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Humanity In Maus Essay

1974 words - 8 pages

Everyone has heard the saying, “Oh, the humanity!”, but what does it mean. What is humanity? Merriam-Webster defines humanity as “quality or state of being humane” or the “quality or state of being human”(“Humanity”). Humanity is being kind and compassionate and helping out your fellow man. Maus is a great tool to use to study humanity. Maus shows the depth and degress of humanity and inhumanity of humans. The novel also shows how people's humanity can change for better or for worse.
There are numerous accounts of inhumanity in Maus. The most obvious and heinous is the mass extermination of the European Jewish population by the Nazis. But the Nazis were just cruel in general. The Nazis ...view middle of the document...

One has to believe they were not always cruel, but that war is to blame. Or is it?
Greed is also a form of inhumanity. Greed was as prevalent as the Star of David during the war. It is how some survived; it is how many died. Nazi soldiers readily took bribes. When Vladek was a held at a POW camp some Nazi officals were bribed to let Jewish prisoners be released to local Jews as relatives (64). Wolfe's uncle Persis also bribed Nazis. Persis said, “In Zawiercie I have some influence with the Germans...I can bribe them. My 90 year old father still lives with me...Whenever there's a roundup, an S.S. man guards him to keep him safe!” (109). But despite his bribes, Persis and his family perished. Vladek and Anja were hiding in a bunker with 14 other people and a some of them had the idea to bribe a Nazi guard to let them slip by. Vladek said, “The group walked out. They gave over the money and went past the guard...I heard loud shooting, and I didn't go to see what happened” (126). Once can assume the group never made it out of the ghetto because the guard betrayed them. All he wanted was the money.
Nazis were not the only ones affected by greed. Some Jews succumbed to greed; one was Vladek's cousin Haskel. Haskel agreed to smuggle Vladek and Anja out of the building holding those to transfer to Auschwitz and Vladek begged him to get Anja's parents out as well. Haskel took Anja's fathers jewels as payment, but Anja's parents were never smuggled out of the building. They left on a train to Auschwitz and were never seen again. Haskel kept the jewels though. Regular citizens shared in the greed as well. Citizens would charge Jews for a place to hide. This happened to Vladek's friend Avram. Vladek said Avram had friends to keep him and his wife safe: “The friends kept them...until Avram's money finished. Then they were reported” (127). I guess a friend's life isn't worth saving if he can no longer pay. The Polish smugglers Vladek met also profitted from reporting Jews. Vladek and Anja paid these men to take them to Hungary, but were rounded up and taken to Auschwitz because the smugglers phoned the Nazis and informed on them.
Another form of inhumanity is complacency. So many people were deaf to the pleas of the Jews for help, largely out of fear from Nazi retailiation and sometimes out of pure hate. Before the war began, Vladek told Anja how during the riot in town, “Everyone [was] yelling Jews Out! Jews Out!..Even two people killed, the police just watched!” (39). The police, who serve to protect, watched two Jewish men die because of hate. Maus illustrates others who failed to act. The Spiegelman's governess Janina fialed to act when she had the chance. Janina told Anja, “I think of you as part of my own family!” (39), and Anja said she had “always offered she would help us” (138). But when the Spiegelmans knocked on her door looking for refuge, she sent them away and slammed the door in their faces. Even Vladek's own cousin was reluctant to help....

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