The Holocaust is a highly sensitive and severe topic for many people. Millions of people, especially Jews, were killed and many families were torn apart. There are plenty of actual survivors out there. It was a period that is still horribly fresh in their memories, and their stories are passed on from generation to generation. The Holocaust is considered to be the most horrific and gruesome event in history of the 20th century.
Maus is considered to be a piece of art, a masterpiece, by Art Spiegelman. There are many stories about the Holocaust, and of course, every story is unique. You can find them anywhere, in any form. From novels to theatrical shows and movies. However, Maus is brought to you in a unique style, a style authors never used before with this topic. Art Spiegelman made a comic memoir.
The Holocaust is not the only historical event such a story could be made upon. What if Maus was written in a different time which involves racism? The story could be about racism in the 60s against Afro-Americans in the United States.Fortunately, there was no leader like Hitler favouring total ‘Entlösung’ (destroying) of a certain race and death camps like Auswitch weren’t present here. However, there was definitely enough drama (inequality, racial segregation, killing) to talk about pretty similar to that of the Jews in the beginning of World War II. If we’re talking about fascism, the story could be settled in the communist state of North-Korea. Repression, hunger and fear are all there.
During World War II, the story could have been settled in another country. What if Vladek lived in another country, like the Soviet Union? He could have been forced to join the Soviet army, suffer from the harsh cold while fighting the war against Germany in Russia and live under the constant pressure of the communist government.
As we know, Vladek wasn’t a big fan of communism. In fact, he was even against it. Resisting the beliefs of Joseph Stalin was very dangerous, he killed millions of people who opposed his ideas. Vladek would have had to run for his life and hide, just like a resisting (in fact, helpless) Jew would have done in Nazi-Germany.
The book could also be written from a totally different side with different opinions. What if the book was written in Germany by some kind of former Nazi officer? The story of a Nazi officer would include details about his luxury life full of power, made possible by rewards of Hitler, meanwhile benefiting from hard-working Jew slaves (who used to be in his position). Would he describe every detail about his work, or would he leave specific things out, out of shame? The story could be written in two ways: The author admits his hate against Jews or he rather writes a mild version, and blames his horrible work on the pressure of the fascist government, which forced him to do his work.
The target audience for comic books is mostly children. For Maus, it’s different. Maus’ intended audience is definitely adults. People who not usually read such stories will be interested, because it’s a comic with ‘funny animals’. People are able to generate more sympathy with the characters and story, as it strikes us in a place usually reserved for nice associations and nostalgia we have for figures like Mickey Mouse. Therefore, the use of the comic style makes the narration of Maus even more powerful and effective when we’re talking about conveying complex themes like the Holocaust.
What if Maus was written for children? Children like comics. However, the question is: Do they like to read a comic about the life of the Jews in the Holocaust? The story could use a little modification as regarding the explicit content present in the book. Perhaps a little more romanticization with colorful animals, usage of existing (and famous) fairy-tale animals like the earlier mentioned Mickey Mouse or other Disney figures, and voilà, you’ve got a children-story explaining the Holocaust.
Art Spiegelman is an artist. As with all stories, the story of Maus could have been written in many different ways, in many different styles. However, would it be a ´masterpiece´ if would have done it differently? Would it be a such a masterpiece if it was about something else? Could another artist have done, or do the same? We’ll see in the future.