Survival in Auschwitz in Maus an Illustration Book by Art Spiegelman

The early 1940’s was a very dark time for many countries Counties such as Germany, Japan, America, Britain, France, and Italy were all involved in World War Two, The death count was very high from the fighting but it wasn’t just the fighting where there was death. Concentration camps had been set up and Jewish people were regularly dying in them. They had to do extreme physical jobs, follow every single rule, and rarely acquired enough food for a day Art Spiegelman, an author, writes a comic book-like book.

His book Maus illustrates Vladek‘s and Anja‘s time in Auschwitz and what they had to deal with there are many themes present within the book such as responsibility, survival, and identity which are shown in Spiegelman’s illustrations. One of the most important themes is survival as there were many different aspects to it when it came to surviving in Auschwitz.

The biggest factor when it came to surviving was sheer luck.

As a prisoner in Auschwitz, anything good that happened was lucky. Getting fitting clothes that aren’t torn, getting an average amount of food or any food at all, surviving a sickness, and even living to see another day was lucky. One of the illustrations in the book shows how lucky Vladek was. The block supervisor asked who knew how to speak Polish and English and Vladek knew both pretty well. Vladek gave the supervisor English lessons and the supervisor liked Vladek. He said, “There are too many prisoners here.

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The 5.5. will line you all up tomorrow be sure to stand on the far left.” (Spiegelman 31) Due to Vladek’s actions, he wasn’t chosen to work for the day He then developed a good relationship with the block supervisor during his time there until he was relocated to a place to work.

This shows an extreme amount of luck if Vladek didn‘t know how to speak both languages, he wouldn’t have gotten the benefits he received. This easily could’ve resulted in his death another instance where luck was on Vladek’s side was when a new shoemaker was needed. Vladek knew how to do basic tasks in many different job fields so he stepped up to repair a camp official’s shoe he received a sausage for his good work. Vladek thought, “You know what this was, a whole sausage? You can’t imagine! I cut with a shoe knife and ate so test] was a little sick afterward”. This quote shows how grateful Vladek was for this sausage and was extremely lucky. Food was scarce in the camps and it was lucky to receive something of higher quality than bread, tea, or soup. A key piece to surviving Auschwitz was to just keep quiet and not question things. Pages 26 and 29 of Mans illustrate this. Page 26 shows a prisoner saying his shoes are too small and requesting some a little bigger.

The next image shows him getting punched in the face by the guard for asking for something else. The guards and officials didn’t care about the prisoners wants as they were there to just do their job, this resulted in Violence towards the prisoners. Page 29 illustrates something similar to the event on page 26. This one shows a prisoner talking about his soup to another prisoner and says, “i spilled most of my soup too, when I asked for more, they beat me!” (Spiegelman 29). This quote shows how the guards were Violent to the prisoners for no real reason other than to be violent, It also shows how being quiet and just accepting things would be better for the prisoners. If they just did what they were told and not ask for things, the odds of them getting beaten would be slightly reduced.

Sometimes beatings led to death so anything to not get beat would be essential. A scene on page 50 depicts how violent the guards could actually get. It shows a guard in an alley with a prisoner on the ground getting stepped on and it says, “On one appel he didn‘t stand so straight and a guard dragged him away. I heard he pushed him down and jumped hard on his neck…” This shows how cruel the guards could be to the prisoners. Just because one prisoner wasn’t standing up perfectly straight, he died. The most important part of survival was having faith throughout Vladek’s time in Auschwitz, he maintained faith to live and see the outside world again. He didn’t want to die so he did whatever he could to keep his life. Even in tough situations, he maintained faith in living, on page 87 it depicts the time that Vladek spent in the crowded train.

Many people died during the time the train was stopped but Vladek stayed strong and survived. If he wanted to die, he easily could’ve given up hope and let himself die. On page 95 it depicts Vladek suffering from typhus, Many people died from it and only a few survived through it. The bathroom was littered with the deceased due to typhus, but Vladek again kept faith and survived Vladek even had faith when he was at the lake with the Germans and about 200 other people. They were all going to get shot that night but by a miracle, they weren’t and the Germans had left Auschwitz was a very difficult thing to survive. Hundreds of people died every day and there was no escaping it. The prisoners were treated awfully, housed in overcrowded barracks, and didn’t receive enough food ever. There were several factors that could increase your chances of living such as having good luck, accepting things, and having faith to see the next day and the outside world. There are many themes that are shown throughout the book such as survival, memory, and responsibility, with survival being the most important one.

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Survival in Auschwitz in Maus an Illustration Book by Art Spiegelman. (2023, Feb 18). Retrieved from

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