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Themes

Maus presents World War II largely from the perspective of Jewish survivors who were imprisoned in the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau and Dachau. From survivor testimony, Maus recreates concentration camp life – from the brutal labor conditions to the infamous gas chambers, where it is estimated that almost a million prisoners died in Auschwitz alone. Maus also tracks the psychological effect of camp life on the individuals involved. Rather than presenting either the guards as uniformly evil or the prisoners as uniformly good, we get a full range of human behavior – cowardice and sadism, certainly, but also heroism and moral strength.

Questions About Warfare (The Holocaust)

  1. What were some of the differences in the way that Jewish men, women, and children were treated by the German soldiers?
  2. What were conditions like for prisoners in the camps? Were all the prisoners treated the same way, or were some prisoners treated more or less favorably than others?
  3. Vladek either works or is interned at three different concentration camps. How did life in Auschwitz differ from life in Birkenau or Dachau?
  4. What are some of the visual images Maus uses to help us understand life (and death) in the camps?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Spiegelman’s Maus represents in graphic detail the horrors of the concentration camps.

In Spiegelman’s Maus, we see how Nazi policies systematically brutalized Jewish prisoners, but we also see how some Jewish prisoners were able to assert their humanity despite these dehumanizing circumstances.

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