Friday, October 5, 2012

Protesting "Maus" by Dr. Linda Kornasky


"Maus" is a Pulitzer-Prize winning comic book about the Holocaust that depicts Poles as pigs. "Maus" is often used to teach students about the Holocaust.
Dr. Linda Kornasky responded to a previous blog entry about "Maus." That blog entry is here.
I asked Dr. Kornasky to allow me to post a guest blog entry about her experiences protesting "Maus." Her essay is below.

Protesting "Maus"
By Dr. Linda Kornasky

At Angelo State University (a university in Texas affiliated with Texas Tech University), I organized a protest against Art Spiegelman prior to and during his visit in February 2011, and I published this editorial article in my city’s newspaper: "Writer Spiegelman No Stranger to Controversy."

I was astounded by the outcome of this protest on many levels, but I was shocked most of all at the general indifference among those I spoke to about ethnic bigotry if it happens to be anti-Polish. Prior to Spiegelman’s visit, when I made my case for the protest to my colleagues, I compared the Polish pigs in Maus to the controversial chimpanzee depictions of black characters in the Memin Pinguin comic books popular in Mexico. Though my colleagues admitted immediately that depicting black people as apes is unethical, I faced a passive aggressive refusal to respond to the similarly unethical Polish pig depictions from many otherwise progressive people on my campus.

Some implied tentatively that Spiegelman did not intend to critique the Poles as a group by depicting them as pigs because pigs in comic books and cartoons are often cute--selfish and stupid as well, but cute. (In 2001, Spiegelman himself offered this unpersuasive argument in “Pig Perplex,” published in Lingua Franca, July/August 2001, pp. 6-8, citing Warner Brothers’ Porky Pig.) However, Spiegelman's interview answers on my campus revealed that he did not intend his Polish pigs to be seen as cute or innocuous Porky-type pigs but rather as Nazi-collaborating, fascist pigs.

When Spiegelman was asked about the Polish pig controversy directly in a softball question from his interviewer, he initially said that the entire dispute was just a petty conflict that Harvey Pekar had started with him. He said that Pekar, a fellow graphic novelist of American Splendor fame, had objected to the depiction of Poles as pigs only because Pekar, who was of Polish Jewish heritage like Spiegelman, did not like that Spiegelman had taken over the position as the leading Jewish-American comic book writer. Ignoring all of the substantive criticisms that Pekar had made about the Polish pig depictions in his reviews of Maus in the The Comics Journal (see the December 1986 and April 1990 issues, pp. 54-57 and 27-34 respectively), Spiegelman clung to this ad hominem attack.

Next, during the interview Q & A when I asked him whether he thought it was possible that Poles and Polish Americans who were offended by his pig depictions might not necessarily be anti-Semitic, he angrily dismissed this idea, pronouncing it “silly.” Spiegelman told the audience that he had read a book that supposedly proved that the Poles in Nazi-occupied Poland were in favor of the Holocaust. He alleged that Poles objected only to having to sit back and watch while the Nazis carried out mass murder, referring to a diary written by a Polish man that, Spiegelman claimed, showed that most Poles resented not being able to carry out the Holocaust themselves.

Spiegelman then said he could not remember the author or the title of the book on which he based this slanderous claim, joking awkwardly that he has always accepted the fact that memory is imperfect. And he added that Polish objections to the pig depictions were, in his opinion, as stupid and politically suspect as a recent conservative Israeli cartoonist's objections to the Jewish mice depictions in Maus.

In response to his answer, I said that I personally could understand why his Israeli critics were offended by his using Hitler's rodent imagery in depicting Jewish victims of the Holocaust in Maus, as well as in some of his other graphic texts.

Since there were others in line waiting to ask their questions, I was not able to ask him the logical follow-up question: why would he need to rely on memory in making the claim about wartime Poles' alleged desire to carry out the Holocaust themselves? Anyone would presume that he would have had the citation written down in his lecture notes, given that he must have known there was a chance that he would want to refer to it in response to questions about the pig controversy.

