Vladek represents the author's father who was a Holocaust survivor.
Though many may not realize it, graphic novels have been around for centuries. Storytelling through sequential art can be dated back to prehistoric mankind. Many say that the art of graphic novels first emerged during Cro-Magnon times and evolved along with us, Homo Sapien Sapiens. This evolution has been hidden throughout history, be it in Egyptian hieroglyphs, cave paintings, religious art, etc. The term "graphic novel", first emerged in 1964 and became familiarized after the successes of books such as Maus.
I believe that part of Maus' success was due, in part, to the way that the author makes the characters seem realistic (since they are real), while not creating a very personal atmosphere that could generate discomfort. By also representing humans with innocent wildlife, a lot of World War II's gruesome reality and details are softened, creating an overall easier experience to handle.
Since Maus focuses around Poland during the German invasion, I decided to find some background knowledge on the subject. Basically, World War II commenced with Adolf Hitler's invasion of Poland. On September 1st, 1939, German forces began the unexpected occupation of the Republic of Poland. The German forces were composed of approximately 1,300 aircraft units and around 60 soldier divisions (History.com Staff). On the night of September 1st, the Republic of Poland sent an emergency request for military assistance to its allies, in hopes that Britain and France would fulfill the April 1939 Anglo-French agreement to protect Poland (History.com Staff). Both countries responded to Poland's cry for help, and declared war on Germany. However, Hitler's victory came quickly and acted as the spark that would ignite the flames of war for 6 years around the globe.
|"Aerial view of bombs exploding during a German bombing run over Poland in September, 1939"|
Officially speaking, Hitler's campaign against Poland lasted for 26 days before his battered target gave in, but the German Blitzkrieg sent all of Europe into a state of chaos and uncertainty that soon gave way to pure fear.
The attack against Poland began at six in the morning as Warsaw was thrashed by the first of many bombing raids (History.com Staff). As the bombs fell from the sky on the Polish capital, German armies poured out of Slovakia and Prussia and invaded the land. Quickly, the advanced German air force obliterated the Polish Air Force and dominated the skies. With the skies open, German planes directed their attacks at Polish infrastructure, such as railways and roads, as well as Polish troops. German dive bombers, namely Junkers Ju-87 (History.com Staff), spread terror among Polish citizens forcing them to flee and block up roads, stopping the Polish army from reaching the front lines. The German soldiers quickly ate up the land, and by September 15th, Warsaw was encircled. On the 27th of September 1939, the Republic of Poland fell under Nazi Germany (History.com Staff).
|"German infantry advancing on the outskirts of Warsaw, Poland on September 16, 1939"|
History.com Staff. "Poland." History. History, 2014. Web. 11 Oct. 2014. <http://www.history.co.uk/study-topics/history-of-ww2/poland>.
Tychinski, Stan. "A Brief History of the Graphic Novel." Diamond Bookshelf. Diamond Comic Distributors, 2014. Web. 11 Oct. 2014. <http://www.diamondbookshelf.com/Home/1/1/20/164?articleID=64513>.
Taylor, Alan. "World War II: The Invasion of Poland and the Winter War."The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 26 June 2011. Web. 11 Oct. 2014. <http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2011/06/world-war-ii-the-invasion-of-poland-and-the-winter-war/100094/>.