Maus tackles questions of guilt and blame on two levels: the individual and the collective. On an individual level, Holocaust survivors must come to terms with survivor’s guilt, their guilt over surviving those who died in the camps. Their children experience a similar kind of guilt, over not sharing their parents’ experience of the Holocaust and living a life untroubled by the same trauma. Collectively, Maus turns to the question of whether the responsibility for the Holocaust extends beyond Nazi Germany. What, on an international level, could have been done to destroy the concentration camps? What could communities within German-controlled territories have done to save the Jews? Are the concentration camps really just a nightmarish fluke of history or the product of racial prejudices that persist in the world today?
In Maus, guilt is viewed as an emotion that compels us to consider our responsibility toward others.
Vladek projects his survivor’s guilt onto Art: he puts demands on Art that Art will never be able to fulfill, and thus will always feel guilt over his failure.