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Pianist and Maus

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Both The Pianist and Maus offer different nuances about the roles of the Germans and the Jews in the Holocaust. Some may see only the Nazis as the killers in the Holocaust and not consider other circumstances. The Pianist and Maus offer different instances to show that collaborators, bystanders and rescuers provide a gray area between killers and victims.

Bystanders were a major role in The Pianist. Those who stood by and watched wrongdoings were very present in the film. Not only just those who watched out of fear of being killed by the Nazis, but also those who watched violence and crime amongst their fellow people and chose to do nothing. This being one of the factors that Goldhagen attributes to the survival of genocide, those who choose to do nothing. In particular I think back to “the snatcher,” who attempted to steal a woman’s food only to end up dropping it in the street. She screamed for help, but received none from anyone in the street. The more upsetting bystanders were featured later in the film, those who could not help even if they wanted to.

When waiting to be transported to a concentration camp Wladyslaw encounters a woman begging for water for her dying son. No one can offer her help because they are all left with nothing. As illustrated in the next scene where the Szpillman family spends their last twenty zlotys on a caramel that they split amongst themselves. Bystanders are also illustrated in Maus. Artie is shocked when his father tells of his struggle to get out of the ghetto. Even when his cousin is in good condition, his own family turns the other cheek unless there is money to be made. The fact that family turns on family is shocking to Artie, but Vladek understands the loss of humanity and describes it as “everybody to take care of himself.”

Collaborators are also featured in both the film and the movie. Both The Pianist and Maus feature stories of men turning on their neighbors, family and friends in order to stay alive. In Maus Spiegelman illustrates non-Jewish Poles as pigs, showing that they are starting and maybe even alluding to his disgust for them. The Pianist shows the Jewish police force that were able to escape death by punishing their fellow Jew. One of which whom is a friend of Wladyslaw who ultimately saves him from going to a concentration camp. These collaborators cannot be seen as bystanders because they take action against Jews and therefore collaborate with the Nazis.

One particular example of a rescuer that comes to mind is the officer who helps Wladyslaw in the end of The Pianist. We aren’t aware whether he no longer believed in what Nazi Germany represented or if he merely had compassion for Wladyslaw and let him live since it was so close to the end of the war. However, he made a generous effort to help Szpillman live through to see the end of the war. Rescuers do not necessarily have to turn the other cheek, they could also help in small ways in order to guarantee survival. Both The Pianist and Maus discuss ways in which employment papers were illegally obtained. Small people along the way helped in big ways for the survival of Vladek and Wladyslaw alike.

Overall both the book and the film create a similar image of the Holocaust for me. However, I feel that Maus does contain more romanticism than The Pianist. The image created is a more personal narrative that shows more inhumanity than just facts. The Polish background of both of the main characters in the sources also allows the full story of World War II to be told which I found interesting and insightful.

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