Spiegelman made the audience uncomfortable when he was speaking about how stereotypical images function in graphic fiction and cartooning. On a big screen, he projected an image of a strong, handsome, athletic man next to an image of an unattractive, bespectacled, scrawny man. He asked the audience to identify the Nazi image and the Jewish image. When the audience, made up mostly of students, gave the obvious answers—sexy and handsome–stereotypically Nazi and unattractive and scrawny–stereotypically Jewish—Spiegelman joked pointedly that he had figured there would be plenty of anti-Semites in Texas.

The students laughed nervously, and he apparently thought that he had thereby cleverly "deconstructed" these stereotypes, just as he has claimed that in Maus, he supposedly "deconstructs" Hitler's statements about Jewish "rodents" and Polish "swine." Somehow, according to his simplistic notion of deconstruction, simply being able to recognize ethnic and racial stereotyping constitutes racism.

Moreover, Spiegelman also revealed that he despises the civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton for being, he alleged, a "race baiter," and this ironic remark was met with an awkward murmur in the lecture hall since he had already been asked questions about the degree to which his book reinforces ethnic stereotypes of Poles. When an African American woman asked Spiegelman to elaborate about his disrespect for Rev. Sharpton, he quipped defensively, “It’s nothing personal.”

This quip was particularly telling. Spiegelman’s underlying message during his visit to my university seemed to be that taking slander against a race or ethnic group personally is ridiculously unsophisticated and dim-witted. Those who do so should be accused of being obsessed with maintaining a supposedly inane and outdated ideal once known as “the truth.” As he sees it, this ideal is one which truly intellectual deconstructionists, among whom he clearly believes himself to figure prominently, have given up long ago. A protest objecting to the pig depiction was merely, as it were, a case of “squealing” about an allegedly meaningless concern of 20th century history: assigning culpability for the Holocaust of nearly six million people.


  1. Spiegelman may have won a Pulitzer Prize but what Dr. Koransky's essay once again demonstrates is that Spiegelman carries the germ of racism despite the fact that racism was the disease that killed so many of the Jews he writes about.

  2. Well said. Polonophobia is more than alive and well--especially in academia.

    1. I was especially proud of myself, Jan, for walking right up to Mr. Spiegelman just before his interview, introducing myself, and handing him a copy of the protest handout that I and my husband (who is also an English professor and is of Lithuanian and Czech heritage) had given the audience as they came into the hall. The text of the handout is the same used in my newspaper article. Even if Spiegelman possibly threw the paper away without reading it, I wanted him to know that a protest had been made. Later, I had the sense during the Q&A that he thought the pig controversy was "old news." I was determined to let him know that he was wrong in thinking that the controversy had passed.

  3. Hatred of the Poles is what many Germans and liberal Jews can use as a bonding activity. Spiegelman's hypocrisy is telling - he is saying if you defend yourself against my racist images then you are an anti-Semite.

    Incidentally, the diary that you are describing is (most likely) of some far right soldier who wrote down that the Germans are doing what the Poles were unable to or something like that. This entry of a low level operative (which as far as I know is the only one in existence) is supposedly evidence of Polish complicity. I would like to know what is in IDF soldiers diaries.

    1. My awareness of this anti-Polish bias sharpened about seven years ago when a Jewish colleague of mine mentioned that he would like to visit Prague in the Czech Republic. From there he said that it would be easy to visit Germany and Austria. Making conversation, I added that I would like to visit Krakow, and I asked him if he had heard about the beautiful architecture and art/music scene there. I figured that since he had such an interest in Prague, he might have also have an interest in Krakow. He immediately said that he would not consider going to Krakow, because, he said with a stern emphasis, "you know how Jews feel about Poland." I was taken aback. Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic would be fine for tourism from his Jewish-American perspective, but Poland is completely out! Elderly former Nazis are still alive in Germany, and Jewish tourists could interact with them unknowingly, but this did not seem to occur to my colleague. In shock, all I could say to him was that it was a tragedy that Germany had put its extermination camps in Poland. I wish I had asked him directly why going to Germany would be okay, but I felt contrained by a fear of being accused of anti-Semitism.

    2. Hi Linda
      I had a similar experience a few years ago. At a party at my sister's house, a guest I was speaking with mentioned that her father was "from Poland". As I expressed my delight and interest, she interrupted me, saying, "Oh, he won't go back to Poland". I realized that this was code for his being Jewish. Like you, I was blindsided by her remark and did not have a comeback. A moment later, she spoke in a rapturous tone about the Rhine cruise from which her parents had just returned. If not for the fact that she was my sister's guest and neighbor, I would have pointed out the irony of her father traveling to Germany but not Poland. In retrospect, this was a "teachable moment" (to myself): people like her do not respect anyone who turns the other cheek, and I resolved to challenge remarks like this in the future. We cannot allow denigration of Poland to go unanswered.


  4. Dear Dr. Kornasky
    I have stopped to be astonished a long time ago-still, I am glad and thankful that there are still some intelligent,observant and fair people out there. This incredible bigottry has been noticed by others like here: Are Ukrainians (by extension,also Slavs) Untermenschen? Personally, I am daydreaming about printing t-shirts with the sign used for Poles in Nazi-German concentration camps-than again, no one would know what the red triangle with the letter P would mean,as Poles are not regarded as victimes at all-so,I would like to print t-shirts with a yellow star bearing the word "Pole".Of course, I know, NO ONE would get the message,accusing me of "anti-Semitism", but still, this is how I have started to feel a long time ago.
    You are writting about "progressive people"-I am sorry to say, but in my personal opinion so-called "progressive" people are the worst kind of bigotts-They get their feeling of superiority by trampling down everyone who does not agree with their superficial,tiny ego.They hate everyone with strong,for example, moral or religious convictions. They often endorse things that are not "progressive" at all,like euthanasia or animal rights. They love mankind, but do not like their own neighbours,the working class ect.
    About Poles depicted as pigs-in every language I know of,gosh, even Japanese, pigs have a bad conotation (豚野郎・butayarou-you f...pig).Once Spiegelman claimed that he wanted an animal that does not eat mice.Fair enought-why did he now draw Poles as cows? This would have been WAY more logical-because,after all, Germans wanted Poles to be slave-labourers,and cows can be exploited (for their milk,pulling a plough)-pigs can not.
    About:a Polish man that, Spiegelman claimed, showed that most Poles resented not being able to carry out the Holocaust themselves
    This "Polish man"s name, was it, by any chance, Blaichman? Many Polish communists were promulgating the myth of "Polish anti-Semitism" and their "heroic" fight against it (f.e by murdering Polish patriots),especially against the "anti-Semitism" of the Armia Krajowa.
    About: stupid and politically suspect
    Thats news to me.Of course it is.What else? So, if I think its horrible that Nazi Germans are depicted as potentially fluffy cats and Poles as brute swine,what am I? A "nazi"? Just wondering,s.o please as Mr. Spiegelman. Also, please ask him why Jews are sweet,posh little mice-the normal depiction of Jews by Nazi Germans was dirty, pathogenic rats.
    About "anti-Semitism": To me, this word has become nearly as meaningless as "homophobic".Why? Because it does not mean what it should been-hatred/criticism of Jews/homosexuals for being just themselves. Today, people are bending its meaning to mean criticism in itself,even when one is criticizing a specific behaviour of said persons I dislike Spiegelmanns behaviour and his bigotry, I dislike how he is demeaning me because I am a Pole.I dont care about him being Jewish. I dislike the arrogant way certain homosexuals behave (f.e during "Pride parades"). I dont care about homosexuality at all. Still, people have called me an anti-Semite and a bigot.And a fascist.This insanity will, at some point, turn against Jews/homosexuals,because awarding any group special rights is a zero-sum game,the majority looses.

