Beyond MAUS: Other Holocaust Graphic Novels
by Henry Gonshak. 2009
Reviewed by Jan Peczkis
This is a review of an article published in SHOFAR: AN INTERDISCIPLINARY JOURNAL OF JEWISH STUDIES 28(1)55-79.
This article is striking by its presence of rarely-seen wisdom. Consider the following:
MAUS PREJUDICES: POLES ARE NOT JUST PIGS: POLES ARE EXTRA-NEGATIVE PIGS
Gonshak comments, “In this respect, Yossel differs sharply from Maus, which portrays the Polish characters not just as pigs but often as antisemitic pigs, which led to a national furor when the graphic novel was published in Poland.” (p. 70). Stereotyping Poles as prejudiced is itself a form of prejudice! And, of course, MAUS does not inform the innocent reader about how Poland’s Jews acted and why Poles were sometimes anti-Semitic.
MAUS, WIDELY USED IN THE CLASSROOM, FALSIFIES HISTORY
Henry Gonshak is one of the very few Jewish authors who has come to grips with the fundamentally false, anti-Polish character of MAUS. He writes, “When I gave a paper on Maus at a Holocaust conference held in Tampa in the mid-90s, during the subsequent discussion period a survivor in the audience stood up and stated that his life had been saved by a Polish family, and the Poles resented the way Spiegelman had depicted them as pigs! In response, I tried to explain to him about irony and metaphor and other aesthetic issues, but it seemed unwise to belabor the point. Admittedly, Polish anger at Maus is at least somewhat understandable. The Poles suffered horribly under the Nazis, who viewed the Poles as a subhuman race scarcely less vile than the Jews, and who planned to transform the Poles into a “slave class” forced to serve German colonists in Poland. Given these circumstances, it’s unfair to focus exclusively on Polish antisemitism and sympathy with the Final Solution, as too many Holocaust representations do, especially in America.” (p. 70).
In the main, Gonshak gets it! How unfortunate that so few other Jews do. However, Gonshak still gets it wrong. Poles were not just to be made into a “slave class”. Poles, like Jews, were slated for extermination, albeit over a longer period of time.
MAUS PREJUDICES. POLISH SYMPATHY WITH THE FINAL SOLUTION? HUH?
Let us look at Gonshak’s last quoted statement. The “Polish sympathy with the Final Solution” is an ugly, standard Jewish Polonophobic insinuation that is not supported by a shred of evidence. It keeps coming up, as in the Polish death camp lie, and in the Goodbye Jews! lie uttered by a Polish girl in the well-watched movie, Schindler’s List. To make this calumny even more convincing, other Poles, in Swindler’s List, are shown throwing globs of mud at the poor doomed Jews.
The “Polish sympathy with the Final Solution” line is a Jewish repetition of Nazi German propaganda. The Germans accused the Allies of being sympathetic with the Nazi extermination of the Jews. See: