A Survivor’s Tale
Part I: My Father Bleeds History
Part II: And Here My Troubles Began
By Art Spiegelman
When I was thirteen or so, my father forbade me to read a book we had in the house, so of course I read it. It was Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account, by Miklo Nyiszli.
I know my father was not trying to prevent me from learning about the Holocaust. Compassionately, he was trying to spare a young man’s mind from being scarred so soon by the horrible details (which are throughout the book).
As much as we would like to shield our children, it remains a parental responsibility to ensure that each generation knows the story and, ideally, learns to recognize the societal mutations that can lead to such an event. When it comes time to teach the lesson, I strongly recommend Art Spiegelman’s Maus (I & II).
Described by Jules Feiffer as “at one and the same time a novel, a documentary, a memoir and a comic book,” Maus thoroughly succeeds as each. One part of the story is the distressing relationship between the author and his father in Seventies New York City. The other is played out in Eastern Europe, during the Second World War. While both stories are compelling, it is the survivor’s tales that make us sweat.
Paradoxically, the cartoon format of the books seems somehow to make the horrors of the Final Solution more tangible even than film documentaries (and any other book I have read on the subject).
The millions of stories of the Holocaust will be–must be–told, and no one book can ever hope to contain more than the tiniest fraction of those stories. Here then, is one contribution, but certainly among the most valuable.