At its heart, Maus is a story not only about memories being passed from one generation to another, but also about the impact that memories can have on the present. The novel wrestles with the issue of whether it is possible to truly understand the Holocaust without having lived through it. The novel uses eyewitness accounts, photographs, and historical documentation to reconstruct the past. The question of memory extends beyond the question of how the children of Holocaust survivors can relate to their parents’ historical legacy. It also asks us to consider our relationship to history, and whether the memory of the horrors of the Holocaust can do anything to prevent a similar catastrophe in the future.
Art’s work on Vladek’s story helps him to understand Vladek’s behavior, as well as their troubled relationship.
Spiegelman is acutely conscious that his representation of Vladek’s story has implications beyond his personal relationship with his father because it deals with the Holocaust.