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Maus Study Guide

A graphic novel
by Art Spiegelman

Art Spiegelman

Maus Extra Credit Winter Break Assignment

9th Grade

Read the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman.

Complete a double-sided journal entry for each chapter of the book (six chapters, six entries).

Each journal entry should be at least one page (preferably typed).



11th Grade

Read the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman.

Write a Task 3 Regents Essay (the comparison essay) of at least eight paragraphs comparing Maus with Night.

The controlling idea is the role of father son relationships.

Be sure to use literary elements in your discussion of both books.


Art Spiegleman uses animals to tell his father’s story of the Holocaust.
Allegory is the representation of ideas or moral principles by means of symbolic characters, events, or objects.
Mice (Jews)

Pestilence, breed rapidly with large amounts of offspring, live silently among people, hard to get rid of.

Cats (Germans)

Hunt mice, protect the home from pestilence.

Pigs (Poles)

Jews don’t eat pork and consider the pig a dirty animal.
Fish (British)

The British have been long renowned for their navy.
Dogs (Americans)

“Man’s best friend”; the liberators.
Frogs (French)
Double meaning – frogs are slippery, slimy; frogs can change into princes (Art’s wife, a Frenchman, converted to Judaism).
Reindeer (Scandinavians)

From the north


Maus Study Guide

1. What is a graphic novel? What is a memoir?

2. What is a Holocaust Survivor? What does the term imply?

3. What kind of relationship does Art Spiegelman and his father have?

4. Why is the first chapter of the book called “The Sheik”?

5. Who is Ms. Stefanska? Why does she go to jail?

6. How does Vladek’s father try to keep him out of the army? Why doesn’t he want his son to go into the army? Was he successful?

7. After his release from the POW and work camps, Vladek is not able to immediately return home. What happens?

8. Why do the Germans hang Nahum Cohn and his son?

9. What happens to Anja?

10. How does Vladek get along with Mala?

11. Why is Vladek always riding his exercise bike? What is that a symbol of?

12. What is the significance of Vladek's dream about his grandfather? What recurring meaning does "Parshas Truma" have in his life?

13. Although Jews were allowed only limited rations under the Nazi occupation, Vladek manages to circumvent these restrictions for a while. What methods does he use to support himself and his family?

14. What kind of man is Vladek Spiegelman?

15. How is the Holocaust a part of life after the Holocaust?


What is Antisemitism?

Throughout history Jews have faced prejudice and discrimination, known as antisemitism. Driven nearly two thousand years ago by the Romans from the land now called Israel, they spread throughout the globe and tried to retain their unique beliefs and culture while living as a minority. In some countries Jews were welcomed, and they enjoyed long periods of peace with their neighbors. In European societies where the population was primarily Christian, Jews found themselves increasingly isolated as outsiders. Jews do not share the Christian belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and many Christians considered this refusal to accept Jesus' divinity as arrogant. For centuries the Church taught that Jews were responsible for Jesus' death, not recognizing, as most historians do today, that Jesus was executed by the Roman government because officials viewed him as a political threat to their rule. Added to religious conflicts were economic ones. Rulers placed restrictions on Jews, barring them from holding certain jobs and from owning land. At the same time, since the early Church did not permit usury (lending money at interest), Jews came to fill the vital (but unpopular) role of moneylenders for the Christian majority. In more desperate times, Jews became scapegoats for many problems people suffered. For example, they were blamed for causing the "Black Death," the plague that killed thousands of people throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. In Spain in the 1400s, Jews were forced to convert to Christianity, leave the country, or be executed. In Russia and Poland in the late 1800s the government organized or did not prevent violent attacks on Jewish neighborhoods, called pogroms, in which mobs murdered Jews and looted their homes and stores.

As ideas of political equality and freedom spread in western Europe during the 1800s, Jews became almost equal citizens under the law. At the same time, however, new forms of antisemitism emerged. European leaders who wanted to establish colonies in Africa and Asia argued that whites were superior to other races and therefore had to spread and take over the "weaker" and "less civilized" races. Some writers applied this argument to Jews, too, mistakenly defining Jews as a race of people called Semites who shared common blood and physical features. This kind of racial antisemitism meant that Jews remained Jews by race even if they converted to Christianity. Some politicians began using the idea of racial superiority in their campaigns as a way to get votes. Karl Lueger (1844-1910) was one such politician. He became Mayor of Vienna, Austria, at the end of the century through the use of antisemitism -- he appealed to voters by blaming Jews for bad economic times. Lueger was a hero to a young man named Adolf Hitler, who was born in Austria in 1889. Hitler's ideas, including his views of Jews, were shaped during the years he lived in Vienna, where he studied Lueger's tactics and the antisemitic newspapers and pamphlets that multiplied during Lueger's long rule.