Maus explores the consequences of a Nazi ideology that reduces Jews to the status of sub-humans, even animals, and thus subjects not worthy of ethical consideration. In the novel, the Holocaust generates many situations that show how frail morality and ethics can be when truly tested. The normal bonds that hold human beings together – friendship, family, community – disintegrate. Jews and non-Jews alike have to consider what to do in the face of enormous human suffering, whether to risk one’s own life to help a fellow human being or to do nothing in the name of self-preservation. And moral high ground doesn’t ensure survival: some who seem most deserving die, while some of the worst seem to flourish.
The concentration camps created situations where individuals were forced to make an impossible choice between their sense of duty to others and their need to survive.
Morality and ethics seem fragile in Maus, which brings up the question of whether there is any inherent good in human beings after all.