Monday, February 9, 2015

Question Commander Rotation #1 - Thiago Rossi

Book: Maus
Author: Art Spiegelman
Text by: Thiago Rossi

Image representing a trapped Jew, depicted as a rat
1. Why are the Jews in the novel portrayed as rats, Nazis as cats, and miscellaneous beings as pigs? Why did the author do this analogy?

Throughout the whole book of Maus, it is impossible not to notice a certain allegory and imagery referring to "race" and nationality by portraying each type of character as a specific kind of animal. I found it really interesting about the creativity of Art Spiegelman, which came up with something I haven't quite seen before in some books and it is absolutely a unique feature to Maus. Anyway, I've noticed so far in the graphic novel that the Polish are portrayed as pigs, the Nazis as cats, and finally the Jews as rats. To begin with, I would start off by saying that the Polish are probably depicted as pigs because the Nazis at the time used to call them pigs, for a reason I do not understand. Now, I'd say the most probable reason for the analogy between rats and Jews is because Nazis hunted them, as well as because the Jews at the time were believed to be less than common people, making them be seen as rats. As a matter of fact, there is even a word in German to classify if a person "walks or acts like a Jew", called "mauschen". Interestingly enough, this word is derived from the word "maus", literally meaning "rat" in the German language. Another possible reason Jews could be seen as rats would be because they lived trapped always in ghettos or concentration camps, just like rats that can live all their inside a cage. Last but not least, the Nazis actually performed terrible experiments on their prisoners, mainly Jews, arguably saying these people were used as "lab rats" in cruel tests.
Image representing anti-semitism

2. What were causes of the anti-semitism in the world, especially in Nazi Germany?

After some research I came to the conclusion, to be honest, that there is absolutely no reason in the world for anti-semitism to exist. In reality, and I am being very frank here, I am not really able to answer this question because there is no cause for the hatred towards Jews and why it was taken so far, at least not even a reasonable one and it remains unexplainable. One "possible" explanation, more like an excuse for anti-semitists, would be that the Jews are very different from the Europeans and possess different customs, dressing and eating differently. However, this theory is refuted because when Jews moved to France and Germany, they adapted to the culture, language and even intermarried with Europeans. Therefore, it is as if they were living in Europe for a whole eternity. Actually, the Jews even mentioned once: "Berlin is our Jerusalem; Germany is our fatherland", to show the true love they had to their adapted new land. Moreover, another hypothesis to try to justify such an act would be because Jews were, in some way, involved with the murder of Jesus Christ, which could possibly become an argument for Christians to feel some hatred towards them. Nevertheless, as it is believed, Jesus' last words were saying for the people to forgive the people that murdered him. The whole point of Christianity and its beliefs involve the holy act of forgiveness. Such an example would be St. Pope John Paul II, which was shot and forgived the man that targeted him. In other points, Christian anti-semitists that have this hatred toward Jews and use this argument are actually proving my point. If Christians are truly followers of Christ and Jesus told them to forgive those responsible for his death, then they should forgive the Jews and live in peace, following the true philosophy behind all this. Finally, there is the "scapegoat theory" which says that the Nazi Party and Hitler's government needed to di
verge the attention of the problems with the government of the time in order for the people not to take notice of the internal issues happening. Anyways, in order to do so, Adolf just randomly told to the German people all of the disgrace happening in the country was all because of the Jews. As Mr. Beck showed us in class, the Nazis internalized their beliefs in the people, just like that 3rd grade teacher did with her students. In other words, it is simply a very schematic and efficient way of brainwashing, which gave the Jews a sense of inferiority and the "Aryan race" a sense of superiority. Soon enough, all the German citizens developed hatred towards these people and treated them as complete garbage. Nazis actually hated Jews too because they were trying to get adapted to the German customs, and they didn't accept that in the most friendly way, because in the end, for them, they wouldn't want the Jews to "infect" the "Aryan race" with their "inferior" genes.

Image representing the different "races" of the world

3. Why did Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party give privileges to the "aryan race"? What were the causes that lead to the Jewish genocide? What where the Nazist ideologists of "race"?

