Banned, ‘Maus’ by Art Spiegleman, a Travesty That Ridicules Itself
I taught a Holocaust unit years ago when I was teaching High School English. Maus I and Maus II were among the books I gave my classes who were at various skill levels, from Advanced Placement to Inclusion. We discussed the background elements of WWII and Nazi Germany. And in some classes we compared those events to what was happening during the rendition of “terrorists” who ended up at Guantanamo Bay during the Bush Jr. Cheney administration. We discussed censorship, rights and freedoms under the constitution and how Nazi Germany was guilty of human rights violations and crimes against humanity. We also discussed how the United States was guilty of human rights violations at various points in its history under both political parties.
The themes represented in Maus I and Maus II are universal and timeless. The story is historical and authentic in its evocative drawings and spiritual infusion of truth, as hard as that might be to recognize and acknowledge. It is because it is horrific to understand and difficult to acknowledge that Spiegelman’s graphic rendering of his father’s and mother’s experiences is in the cannon of great works of artistic and literary merit.
That those who have seen “fit” to ban it from their curriculum is puzzling. For it is these very individuals who would declare themselves patriots and free thinkers which Maus, in all of its graphic text and subtext uplifts and supports in the context of WWII Nazi Germany and Nazi oppression of religious freedom and human rights.
The only “human right” enjoyed in German occupied Europe was to support Hitler’s vision of Nazi Germany’s Third Reich. If you didn’t and publicly declared that you didn’t, you lost your human right to live and have your being in Germany or your occupied nation (France, The Netherlands, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Belgium, Russian occupied territories, etc.). Publicly supporting or saving the enemies of Hitler (resisters, Jews, communists, Poles, Russians, handicapped, Romani, gays, etc.,) would land you in Auschwitz or another camp where you went to the gas chambers. Or to save money and food, you might be shot where you stood as many thousands were.
Austrian citizen Franz Jägerstätter, a devout spiritual Christian believed in the first two commandments (Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength; Love your neighbor as yourself). He was a conscientious objector and believed that killing another human being was not worthy of Christianity. He believed that one should lay down one’s life as Christ did, not take a life to keep Hitler usurping power over others.
Thus, the Nazis and his frightened townspeople who came to hate Jägerstätter declared him an enemy of the Third Reich. He was sentenced to death and executed for his refusal to fight for Hitler’s ultimate cause. That cause was to subject all nations who did not follow Hitler’s religious beliefs, a combination of paganism and occultism that adhered to the idea of a Master Race.
Indeed, Hitlerism and Nazism was and is a repudiation of the Old and New Testaments and the foundation of three global religions. To think otherwise is a distortion of the occult basis of the Nazi’s beliefs. Nazis were never Christians; that was a blind. If they were, they never would have taken the monstrous stance to act against God’s chosen people and human rights. They never would have committed crimes against humanity.
On a thematic level Spiegelman’s Maus contains the authentic testimonies of how the eradication of human rights as a systematic organizing principle destroys the destroyers and elevates those they attempt to destroy. In the name of power we see annihilation and suffering; the criminal losers cannot win with ideas whose basis is lies, for there are always witnesses who will survive to tell the truth.
The wisdom expressed as Spiegelman conveys with skill and emotional power “how his father bleeds history” is as old as humanity and worthy of reviewing at any age, the younger the better. Such wisdom saves lives and encourages hope. Banning wisdom and hope is an impossibility. Light always leaks into dark rooms. The tighter the doors are locked, the more folks struggle to open them. Banning these great works is a travesty that ridicules itself.
Nevertheless, I agree with Art Spiegelman that this is a “red alert” and more will follow. In this tide of times, that this country founded with the intention and hope of amending freedoms generationally to include every race, creed, color, gender should ban such a work in the 21`st century is not only a travesty, it is a tragedy.