Maus’s plot centers on Vladek’s story, as he relates it to Art. Vladek begins his story with a description of his affluent lifestyle before the onset of World War II. He has just married Anja, his father-in-law has helped him set up a factory, and Vladek and Anja have a young son, Richieu.
As World War II begins, Vladek is sent to fight, and ends up a prisoner of war. When he is freed, he returns to a Poland that is now occupied by Germany, and thus subject to its laws. Conditions worsen as the Germans confiscate the Jews’ property, restrict their movements, move them into ghettoes, and deport Jews to the camps.
For a while, Vladek and Anja are able to hide from the Germans in the homes of various Poles. But when they attempt to escape into Hungary, they are betrayed to the Nazis by their handlers.
At Auschwitz, Vladek and Anja experience the full horror and brutality of the concentration camps.
The ever-resourceful Vladek figures out a way to make life a tiny bit easier for himself and Anja in the camps by bartering his skilled labor and his language skills. As the war nears its end, Vladek and Anja are transferred to Dachau, where conditions are even worse than Auschwitz.
With the end of the war, Vladek and Anja reunite in their hometown, Sosnowiec. They emigrate first to Sweden, and then to the United States.
In the last scene, we return to the present as Vladek finishes his story to Art.