May 4, 2014

MAUS is propagandist memoir says Canadian Polish Congress (Introduction by Polish

When cartoons are being used to teach students about the Holocaust, it should set off alarm bells in our minds, that the quality of our educational system has plummeted to an epic low. The Holocaust was a tragic and catastrophic event and its history should not be presented in such a trivial form as in Art Spiegelman's publication of "Maus".  The use of cartoon drawings to depict the Holocaust is grossly inappropriate and disrespectful to the memory of the victims and survivors.

Art Spiegelman is a cartoonist by profession and not an historian nor scholar.  He wrote, or rather,  illustrated 160 pages of graphic drawings in an effort to simplify the meaning of the Holocaust.  However, by his own admission he cannot grasp the enormity of the events surrounding the Holocaust and realizes that he knows only a fraction of what his father experienced during the war.

"What my father articulated is less than what he went through. And, because I am an American kid who grew up with Howdy Doody and Mad magazine, what I can understand is less than what he articulated. What I can articulate is less than what I understand. And what readers understand is less than what I can articulate."
quote by Art Spiegelman

nursery rhyme Three Blind Mice to describe educators, teachers and studentsArt Spiegelman is unqualified to teach anything about the Holocaust. At least he is honest enough to admit that his knowledge is insufficient.  But what is particularly disturbing is that "Maus" is held in such high esteem among school administrators and teachers. They blindly accept  "Maus" as part of the school curriculum, despite Spiegelman's candid admission that the book is fragmented and incomplete - the result is that the reader knows even less than Spiegelman.  It is a case of the blind, leading the blind, leading the blind.

panel from Maus (blatant propaganda)
The reason that "Maus" has been so popular` is that its simple format appeals to the lowest common denominator.  Joseph Goebbel, a master of Nazi propaganda during WW2, understood this concept very well.  In Mein Kampf, Hitler expounded on the techniques, all of which are still being used today by politicians and corporations to great success.  For example, he wrote that  "propaganda must always address itself to the broad masses of people....all propaganda must be presented in popular form {one example, are comic books} and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the head of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed....the art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings..." Art Spiegelman would concur.

Furthermore, propaganda ignores the truth, or rather takes some aspects of it and twists it into a web of lies.  Consequently, students with the most malleable minds accept propaganda as if it were the gospel truth, and then unjustly vent their outrage against the targeted group.  This is already occurring in schools across Canada and the United States. As a direct result of the teaching of "Maus" in the classrooms, Polish students are being mocked, bullied and insulted by their classmates and accused of "killing Jews".  This is racism and slander, and it must not be tolerated.  For the sake of argument, suppose the situation were reversed where "Mein Kampf" would be taught in classrooms in which there were Jewish students. Undoubtedly there would be a howl of outrage and swift legal retribution.

Thankfully, Mein Kampf has been banned by numerous governments throughout the world, and rightly so. It is a dangerous and provocative book in the hands of the dull-minded and undereducated.  But Spiegelman's "Maus" is also a dangerous and provocative book in the hands of the dull-minded and undereducated.

Throughout the pages of "Maus" are drawings depicting Polish Christians as pigs and Nazi collaborators.  This is a racist slur which is based on Nazi WW2 propaganda.

I must admit that I have not read "Maus" from cover to cover and to be quite honest I do not intend to do so. It is sufficient to have viewed a few of his drawings.  "Maus" is not an historical or political narrative though some critics have described it as such.   Apparently, most people would rather read a comic book than a real history book.  The popularity of Maus can be attributed to its simplicity.  But history is far from simple. History demands that we study the past objectively and analytically, without melodrama, emotion, or little cartoon characters.

An interesting comment about  "Maus" was made by Marianne Hirsch, Professor of English and Comparative Literature (Columbia University).  She said that the publication, like others of its ilk, is an example of "postmemory".  That is, Art Spiegelman narrated  "memories that are not his own" but he writes about them as if they were. This is a condition most prevalent among children of Holocaust survivors. Born years after the war, these children grow up in such an intense family environment, that their parents' memories become their own (replete with errors, inconsistencies, and, as demonstrated in Maus, virulent propaganda).

In this special series I am posting (in four parts) the entirety of an article written by the Canadian Polish Congress (CPC), entitled, "The Problems With Spiegelman's MAUS: Why MAUS should not be taught in High Schools or Elementary Schools".   It is a very well written article in which the CPC presented objective arguments arguing against the use of Spiegelmans book in school curriculum.  CPC provided numerous examples, taken from the pages of  "Maus",  identifying racist propaganda being used against Polish Christians.  Moreover, the CPC is calling upon us all to contact our local school boards, administrators and teachers to demand the removal of "Maus" from school curriculum.  

If "Maus" is on your child's school curriculum, I strongly urge you to contact your school board and demand the removal of this book.  Whether you are Polish or not, it is everyone's responsibility to guard against the insidious infiltration of racist propaganda in our schools.

In each of the four parts of this series, you will notice occasional inserts prefixed by "NB" in the color purple, and typed in italics. These are my own comments, in addition to suggested links for your information.


"The Problems with Spiegelman's MAUS:
Why MAUS should not be taught in High Schools or Elementary Schools"

Please click on the link above


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