Experiencing the Nazi Germany as an “Undesirable”:

Art Spiegelman is an American cartoonist who, from 1980 to 1991, depicted a biographical details of his father’s life as a Polish Jew during the Holocaust through serialized graphic novel. Although the nature of Spiegelman’s creative license in his endeavor means that one should not take the entire work to be entirely nonfiction, its basis in recorded interviews with an actual Holocaust survivor (of whom there are fewer and fewer every day) can provide a rich and detailed insight into the life of an “undesirable” trapped within Nazi territory during the party’s reign. The aspect of Spiegelman’s work which is the most fictional in nature is its characters, who are drawn as either cats, mice, or pigs. This, however, is a stylistic choice meant to represent the different social class divisions in Nazi territory: the Nazis themselves are cats, who prey on the Jewish mice. Poles who he envisioned as crooked or untrustworthy were depicted as the pigs.


Photo Credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/3a/

Above is a panel by Spiegelman which sheds light on his father’s perception of the Jewish Ghettos. These were regions of cities which were sectioned off and designated as areas in which Jews were often manually relocated by Nazi officials. According to the panel, those who lived in the Ghetto were often deprived of many of the basic necessities that were needed for survival. While rampant poverty and overcrowding were major issues, for many people the Ghettos were only the beginning of many horrors to come.

Most of those who were brought to the Nazi camps never left them:


Photo Credit: http://atelim.com/maus-a-modern-epic

It was common for the death camps to institute programs of mass murder, the perpetrators of which were often other prisoners themselves, whose only meager comfort could be found in the fact that it was not themselves that were being killed. While this panel depicts the use of fire in this endeavor, another popular method for killing was gas. Edgar Snow comments that these gas chambers could kill from 150 to 200 people in only five minutes.[1]

Photo Credit: https://mausgroup.files.wordpress.com/

What’s more, a major Nazi crematorium consisted of about ten “ovens” that could end the lives of up to 1400 prisoners daily.[2] According to the efficient nature of the Germans, and their waste-free approach to their programming, the ashes from these fires were often used as vegetable fertilizers for Nazi gardens.[3]

A real Nazi gas chamber:

Photo Credit: https://www.timetoast.com

Sometimes, however, efficiency was less of a priority than sheer brutality:

Snow explains that “sometimes prisoners were clubbed or hanged [or] casually kicked or beaten to death”, and this cruelty often seemed random in nature.[4] Notions of courtesy required that any German prisoners were to be shot instead of beaten or thrown into the gas chambers.


[1] Edgar Snow, “Here the Nazi Butchers Wasted Nothing,” Saturday
Evening Post
217, no. 18: 96.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

Cover Photo Credit: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C3KZEpjVUA