You see, Hitler believed he was a great thinker and ended up formulating ideas that led to the creation of the Nazi ideology. He believed that the attitudes, characteristics, abilities, and behavior were all influenced directly from the race group each person belonged, and that all those things could not be changed whatsoever. Therefore, they classified humans by "race types", such as arab, asian, caucasian, aryan, jewish, black, and others. Nazis also recognized the existence of Darwin's "survival of the fittest" theory, saying that a great population, in order to survive, needs to be constantly expanding in numbers and in territory, acquiring resources in order to feed the community. In different words, they actually considered war a natural cause, for different races needed to dispute territory in order to feed their people, which led to violent situations. For the Nazis, "outsiders", such as Jews, could not take part in their society because their genes could not be altered overall, and they didn't want a race they considered inferior participating in their society. Moreover, this ideology targeted not only Jews, but other "races" such as gypsies, incapables, Poles, and Afro-germans (blacks) as well as homossexuals and Jehovah's witnesses. Furthermore, Adolf Hitler valued the contribution of a member to its racial group and that the main purpose of such a group was to ensure its survival. These ideologists also state that the mixture of races is incorrect, as this could lead to the loss of a race's distinguishing characteristics, making it lose the capacity to defend itself, leading it to extinction. The population of the German Empire was called the "Aryan" race, a certain group of people that Hitler gave the most value to the Nazis and were the most "privileged" for they are the ones who built the great empire. In order for this aryan bloodline to continue with its purity, Adolf Hitler's main goal was to eliminate any other secondary race that could possibly interfere with the process, as mixture of races could happen, which would cause to the weakness and "extinction" of the aryan "race". All in all, the Nazis made a racial hierarchy and had beliefs all based in race, prejudging every type of people in the world. The main reason of what lead to the Jewish genocide, therefore, were the Nazist beliefs themselves, which said the Jews were an inferior race, for whatever reason, and needed to be destroyed. The aryan "race", on the other hand, was made superior in the ideology because it is the "pure" race descending from the German Empire, which for a reason not so clear made them superior to others.

Shmoop Editorial Team. "What Animal Allegory? in Maus: A Survivor's Tale." Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 09 Feb. 2015.

Aish. "Causes vs. Excuses." Aishcom. Aish, 28 Jan. 2010. Web. 09 Feb. 2015.

Aish. "The Big Six." Aishcom. Aish, 23 Feb. 2010. Web. 09 Feb. 2015.

"Victims of the Nazi Era: Nazi Racial Ideology." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Council, 20 June 2014. Web. 03 Feb. 2015


  1. Thiago,

    While reading the your response to the third question, I felt interested to know more about the Nazist ideology itself. To begin with, Nazism is an ideology that surged during 1933, where it was a political practice and governed Germany until 1945. Actually, Nazism also relates to another very intense ideology called fascism, both in which are against certain people are are totally controlled by one powerful leader, also known as a dictator. Thus meaning that the basic goal of these two ideologies is to control and manipulate the lives of the people both privately and in public. Diving more specifically into Nazism, it was mainly characterized by a leader, which in this case was Adolf Hitler, and the support of the military. Another common idea of Nazism was to eliminate or confront any other enemies in their perspective. As stated in your post, one of the main enemies for the Nazis were the Jews. However, as you also have said, communists, liberals, pacifists, gypsies, homosexuals, dark skinned people and so many more were targeted by the Nazis. Summarizing, they just wanted to eliminate anyone else that could interfere with the process of living and survival of a certain group. Finally, another characteristic of Nazism is that they tried to modify or transform the people that worked, or the working class to concentrate more on nationalism, racism, and most importantly to them, war. Overall, I think with the fact that Hitler thought he was a great thinker and creating an ideology that potentially is trying to eliminate all other races was very interesting and helped me learn more about how Nazism worked in Germany.

  2. I haven't read this book yet; however, I could still relate to what you were saying. In your first question you say that the book has portrayed the Jewish people as rats. You described your reasoning with the Nazis hunting them, trapped in ghettos or concentration camp and because people believed Jewish people to be less than common. While flipping through the pages of the book, you were right that the author 'art spiegelman' has drawn his characters in pigs, rats, and cats. I think it so interesting and unique that it makes it worse for us, the readers to put down to book. I think by seeing mice talk, and see it suffering with its surroundings and its daily life, it gives us a much bigger impact than words. Like people say: "an image is worth a thousand words." I feel that the author had a greater advantage then any other author; because he could put facial expressions and imagery to help us understand this serious topic. I feel that Anne Frank's diary is also an example of great imagery. When you started talking about the why the Jewish were portrayed as rats in Maus, I thought about it how were they portrayed in Anne Frank. I must admit, Art Spoegelman really taught this threw since if I had to compare them to an animal it would be a rat. Being stuck in an attic, hardly no food, no space, and couldn't get out because you would be killed or taken away to an concentration camp all yelled out rat. Rats don't have much food, not much space, usually are in attics and if they go out of the attic us human beings will try to kill it with poison. What else do we need to see that actually there were treated as rats in the past. I actually wonder what the authors thought were when she was thinking for represent the Jewish is a different, unique way. I can't wait to start reading Maus!

  3. Thiago,
    One thing that really stood out to me in your post was when you talked about the reason for representing the jews as rats. The reason that this analogy between the rats, cats, and pigs stood out to me is because while I was reading your post I started to think about why Art Spiegelman chose to represent the jews as rats even when he is in the present, talking to his father. It seems to me like, if you are correct about the analogy being that the rats are hunted by the cats, it would have made more sense to have the jews that he knows in the present day become cats themselves. It certainly would have sent a powerful message if he had done so. Because of this I have to wonder if your second idea, the idea of the jews being like lab rats, was slightly more the idea behind the analogy. Thanks for all this food for thought,