Summary and review
Art Spiegelman speaks with his father about his time during the Second War. His father Vladek Spiegelman is a Holocaust survivor and Polish Jew. In the graphic novel the author jumps back and forth between story telling during the years of war and the interaction between father and son post-war. Vladek’s stories are written in broken English distinguishing him from story telling of other characters. Vladek is married to Anja first; a female Holocaust survivor and Polish Jew like Vladek. Richieu Spiegelman is their son and elder brother of Art. But Richieu is killed at the age of 6 when his aunt took care of him because Vladek and Anja deemed the situation more safe for him. Anja herself committed suicide after the war and, in a small four-page side excerpt from his 1973 comic “Prisoner On The Hell Planet”, Art discusses her suicide. Vladek later marries Mala, who also occurs in the book due to the author’s jump to post-war story telling. Other characters change rapidly and I already forgot their names. All characters are draws as humans with animal heads and tails. Specifically Jews are mice giving reason for the German title. Nazis are drawn as cats. And when they try to pass themselves off (meaning that they try to disguise as ethnic Poles), they are wearing a pig mask.
The story, for me, mainly concerns the rise of antisemitism and the difficult times to find hideouts and survive against malnutrition. The author empathically illustrates the pain Vladek had to go through to survive and make difficult, uncertain decisions in terrible times. I also appreciate that the author once drew Poland’s map to illustrate the geopolitical situation making sure the book does not become too narrow in its context.
A 156-page graphic novel to be read in 1–3 days. Worth reading!