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  • 1. Beijing BISS International SchoolGrade 10School Year: 2012-2013To what degree was Vladek’s survival based on luck, and to what degree was his survival based on his considerable resourcefulness? URL: http://majorspoilers.com/2011/10/20/digital-comics-maus-getting-digital-treatment/Student’s Name: Julia LiTeacher’s Name: A. GeralisClass: M.Y.P. – English A
  • 2. Julia Li Grade 10 – English A Rationale“Maus” is a graphic novel written by Art Spiegelman based on a true story of hisfather, Vladek Spiegelman. The story is about Vladek’s experience and survival in theHolocaust that happened during 1939-1945 in Poland. In this essay I’m going todiscuss about Vladek’s survival. Was his survival was based on luck more? Or hisconsiderable resourcefulness?In my opinion, Vladek’s survival was relied more on luck than his considerableresourcefulness. Obviously, Vladek’s survival was also included a great deal of hisskillfulness. However I believe luck is the larger reason why Vladek survived. In thisessay, I am going to prove that Vladek’s survival was mostly based on his luck.I intend to prove and give evidence that Vladek needed luck in order to use hisconsiderable resources to survive. In addition, I am going to show how Vladeksurvived only by luck and when he was unlucky. Then I will compare and analyze thedegree of significance of luck and considerable resources.The reason I planned to discuss about Vladek’s survival is because I want to proveand show people, you need luck to survive in a hard situation, no matter howknowledgeable or smart you are. (Word Count: 200) 2
  • 3. Julia Li Grade 10 – English A Contents Rationale ------------------------------------------------------------------------------p.2 Contents -------------------------------------------------------------------------------p.3 Essay --------------------------------------------------------------------------------p.4-8 References ----------------------------------------------------------------------------p.9 3
  • 4. Julia Li Grade 10 – English AArt Spiegelman wrote the graphic novel “Maus” and the story is based on his ownfather. It is a true story based on his father’s (Vladek Spiegelman who is the maincharacter) experience in the Holocaust. In this novel, Art has drawn all of the eventsthat his father has gone through. We could see that Vladek has gone through pain andfear; we could see how he escaped different camps. More importantly, we could seehow he survived. The question is, how did he survive? By fortunate luck or hisconsiderable resources? I believe skills and talent is essential. However, luck is thechoice of path that God gives you.Before I start, I would like to give a little introduction about the Holocaust. In WorldWar II 1939, the Germans invaded Poland and began the event, which is theHolocaust. Where the Germans, also knows as Nazis at that period of time, burntJewish, Polish and other people from countries near Poland in ovens and put theminto gas chambers to die, to extinct the Jews. As might be expected, the Nazis didn’tonly kill Jews; they also killed millions of Non-Jews. In total, there were around 11million people killed during the Holocaust 1 , and Vladek was a survivor whoexperienced the whole Holocaust.Vladek was a highly skilled man and with his luck he survived the Holocaust. In thisessay, I’m going to discuss about Vladek’s survival. I will prove that Vladek survivedmainly because of his luck. Since I believe, anything that can make your life better, isluck.1 http://www.holocaustforgotten.com/ 4
  • 5. Julia Li Grade 10 – English AVladek is truly a resourceful man. However without his luck to give him a chance touse it, it’s almost useless to have this knowledge. For instance, in the Auschwitzcamp, there was a Kapo who wanted a person who can speak both Polish andEnglish2. Luckily, Vladek was a Polish who spoke well English and therefore thisKapo helped him surviving for a while in Auschwitz. Despite that Vladek knewEnglish or not, without this Kapo who wants to learn English, Vladek might’ve diedin Auschwitz. Vladek was lucky to barrack and meet this Kapo. Therefore, luckcomes before considerable resources.In addition to the previous statement, there are more examples where luck comesbefore considerable resources. In fact, I believe all events where Vladek used hisskills and knowledge to survive involves luck. For instance, Vladek was extremelylucky to see his cousins through the windows before he was being sent to Auschwitz3.Moreover, there was more luck, because his cousins were schemers who knew how tomake business and accompany the Nazis. In the graphic novel, it stated that “Haskelwas a very big man in the ghetto then…”, “Haskel played very often, cards with theGestapo” and “He lost to them big amounts of money, so they would like him.”4 Fromthis, we can discover not only how they made business, but also how lucky Vladekwas to have these cousins. Without their existence or showing up on the right time,Vladek probably wouldn’t have lived through the Holocaust. But of course, Vladek’sconsiderable resourcefulness can’t be excluded, or he would die. However, theseknowledge he owns is more dependent on the luck he has.2 Maus II, Art Spiegelman3 Maus I, Art Spiegelman4 Ibid, pg. 116 5
