2: Excerpt from graphic novel, Art Spiegelman’s "Maus: A Survivor’s Tale," 1986.
Maus, a fictionalized memoir in comic book form, is the story of Vladek Spiegelman’s Holocaust experiences, as told to his son Art. In this excerpt, Vladek explains to his son how ordinary ethics evaporated in the Holocaust, even basic family loyalties.
Suggested Activity: Ask the students to compare the Maus excerpt to the chapter of Survival in Auschwitz called “This Side of Good and Evil.” This chapter is Levi’s detailed examination of the death camp’s weird market economy, with a particular emphasis on the ethics of theft and bribery. Ask students: what are the possibilities for maintaining moral standards under extreme circumstances? Divide the students into small groups and ask them to study Leviticus, chapter 19 (the holiness code), and/or the Ten Commandments. Ask each group to compose an “Auschwitz Code”—a list of dos and don’ts for human beings in extreme circumstances—and discuss the difficulties of establishing such a code.
Source: Art Spiegelman, The Complete Maus (New York: Pantheon, 1986), 116. Excerpt from MAUS by Art Spiegelman © 1973, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986 by Art Spiegelman, used by permission of The Wylie Agency LLC.