    1. I also wondered why, given that Spiegelman was determined to stick to Hitler's ideas of rodents and swine, he did not make his Jewish characters rats. In Nazi propaganda films, rats were used to demonstrate the vermin-like qualities that Nazi Germans attributed to Jews. Spiegelman might say that he was trying to make his images resonate with the many mouse characters in classic cartoons, but it seems to me that he manipulated the level of objectionableness so much by using the mouse form rather than the rat form that he significantly contradicted Hitler's racist imagery in depicting the Jewish characters, even as he stuck very closely to Hitler's swine imagery in depicting Poles. Harvey Pekar sort of points out this discrepancy when he observes emphatically that being drawn as a mouse is just not as insulting as being drawn as a pig.

      Spiegelman likes to joke that his collaborator in creating Maus was Hitler, but I think he is not honest about the nature of this collaboration. The fact is that he really only collaborated with Nazism in his depiction of the book's Polish pigs. And, in any case, joking about collaborating with Hitler strikes me as bizarrely unethical. My Polish great grandfather was murdered by the Nazis, so this kind of joke is nothing but nauseating to me.

    2. Hanna, after thinking a bit about your point about homophobia, I have to say that I think in a different way about its analogous relationship to anti-Polish prejudice. Metaphorically, many of us in Polonia--particularly in academia--are "closeted," just as too many in the gay community have been and still are closeted. The first generations of the families of Polish and other Eastern-European Americans often dropped their original names and to some degree even their ethnic identities, so many in Polonia have in effect concealed their identity. Perhaps we need Polonia-related and Eastern-European American "pride" events in academia, providing more incentive to "come out."

  5. Thank you Dr.Kornasky and Danusha.

    Yes, once again it does seem to show that all this memorialising of WW2 has taught us - the children of Adam - nothing at all.

    And "Maus" seems as good a way as any to demonstrate that.

    You only have to ask this question of those who justify the way Poles are portrayed in Spiegelman's book: Would they be happy to endorse a portrayal of, say, African-Americans or Hispanic -Americans, as "swine"?

    Clearly they would not. Nor should they be.

    Why? I can see no reason other than that the Handbook of Political Correctness defines some groups as "uber" and some as "unter". And "unter" groups can safely be insulted.

    So, what has been learnt from this constant memorialising of what Hitler did?

    Nothing at all, as far as i can see.

    And that brings me back to the infinite superiority of Jehovah's wisdom, as He has told us that love "does not keep account of the injury".

    1. I agree that Maus is not a good educational text, and the fact that junior high and high school students are encouraged to read it so that they can "learn" about the Holocaust and war-time Poland, without having to read "boring" history books, is morally questionable, to say the least.

      I can't help but hope that American and European progressivism will eventually address this blindspot of bigotry against Eastern Europeans, but I doubt it will do so anytime soon!

    2. Hello Linda, and thanks so much for approaching the author of Maus and letting him know that this issue has not gone away. I don't see how it can as long as his book is sold and taught.

      I don't know if you know what happened to Bob Lamming. Dr.Goska does refer to it in her book "Bieganski".

      He politely protested the teaching of "Maus" at the Catholic College where he worked. He subsequently lost his job and his career. Although I believe that The Little Red Book of Political Correctness requires me to say at this point: that-had-nothing-whatsoever-to-do-with-his-protest-it-was-just-a-coincidence.

      And certainly, i can't prove it wasn't. One never can in these circumstances.

      I am wondering if its possible to contact Art Spiegelman via his publisher. I try to tackle one Polish media issue a month, and maybe "Maus" could be my October issue.

      I know its like trying to fend off a tsunami with only a plastic teaspoon. But, as long as I have my plastic teaspoon I might as well have a go.

      But I come back to the fact that I believe the most important and powerful thing I, or any of us, can do in the face of this and all the horrors of "the world" is to go door to door trying to get people to see what the Bible on their shelf actually says. The Inspired Scriptures have a power to reach hearts like nothing else.

      I only hope my arthritis will let me out there in the morning. It isn't letting me sleep tonight which is why I am up in the early hours writing this.

