As the Holocaust was commemorated on the 27 January all over the world, a school board’s recent ban in the United States on a Pulitzer prize-winning graphic novel has demonstrated that a brilliant piece of art on one of the most horrific epochs of humanity can now be sacrificed for the sake of certain conservative social codes meaning the Holocaust could turn into a distant memory..
Just before the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, a Tennessee school board banned Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel ‘Maus’ from its classrooms because of eight ‘curse words’ and an illustration of a naked cartoon mouse, in violation of freedom of expression.
One of the best fictional depictions of the process of outcasting the Jewish population of Europe, isolating them in wretched living conditions in ghettos and later in concentration camps consequently wiping them out of existence as the ‘final solution’, Maus is based on the actual experiences of Spiegelman’s parents who survived Auschwitz during the Holocaust.
The graphic novel with hand-drawn illustrations of mice and cats, respectively as the Jews and the German soldiers, was banned by the 10 members of the school board who unanimously agreed in favour of removing Maus from the eighth-grade curriculum, citing its use of the phrase ‘God Damn’ and drawings of ‘naked pictures’ of women.
“There is some rough, objectionable language in this book,” the director of school, Lee Parkison, was recorded as saying in a meeting’s opening remarks, according to the minutes taken from the meeting in January.
A board member named Tony Allman reportedly supported the move to remove the ‘vulgar and inappropriate’ content, arguing: “We don’t need to enable or somewhat promote this stuff.”
“I am not denying it was horrible, brutal, and cruel,” Allman said in reference to the genocide and murder of six million European Jews during the second world war.
“It shows people hanging, it shows them killing kids, why does the educational system promote this kind of stuff? It is not wise or healthy,” he added, expressing his preference for the eradication of a historical context, at least in the form of a striking work of art.
Maus had been withdrawn from Moscow bookstores in April 2015 after an anti-Nazi propaganda law forbidding use of Nazi signs and memorabilia was passed. “I don’t think ‘Maus’ was the intended target for this, obviously,” Spiegelman had commented at the time.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in November 2005 establishing the annual commemoration and chose 27 January, the day that the concentration camps in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland, was liberated by Soviet troops in 1945. In Auschwitz alone, 1.1 million people were killed by German forces. Of the 6 million European Jews who were killed during the Holocaust, 1.5 million were children.
Denial of Holocaust, denial of the first genocide
European Union leaders pledged on Wednesday to confront the rise of antisemitism and Holocaust denial in recent years. Speaking at an online event organised by the European Jewish Congress, European Council President Charles Michel said the lessons of the Holocaust are now ‘more relevant than ever.’ The event was also attended by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.
As a reminder that the acceptance or denial of genocide by the genocidal state is actually related to the balance of political power in a particular historical moment rather than the good intentions of certain statesmen, the first genocide of the 20th century, the Armenian Genocide that inspired the German National Socialists for the ‘final solution’, is still denied by the Ottoman Empire’s successor Turkish Republic 107 years after it took place.