Maus: Man in Survival Situations

There was a single page in Maus II that really got my attention and held it.  On page 28, Vladek meets a priest who gives him hope in the camp.  As a Catholic my first thought was “Oh my God! Its Maximilian Kolbe!”  Kolbe is a Catholic Saint who was in Auschwitz.  He was Polish and the priest in the novel is drawn as a pig (so he was a Pole).    Well, as it turns out the priest Vladek met could not have been Kolbe because he was killed in 1941, but the page was still striking to me and I began to think about why.

There are two reasons this page was important.  The first is that it, in a small way, widens who the story is about.  The priest is not Jewish.  And I think Spiegelman may have included it to show others who were in the camp.  It also heightens the fact that within Auschwitz’s walls the traditional divides between people fade.  In a survival situation most of the bias people has is stripped away to reveal the best (the priest and Mancie) and the worst (Yidl) in people.  The priest is a great example of this not only because he reaches out and gives Vladek hope, but because it is a Catholic reaching out to a Jewish man.  The relationship between Catholics and Jews has not always been the best and in 1944 there was still a great deal of tension between the two religions.  Yet, the priest does not see Vladek as an enemy, but a fellow human in need of hope.  Spiegelman includes this story to resonate with more people and highlight how people react in extreme circumstances.