Study Guide

Maus: A Survivor's Tale Book II, Chapter 1

By Art Spiegelman

Book II, Chapter 1


  • Art and Françoise are vacationing with friends in Vermont for the summer. Art isn’t sure what animal Françoise, a Frenchwoman, should be. Françoise thinks she should be a mouse, since she converted to Judaism when she married Art to please Vladek.
  • Their friend pops in and asks Art to hurry to the phone – it’s Vladek, who has just had a heart attack. But when Art gets on the phone, he discovers that Vladek had lied to get him on the phone. What really happened? Mala had finally left, taking some of their savings with her.
  • On the drive over to Vladek’s summer house in the Catskills, Art reveals to Françoise his conflicted feelings about his father, as well as Richieu, the brother he had never met.
  • When they arrive at Vladek’s, Vladek is only too happy to see them, and even thinks that they are staying with him for the rest of the summer. They try to get that idea out of his head, but he insists they sleep on it.
  • The next morning, Vladek relates how Mala left, taking jewelry, their car, and money from their joint account. Art goes outside for a cigarette break, but then gets invited over by Vladek’s neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Karp.
  • Art is finally able to tear himself away from the Karps. He and Françoise attempt to help Vladek sort out his bank papers. After a few hours of frustrating accounting, Françoise insists that Vladek and Art go for a walk.
  • Art brings along his tape recorder, and asks Vladek to tell him more about his time in Auschwitz.
  • Vladek takes up the story where it ended at the end of Book 1. He and Anja have arrived at Auschwitz, where they are separated from each other.
  • Vladek manages to stick with his friend Mandelbaum as they and the rest of the male prisoners are shoved through the showers and into their prison uniforms, then branded with numbers.
  • At Auschwitz, they even see Abraham, who had sent them the note that he had been safely smuggled into Hungary. Abraham explained that he had been forced to write them the note by the Polish smugglers. Vladek explains that he saw the Polish smugglers at Auschwitz as well; apparently they were no longer useful to the Germans.
  • Vladek is miserable. A priest walks up to him and looks at his numbers. He explains to Vladek that his prison number is numerologically quite lucky in the Jewish tradition.
  • They are treated brutally in the prison, but Vladek manages to catch a break when the Polish capo, or captain, of their particular barrack needs English lessons. In exchange, Vladek gets extra food and clothing. While his poor friend Mandelbaum leaves with another work detail, the Polish capo is able to get Vladek a relatively – very relatively – easier job as a tinsmith.
  • At this point, Vladek breaks off his story in order to show Art a way to sneak into a resort. Here, they get a nice seat on the patio. Vladek seems especially proud of the fact that he gets to play free bingo.