  6. It is fascinating but all the Israelis I have met are cool whereas some (a minority) but nonetheless a material number American Jews have more prejudices.

  7. I put a critical review of Maus on Goodreads, and got a fair amount of stick for it, largely from people who hadn't actually read the review, judging from their comments. I am so glad, Linda Kornasky, that you pursued this and challenged Spiegelman. It is not a stance that is likely to make you popular. I had a private messaging exchange with a Jewish American writer after I posted my review on Facebook who clearly didn't realise I had Polish roots, and felt she should 'enlighten' me as to the true nature of Polish people. In the course of this, she said 'many Jews believe the Poles were worse than the Nazis.' Oh, how Stalin's propaganda worked. So thank you.


  8. Dear Dr. Kornasky,
    You did what? oO! Awesome,I appreciate it very much.The trouble with "Maus" is,that it has been translated into many language,even into Japanese (which truely breaks my heart).Let me tell You have been in a synagogue in Tokyo, where a Japanese convert to Judaism asked me about Jewish about Jewish graves in Poland-I told her that the communist regime used (not only Jewish) tombstones to build roads,but today, Jewish life is having a revival in Poland and gravesites are should I explain it? She kind of sneered at me,which made me feel worthless.Where does this antipathy come from? (Not from Japanese culture, in general,when Japanese think of Poland they think of Chopain, want to visit Crakow (they have seen on NHK),or want to know what is typical Polish food) Who told her Poles are bad? Seriously,I am starting to feel afraid.
    I believe Polonia and POLAND! needs to show the truth, in a "hip" form,through comics f.e. about Rotmistrzy Pilecki or music (do You know the Swedish Metalband "Sabaton" and f.e their song 40:1?) These things,I believe,need way more promotion. I believe that we have a good season for superheroes, but why Batman when people such as Pilecki are real-life superheroes one could perhaps identify more than with superhuman Batman?
    ///Germany, Austria,....would be fine for tourism
    Oh yes, indeed.And "safe". Especially because, in Germany (but also in France), the police is normally guarding synagogues for fear of...not only muslims!, but right-wing jewshaters.In Poland, there is no need for that.Because of "Polish anti-Semitism". Than again, I believe (and dont get me wrong here) that Americans just dont know very much about Europe (I mean, in the US, many states are bigger than our nation states here)
    ///tragedy that Germany had put its extermination camps in Poland.
    The real tragedy is-We Poles are bearing the damage of image (twice,I was told,by foreigners: Yeah,I would love to go to Cracow...theres Auschwitz,right? Have you seen "Schindlers List"?....Yes,just that,they did not even know there were other things to visit such as Wielicka ect),and just because Nazi Germans wanted to murder us next. Also, as a Pole, you are "born an anti-Semite" anyway, so why not have some fun with it? Next time, just ask.
    ///My Polish great grandfather was murdered by the Nazis,
    I am sorry to hear that. Mr. Spiegelmann is clearly tarnishing his memory
    /// Polish Pride
    You are completely right.I believe, for this to happen we need more exposure of the bigotry of modern day "progressivism" and (pseudo)leftist ideas. Poland was truely progressive in many regards-we newer had these stupid violent swings like in the West. One example-child-rearing.In the West,in general, it was considered to be a good idea not to show ones children too much love for fear of turning it,I dont know, effeminate.This resulted, after the 60s, into complete laissez-fairer.In Poland, we had great educators like Korczak who taught the middle way.Same goes for womens rights and the decriminalisation of homosexuality.Also, I do not consider euthanasia to be "progressive" at all.So I am very proud of a Polish doctor who,shocked by what he saw in the Netherlands, founded a hospital for the terminally-ill there.In short-we need, I believe, to expose the silliness of so-called "progressivism"

    In the mean time-Please continue You great work :-)

  9. Sue, you mention wanting to contact Spiegelman. I tried to verify his "squeal" quote directly, but he would not speak to me. I ended up communicating with an aid at his literary agent. Jordyn Ostroff. Jordyn Ostroff is no longer with the agency. I just tried to write to Angelica Baker to see if she can contact him. If so, I'll invite him to respond to our posts here.

