Author: Art Spiegelman
Image representing a bathroom for prisoners
Image representing the Jews' headquarters
Image representing the seawall firing place
Image representing the gate of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp
Image representing one of the execution gas chamber (all images taken by myself)
Connection #1: Personal Experience
About 3 years ago, my family and I traveled to Germany. During our stay in Berlin, we found that something interesting to do would be to visit one of the famous Nazi concentration camps nearby, called Sachsenhausen. Entering the camp, I could see a vast and open space, full of long wooden houses, which were supposed to be the prisoners' sleeping area, together with a very tall structure, similar to a chimney, and a small depression in the landscape, without a known purpose to me before visiting it. Anyways, I got to visit the Jews' bedroom and bathroom, and I was horrified along the entire visit to see how things were at the time and the saddening reality that a concentration camp truly is. There were no mattresses inside the bed, obviously, just a plain, wooden little area for the prisoner to sleep in. The bathroom was very cold and had huge fountains, similar to bowls, where the Jews used to bathe in, with very cold water, while an excruciatingly freezing winter ruled the outside of the shacks. Honestly, what mostly shocked me during my tour around the camp were the terrifying gas chambers, where Zyklon B gas would enter and poison to death, brutally, all of the hundreds of people inside. After the mass murder, the corpses were then thrown inside these huge ovens, which incinerated them, maybe pointing out the function of that huge, chimney-like structure that can be seen present in the camp. Besides all this, the depression in the landscape of which I was talking about was actually a seawall firing place, where they would also kill the prisoners by making them stand between the wall and a whole lot of armed Nazi soldiers ready to shoot. All in all, this visit for me was one of the most unexpected and horrific personally for myself. With this, I could truly understand the hideous reality behind the Nazi concentration camps, and I found the whole experience very interesting and historical as a whole.
Connection #2: Hunger Theme
Another connection that came to my mind while I read Maus was to relate the hardship and famine of the local Polish Jews to similar situations, such as the plane crash in the Andes Mountains forty years ago. Yes, I know the topic is not quite related if you think of it overall: World War II and a plane crash. However, a main similarity between both was exactly the starvation of the people. In war camps, such as Nazi concentration camps, a meager supply of food was provided for the prisoners. In fact, some even died of famine in this situation. In comparison, in 1972, after a severe plane crash in the middle of the Peruvian mountains, the Andes, the condition of the survivors were extreme, forcing them to commit acts of cannibalism and start eating the corpses of the people who did not resist the fall. Together with their small portions of food, being them chocolate, a few snacks, and some wine, they were able to go through and survive the very harsh climate of the region for more than 70 days in total. Some passengers justified the act of cannibalism to be the only way to escape death, and the Christian survivors saying that it is equivalent to the Holy Communion rite, relating to a passage of the Bible that says: "no man hath greater love than this: that he lay down his life for his friends." Moreover, another relating thing to this would be that nowadays, hunger has become a severe issue for many countries around the globe. It is estimated that about 791 million people in the world don't have access to safe amounts of food sufficient enough to keep an individual healthy. This number consists of more than 10% of the world's 7.3 billion population. The most severe cases of hunger lie in the Sub-Saharan countries and Asian countries, of which China showed great improvement in these past 20 years. In general, hunger has been and still is a colossal issue in the world, despite the fact that it was intentional to have scarcity of food in concentration camps, and it is possible to relate various similar cases of famine to those.
Connection #3: My Descendants During this Period
My great grandfather was born in a small Italian village called Bastia, in the province of Umbria, in 1903. At the age of 24 (in 1927) he moved to Brazil alone from the harbor of Genova, in a voyage of 15 days by ship, leaving his father and brothers behind and finally arriving in Santos. The reason of why he decided to make his living in a country so distant was because of the lack of employment in Italy, with very few opportunities of work. Brazil, as a developing country, sounded like a very good option to move to, together with the United States, which could've been a possibility as well. Moving on, he met his wife in São Paulo. Daughter of Italians, her father owned a food emporium, the biggest of the city at the time. Due to the war, Italian immigrants were seen as complete strangers to the government, and didn't really get the same amount of trust as a regular civilian. Therefore, if there was to be any Italian born that wanted to travel or visit another city in Brazil, they needed to get a written permission from government officials to do so. As a matter of fact, even the soccer club, founded by Italians had to change its name from "Palestra Italia" to "Palmeiras", which is now one of the largest and most well known clubs in Brazil. Later on, in 1936, my grandfather was born, the second son of my great grandfather. As a fan of Benito Mussolini, in honor to him, he included the name "Benito" in my grandfather's name in his birth. Now, don't get me wrong, he wasn't fascist or anything similar. He named his son this way because of the national pride Mussolini put in the country, and was viewed as a very powerful national leader by the people. After the war, with Italy defeated, the allies victorious, and Mussolini hung, it was natural for my grandpa to feel somewhat uncomfortable with his second name. Nevertheless, he only changed his name after his father's death, in 1968, to include his mother's last name in, Rossi. In conclusion, I really find my family's story during the time really interesting on its own, and I think it is worth sharing all in all.
One last thing I noticed when reading Maus was towards the last bit of the reading section, on page 126, where Spiegelman portrays this prison guard as a dog, similar to the cat as Nazis and Jews as mice allegory created. As mentioned on page 127, Vladek moved to the United States after the war, indicating that the person guarding the cells was an american citizen. This makes me think that the Americans are seen as dogs, and maybe even the whole allies overall, due to their role in stopping the Nazis and their vile affairs of the Holocaust and to rule over Europe, and, eventually, the world. I think this is quite reasonable in the end and is something I definitely wanted to mentioned, as I am not sure many people took the time to think about this rather discrete characteristic during the reading.
"2014 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics by World Hunger Education Service." 2014 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics by World Hunger Education Service. World Hunger Education Service, Feb. 2015. Web. 11 Feb. 2015. Link to website
"The Story of the Andes Survivors." Alpine Expeditions. Alpine Expeditions, n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. Link to website