  • 6. Julia Li Grade 10 – English AMiloch was another cousin of Vladek who helped him surviving through theHolocaust. Once again, Vladek’s cousin saved his life. In the novel, Miloch built ahiding place in his shoe shop.5 Vladek didn’t need to use a large amount of his skillsand knowledge. However, he was lucky. He was lucky that he was the one that couldsurvive. He was lucky that he had smart cousins. He was lucky to be born in awealthy family to learn all the skills. The only thing Vladek was talented and skilledwith, was managing his own time and using his luck to make him stronger.However, not every situation is about luck. Sometimes, you’re unlucky and you needto use your skills and brain to solve it. For instance, a few children caught Vladek andcried “A JEW! A JEW!”6 Through Art Spiegelman’s drawing, using some drawingtechniques I could see that Vladek was panicking. For instance, Art shadowedVladek’s face, and I could feel an alert going in Vladek’s mind. Fortunately, Vladekwas smart enough and used his brain and worked his way through. He knew that if heran away, his identity of being a Jew would be exposed.In addition, with Vladek’s extraordinary hiding skills and rather little luck he survivedthrough a period of time. Vladek said it himself “Therefore I arranged for us a verygood hiding spot…”7 In fact, it was quite an advanced hiding place from the sketchthat Art drew. Without Vladek’s skills, knowledge and talent, they wouldn’t havesurvived and would end up being sent to Auschwitz.5 Ibid, pg 1216 Ibid, pg. 1497 Ibid, pg. 110 6
  • 7. Julia Li Grade 10 – English AMoreover, Vladek was a true business man, he knew how to make connection. Whichis an important talent and skill in the Holocaust, because you can’t live on your own,you can’t get everything you need in order to survive. You need to trade, you need toknow where to get them, how to get them and from who. This is something thatVladek owned, he knew how to find connection, then he knew where to find more andstart trading, and he knew how to pay. One example of Vladek using his benefit ofconnection and business skills is meeting Motonowa. After a long period of tradingwith her, he made friends with her and she allowed them to hide in her place 8. Itinvolves some luck, which is being lucky enough to meet a generous person likeMotonowa. However, it was mainly based on his skills and talents.Even so, luck is still a very important factor of his survival. There were a few placeswhere Vladek survived with luck. For instance, they were lucky when they came backto Sosnowiec; Mr. Lukowski allowed them to stay9, which normal people wouldn’tdare to do. In fact, it didn’t require Vladek and Anja (Vladek’s wife) skills and talent,but naturally, they had to have good connection. Moreover, the y got even luckier tomeet another Jew to introduce them to another place10. After that they got to meetMrs. Kawka11. These luck didn’t require a great amount of talent and skills, all youneeded was money and connections. Later on, Vladek was lucky enough to meetMotonowa to help him out which I mentioned earlier.8 Ibid9 Ibid, pg. 13610 Ibid, pg. 13811 Ibid, pg. 139 7
  • 8. Julia Li Grade 10 – English AEven if I have mentioned numerous examples where Vladek’s survival is mainlybased on his considerable resourcefulness, there is always a portion of luck in it.Everything that happens, even the worse contains luck. When something worsehappens, think that you’re lucky enough, because something worse can happen.Therefore, I believe that Vladek’s survival was based on luck more than hisconsiderable resources. In this novel, his considerable resources were up to a degreewhere you needed it, something that you could have reached for. Where luck is in anemergency degree, because you ask for luck when you are about to die. Vladek needsit as desperately as he needs his considerable resources, but it’s somethingunreachable and unstable, all you can do is hope for it, something you can’t control.Therefore, Vladek needed luck and his skills desperately, but one was unstable, theother one could have been stabilized. 8
  • 9. Julia Li Grade 10 – English A References Spiegelman, Art. Maus II: a survivors tale : and here my troubles began. New York: Pantheon Books, 1991. Print. Spiegelman, Art. Maus I: a survivors tale : my father bleeds history. Rev. pbk. ed. New York: Pantheon Books, 19921986. Print. Spiegelman, Art, and Jack Murphy. Maus. GradeSaver LLC, 2007 Unknown, “Holocaust – Non-Jewish Holocaust Victims”, Holocuast Forgotten, Terese Pencak Schwartz, Sept 23rd 2012, http://www.holocaustforgotten.com/ 9