In Maus, Spiegelman depicts the Germans as cats, the predator drawn with sharp teeth and angry faces. Characteristics that come to mind when thinking of a cat are conniving, sneaky, stealthy, predatory, intelligent, and mean. During the war the Germans are seen mean, a nationality that other nationalities feared. They were portrayed in the book as controlling, overpowering other nationalities. One can see how conniving the Germans can be before the war starts and especially during the war. One thing that comes to mind regarding the Germans being portrayed as cats is when the Germans dress up as Polish forces and stage an insurgent so they finally have a reason to invade Poland. The Germans are being sneaky to get their way in this war, acting as though they are not doing anything wrong, making treaties they never plan to keep that will mainly benefit them and work to their advantage. The Germans let the Jewish communities believe that they had freedom and that things were not that bad, but slowly they tighten the reigns and take complete control. “It was many, many such stories-synagogues burned, Jews beaten with no reason, whole towns pushing out all Jews- Each story worse than the other” 1. The Germans want to exterminate the Jewish, as they simply see them as a nuisance. “There it was just a DEATH place with Jews waiting for gas…”2 Vladek describes the concentration camps of WWII. Not only do the Germans want them out of sight, they completely want them gone. The Germans exhibit these cat-like qualities, which is why the cat was such a good choice to portray them.
Mice, on the other hand have opposing characteristics and are seen as prey, little, a nuisance, underestimated, and need to be exterminated. The cats in Maus, the Germans, are hunting the mice, the Jewish, trying to get rid of every last one of them. The Jewish try to do anything possible to save themselves, including making bunkers, paying people to hide them, and putting up with weather, small amounts of food etc. to hide from the Germans’ putting them through the worst of conditions. One way Spiegelman shows how tiny and hide-able they could be is when Vladek is discussing the hiding spot they make in someone’s basement. Vladek says that “Even when they came with dogs to smell us out- and they knew that Jews are laying here- but still they couldn’t find”3. What Spiegelman makes clear in Maus I and II is that the Jewish were easily hidden and concealable. They scavenged for food to stay alive, as the goal of both mice and the Jewish is to stay alive any way possible. The main way Spiegelman shows this is in the way the Jewish that are in the army wear pig masks, are never recognized by anyone, and are seen as Polish without question most of the time. “I still had on my army uniform, and I didn’t let know I was a Jew” 4. They are easily concealed through the entire book but are eventually found one way or another. The fact that mice in Maus can pass for other animals depicts the reality that Jews could pass for any nationality by looks.
Another animal depicted was a pig, signifying the Polish. When thinking of a pig most people think dirty, noisy, and problematic. That is how the Germans saw the Polish. They were problematic, and Hitler wanted to invade Poland and take over. The Polish hated the Germans, and the