The Holocaust was a terrible and tragic time for Jewish people. They were constantly treated bad, harassed, and killed. The Nazi’s maintained many concentration camps, the most infamous of which being Auschwitz, where Vladek Spiegelman was sent to during the war. In the graphic novel, Maus, Art Spiegelman tells the tale of his father, Vladek, and his life during the Holocaust. In order to improve his chances of staying alive, Vladek got involved in helping the guards with certain tasks and jobs. By doing so, Vladek was able to raise his reputation among the Nazi officers, which improved his living conditions and saved his life a few times, and he was able to help his fellow prisoners and his wife, Anja.
In Auschwitz, Jews were imprisoned and were put to work. Jews who had no use were eliminated. This is why Vladek always tried to be useful. Since there weren’t many Jews in Auschwitz who knew English, it was a valuable skill for Vladek. His English skills were put to use when his Kapo took him into his house to learn English. In return, Vladek was given plenty of food that was far beyond acceptable and fitting clothes, things that other Jews did not have access to (“Volume II,” 32). Vladek also tried his best at manual labor. He often volunteered in tasks that he is not particularly skilled at, but he successfully masked his lack of experience. One example is his shoemaking. He barely had any experience in the field. However, his quick learning allowed him to complete simple repair jobs, and later once improving the skill, more complex ones (“Volume II,” 60). Vladek also volunteered in roofing jobs. This was another job which he did not initially do well, but over time his roofing improved, and it brought him ben...
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... beaten because of it. Anja noticed that her supervisor had a worn boot as she was getting kicked. When Anja mentioned that her husband was a shoemaker, and the Gestapo had her boot mended, Anja was treated much better (“Volume II,” 63).
By getting involved with helping the superiors at Auschwitz, Vladek was able to survive and help other prisoners along with his wife, Anja. Some of the ways that he was able to contribute to others was to be an English teacher for a Kapo guard, a shoe repairman, and a roofer. The Kapo returned the favor by granting him food and supplies and even saved his life. He was able to make life easier for his fellow prisoners and his wife. Vladek’s actions significantly increased his and his wife’s chances of survival before the camp was liberated. They might not have made it through the holocaust if it wasn’t for Vladek’s proactiveness.
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