    I also wrote to Konstanty Gebert, who objected to my objections to Maus as quoted in the Tygodnik Powszechny article about Bieganski.

    I'm doing this because I want to offer those who support Maus to speak to us here. I'm interested in hearing their point of view.

    1. Thanks Danusha, it would be great if we could get these issues addressed. The obvious question I would want to ask his literary agent/publisher is would they promote/publish a book that depicted African-Americans or Hispanic-Americans as "swine". A simple yes or no answer would do.

    2. Did you get any response Danusha?

  10. Linda, you cite a Jew who was eager to visit Austria and Germany but considered travel to Poland taboo.

    As you know, because you've read the book, that theme is addressed in "Bieganski." "Danielle" was openly contemptuous of Poles and Poland but had no problem with Germans or Germany. Danielle felt so strongly about this that she didn't want *any* Jews to live in Poland. Germany, though? Just fine.

    1. Danusha, when I read the parts of your book about this illogical transfer of blame from "civilized" Germany which Jews have forgiven, to "brutish" Poland, which many Jews consider permanently and essentially anti-Semitic, I thought immediately about what my Jewish colleague had said.

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Sorry, new contact person at Wylie Agency is Rebecca Nagel.


  13. Well, the scorn of Poles I have encountered from,I am very sorry to say this!,Americans is incredible. I mean,did Pulaski and Kościuszko not fight for American independence? Also, Kościuszko was a real "Polish rascist"-in his testament,he wanted the land and goods the American Congress bestowed on him for his efforts to be sold and the money used to buy slaves and set them free (as we say in Polish "za wolność naszą i waszą"-he thought,as a "rascist" that freedom was for everyone.
    Also, does Spiegelmann plan to come to Europe so day in the near future? I would like to thank him in person- I have been called a "Polish pig" be Jewish persons once and think this merit in promulgating Nazi German propaganda should not go unnoticed. Perhaps s.o should establish a foundation which will, once a year, award the Joseph Goebbels Award for Journalistic Excellence. Just kidding-I am from a very philosemitic family so being abused by Jewish people hurts me twice. I do not get it a 100%-is this passive-agressive? Like, abusing Poles to make them react and than say-Look, we told you so! (see Debbie "this is NO photoshop picture" Schlussel)

  14. Dr. Kornasky, I would like to know,what do You make of such things like
    A Jewish (Atheist)-Communist judicial murderess (one of many,the IPN established that around 40% of all members of the stalinist "security" forces had a (n atheist) Jewish background)

    and the fact that last year, Israel errected a monument commemorating the "glorious" Red Army (there is NO one for f.e the Armia Krajowa/Zegota)

    (Disclaimer: I dont care about the background of anyone, everyone should be judged individually and with regard to his/her character.Also,no one should be given a free ride because of his/her background).

  15. Stalin and his Red Army, and all his willing executioners, are still "good guys" in the Official version of history. Which speaks volumes about "the world" - and makes me happy to try to be no part of it. But if the world isn't bothered by the millions upon millions of dead left by Stalin, doesn't that show that the vilification of all things Polish has got nothing whatsoever to do with anything Poland has done, or not done?

  16. This discussion about MAUS keeps repeating itself at different places and forums. Polish complaints are chauvinistically brushed aside.

    Here is my idea: Instead of complaining, fight fire with fire. Publish a "counter-MAUS" and publicize it as much as possible, and then see how much Spiegelman and other Polonophobes like it.

    This alternative cartoon would feature clean rats, dirty rats, snakes, and mongooses. The dirty rats help the snakes find and eat clean rats, and then the snakes also eat the dirty rats. All along, the mongooses are fighting and killing some of the snakes.

    In this counter-MAUS cartoon, the snakes are the Germans, the mongooses are the Poles, and dirty rats are Jews who collaborated with the Germans (such as the Jewish Ghetto Police), while the clean rats are the multitudes of innocent Jews who fell victim to the Germans.

