Go Darke

Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it

Family History, Fundamental Joeyism

Maus

It was 75 years since VE last week. Being from the line of people that ‘lost’ that particular conflict, its a weird sorta day. On the one hand I’m glad ‘we’ lost. On the other, the horrific loss of life, the insanity and the darkness of that time boggles my mind, its a difficult thing to ‘celebrate’.

Generational guilt is a minefield. I only have a vague sense of what my grandparents did during the war. My Dad’s dad fought on the Eastern front, an officer in command of artillery in the battle for Sevastopol. He was a school teacher and was apparently quite good at working out range to target (for which he was apparently awarded an Iron Cross) During trips home from the front he managed to father three of my dads siblings. He survived and my old man was born in ’47.

My moms dad was a German, living in Poland, married to a Pole. Which… as you can imagine got very complicated very quickly. He was drafted into the Wehrmacht after Poland fell. I think he fought in the Balkans… he was released from service on the 21.04.1945, about three weeks before VE day, having sustained his second gunshot wound. I still have his discharge papers which list his rank as Oberwachtmeister (which is kinda an NCO Staff Sergeant in the Orpo). This is where is gets a little dark for me. Towards the end of the war the Orpo was almost entire folded into the SS. Although the SS had a different ranks. So who knows. I do have another document, a ‘permission to travel’ in the ‘Amerikanisch’ sector dated 20.09.1945. That pours doubt on my darker theories about his wartime proclivities since there likely would have been some sort of repercussions for being in an SS unit. But who knows. My mom was born in Poland in ’52.

Not that I ascribe any weight to that whole ‘sins of the fathers’ vibe. If we go back far enough we are related to somebody terrible or ethically challenged. It is however interesting to me that if either of those guys had died during the war I wouldn’t be here.

In any event. For VE week I re-read this…

Maus is a tough read. Not only the war atrocity stuff… but also (and perhaps maybe more so, for me at least) the really dysfunctional relationship the comic book artist has with his dad.

Apparently some Holocaust survivors were (or maybe are) upset that their ordeal was turned into a ‘cartoon’. Also there is apparently some criticism that this was a human versus human travesty… and that using animals to represent the various ‘races’ is… problematic. In case you’re wondering, the Jews are the mice, the Germans are cats… and the Poles are pigs. Read into that what you will.

Maus is always in the those ‘top 10 comics (or maybe graphic novels) of all time’. *thinks* Probably in there with… Sandman… and Watchmen. Top 10’s are always so subjective anyway… but Maus does deserve the praise heaped on it.

In any event I thought it was poignant for the times we live in when we’re all bitchin’ about how hard our lives are with lockdown and stay at home orders…

… on the plus side the government isn’t hanging people in the streets for selling ‘non-essentials. Nor do you have to hide behind a false wall in a coal cellar while the Gestapo go through your house with dogs looking for you.

Really our lives are for the most part, amazing. Despite Covid and lockdown and the (potential) economic collapse of society.

Maybe sometimes I just need some perspective and Maus gave it to me in shovel loads.

BACK TO FUNDAMENTAL JOEYISM

5 Comments

  1. crustytuna

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    I did not know graphic novels could win Pulitzers, but it would appear this would be an interesting, if not dark and difficult read. Might have to try to get my hands on a copy. But only on a sunny day….

    1. Jo

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      Yup they can…. well… really Maus is the only one. Ha ha. It totally does deserve it because its quite an emotional rollercoaster. I definitely recommend it… but… like you said, a sunny day… (probably more than one because its quite long and mentally heavy).

      In any event I’ve been having really weird dreams since reading it, and I almost never dream.

  2. theceaselessreaderwrites

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    Until quite recently, Jo, I firmly believed that, especially here in America, we do have it relatively easy (apologies to Jason Isbell). Now, though, I’m not so sure; I fear the worst is yet to come.

    My maternal grandpa, the son of a dirt-poor sharecropper from a shitheap town called Poetry, Texas, lied about his age to join the Army and was shipped to Germany just after VE day. While serving there, he met the young beauty he’d eventually spirit back to America and marry, a Polish refugee and daughter of privilege. Imagine the culture shock when he took her to Poetry. The irony! Grandpa’s dad was a (probably) mentally unstable roustabout who at some point came to Tennessee just long enough to find and murder a man whom he perceived had wronged him before fleeing back to TX via Arkansas, where he was captured and briefly imprisoned before escaping.

    Isn’t this family history stuff fascinating? Thanks for sharing yours. I need to try to get my hands on a copy of Maus.

    1. Jo

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      What a cool story. Well… cool, as in interesting. Family history is super interesting.

      My great, great, grandfather. (Counts the number of greats… I think thats right) fought in the American Civil war… as a privateer or mercenary. Although I don’t think he did any fighting… he apparently stole a payroll or something in gold and fled back to Hamburg, via London where he deposited some of it in the bank of England, and the rest he buried in the family home. My My great grandfather was in London trying to get the safety deposit box when the first world war broke out and it was confiscated after the second world war my old man spent an entire summer as a youth digging up the basement floor of their house looking for the treasure. Ha ha.

      I definitely recommend Maus. Although its likely to depress the hell out of you. (which now that I think about it, is a weird reason to recommend a book to someone)

      1. theceaselessreaderwrites

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        Cool! Did your Dad ever find the treasure?

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