    Provocative? Certainly. But this would clearly drive the point home about how offensive MAUS is to Poles.

    Well, that is my idea. Take it or leave it.

    1. Brian Koralewski (Brian Lewski)October 6, 2012 at 8:03 PM

      I am all for that Mr. Peczkis!

    2. The cartoonist to do this parody would probably be Ted Rall. He was brave enough in 1999 to publish an opinion piece critical of Spiegelman:

      But I agree with Sue. A comic book that would unflatteringly depict an ethnic group protected in public discourse would not be publishable! Ask yourself if, for another example, a Borat type of film set in Saudi Arabia or in Nigeria would have been considered acceptable? (Danusha, thank you for your insightful analysis of that film and other films in "Bieganski." Before I read your book, I wasn't clear about why Borat bothered me so much--or for that matter, why I've always liked "The Apartment." I thought I just liked Shirley MacLaine's performance.)

    3. Not publishable by WHOM? Certainly by conventional academic circles. But, in my fantasy, were Poles resolute and united, they could fund the printing of such a cartoon, and get it circulated and noticed. By unflatteringly depicting a protected ethnic group, it would cause consciousness-raising about how Poles are insulted by MAUS.

      Once the other side would start to howl, having tasted its own medicine, we could then say, "Stop portraying us as pigs, and we will stop portraying you as rats. Is it a deal?"

      Also, referring to the MAUS portrayal of Poles as well-fed Nazi collaborator pigs, and, in the counter-MAUS, the Judenrat collaborators as dirty rats, we could say, "Stop lying about us, and we will stop telling the truth about you. Is it a deal?"

    4. Hello Jan, you and Danusha Goska are courageous in entering this arena, as the whole thing is so weighted against us that I won't even bother.

      But I do think that we need to keep telling our story, supporting those who do, and continually drawing attention to the double standards, which get more blatant by the day.

      I wouldn't want us to do what Art Speigelman has done.

  17. Hello Jan and Brian, I know what you mean - to try to really highlight the double standards. But wouldn't such a book be unpublishable - as "Maus" would have been, had Art Spiegelman got his PC-underwear in a twist and pictured a PC-protected minority as "swine"?

    Personally, I would like us to stay on the high moral ground. Our Creator asks us to treat all with respect - and the Golden Rule says that we should treat others as we ourselves would wish to be treated.

    And I note that the author of "Maus" treated his Jewish characters with respect, picturing them as mice, not rats - which, in cartoon terms, is perfectly acceptable.

    I would have had no problem with his drawing us as mice.

    But it does occur to me that we could do this. Is this book still being taught in Catholic Colleges? If so, then I would like to ask some direct questions of the Catholic hierarchy,and those Colleges, about why they are teaching and promoting a book that depicts their fellow Catholics as "swine". And, in doing so, I would refer directly, verse by verse, to the standards set out in the Christian Greek Scriptures.

    I am not a Catholic. I voted with my feet on the matter many years ago. Their teaching of hellfire torment put me off the whole idea of God and the Bible for many many years. It was the beauty of the world, the beauty of the creation, that told me of its Creator and made me search for Him.

    However, I can still ask I suppose - as I am a Polonian - if the Catholic Church is teaching a book that depicts me, and my dear aged father, as "swine".

    1. On the subject of hell, note that evangelicals believe that the Bible affirms that if a person truly believes in Jesus Christ as his/her Savior, they are saved forever and thereby freed from ever fearing hell again.

      As for Catholic colleges, many of them are notorious for departing from Catholic teachings and actively supporting things which are anti-Catholic. Nothing new there.

  18. Interestingly the Inspired Scriptures tell us that hell is one place Satan never is, never was, and never will be.

    It is so important to teach the truth. The Christian Greek Scriptures ask us to teach everyone with love and respect, especially our brothers and sisters within the congregation.

    Wouldn't that rule out calling them "swine".

    I am just wondering if Polish/Polonian Catholics have ever taken this up with their local priests, with the Church hierarchy - politely, of course?

  19. Mr Peczewski, I LOVE it-how do we find s.o wo can draw well?

    1. Thanks. My name is Peczkis. Please rephrase what you have said--I am unsure what you are driving at.

    2. I think that Hanna meant that comic book about rats, snakes and mongooses. Great idea. In Poland we had comic books about Auschwitz. Nicely done in my opinion. And I must say that I didin't like "Maus". So sluttish. Word "piggish" comes to mind. Link below.

  20. I had meant to say "treat" rather than "teach"... but it seems appropriate in the context of "Maus" being taught as a textbook.

  21. Interesting. I am neither of Polish or Jewish roots, and only arrived here by searching for "anti-Maus protest" when I saw reference (in a review of MetaMaus) to such protest existing and wondered what that was about. I see that most folks here are immersed in the struggle, and thought some perspective from somebody with no vested interest (other than wanting a better world).

    I clearly hear that using pigs for the Poles in Maus strikes you as a negative stereotype, and that you feel that Poland has been misportrayed as anti-Semitic - in that work and elsewhere. My feedback is that a good counterpoint (for me) would be a fair and factual assessment of anti-Semitism in Poland then and now. Not just isolated anecdotes of individuals who were anti-semitic or very kind to the Jews (people can always argue any side of anything with chosen anecdotes), but something more substantial.

    I hear some resentment that Germany seems to be in higher regard than Poland among many Jews, which could seem inappropriate given that the Nazi party was centered there. However I think that Germany has made a lot of effort to admit their very real and terrible role in WWII, and an effort to change and to some degree atone for that. If Poland has likewise come fully clean about WWII anti-semitism (to whatever degree it existed), and their efforts to change and atone for that, then that hasn't yet gotten as much publicity.

    Alas, much of the dialogue here is not very persuasive - it seems more about complaining and protesting and feeling victimized, than about owning up to any real past problems and demonstrating how much change there has been. Again, this is not my special interest and I don't have a vested interest on either side, I'm just letting you know "how it comes across", so that you might tune your presentations (or even the attitudes underneath) to more effectively reach people with a more positive and factual message about Poland then and now.

    In other words, endless complaints about stereotypes have less traction than demonstrating the non-stereotyped truth.

    One other note - it's ironic - and undermining to your cause - to see people using very hostile and broad stereotypes of "progressives", as a way to protest being stereotyped. Not only are there several examples of that in this dialogue, but there was no rush by others to correct such stereotyping. That sets a very poor tone, and discredits any protest movement. I am NOT assuming that everybody who opposes negative stereotypes of Poles is like that - but I'm wondering why the movement isn't more self-correcting in explicitly "not buying into" (ie: challenging) the anti-progressive stereotypes. If I had seen that, it would have given me more confidence in your movement (and thus probably made it more effective in changing stereotypes among a broader population as well).

    Good luck! I am not strongly familiar with Poland, but I certainly would be very interested in visiting if I were traveling in Europe, primarily because I've often heard about the long history of the arts and culture there. I hold no negative stereotypes about Poland (that I am aware of). I wish you well, and I'd like to see more mutual respect among many cultures. I'm trying to suggest ways you can indeed make your message more effective, not trying to shut you down.

  22. Folloup: continuing my search, I found a very detailed critique with some of the elements I wanted to learn, at

    I am not sure I agree 100% (for example the author emphasizes that *some* kapos were Polish but *many* were Jewish, words calculated to imply the latter was substantially more prominent), overall it's very persuasive in many ways, and a good read. Far more than stereotyping "progressives".

    Perhaps if your software allows, you could put a link to that or similar articles near the start of the dialogue, to aid readers like me who are coming here to better understand something (without already having a position).



Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
These themes include the false and damaging stereotype of Poles as brutes who are uniquely hateful and responsible for atrocity, and this stereotype's use in distorting WW II history and all accounts of atrocity.
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