Goes. Holocaust Museum Responds to Tennessee School System’s Banning of “Maus”

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) – The Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus is attracting a lot of attention, including in the Richmond area, despite being published almost 40 years ago.

In January, a Tennessee school board voted to ban the novel, citing a number of concerns. However, Virginia Holocaust Museum trustees believe a better decision could have been made.

“Three months and every day was a year for us,” said Virginia Holocaust Museum Director of Education Megan Ferenczy. “I told him my dream. I hope it’s true. I’m afraid we’ll never get out of here.

It’s a thought that probably crossed the minds of many men, women and children held in European concentration camps, particularly Auschwitz.

Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel, Maus, details his father’s experiences during the Holocaust; the mice represent the Jews and the cats are the Nazis.

“It’s a different type of book,” Ferenczy said. “It’s engaging perhaps for students who might be reluctant readers or who don’t find the story interesting.”

Last month, a Tennessee school board banned the book because of “inappropriate language” and an illustration of a naked woman. Some say the job is not age appropriate.

“This time it’s traumatic, it’s dark, it’s awful,” Ferenczy said. “In teaching this story, we are trying to shed light on man’s inhumanity to man.”

By teaching about the Holocaust, guidelines have been established by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC The recommendation is to begin teaching this period of history in sixth grade.

“[That] doesn’t mean you talk about every aspect of that story,” Ferenczy said. “It really depends on the students and the age to be able to read this resource.”

The Virginia Holocaust Museum sells the book in its gift shop. Ferenczy encourages teachers to use the novel as a resource.

“It would be something that would be used in the classroom, and here at the museum we would provide them with the historical context,” she added.

Although not all resources are the same, open dialogue is essential.

“We hope that if any of these discussions take place in Virginia, before a book is banned, contact the museum, so that we can discuss it with you,” Ferenczy said.

“To keep warm, we only had our summer uniforms and a thin blanket,” reads another excerpt from the book.

Despite being banned in Tennessee, it has generated interest around metro-Richmond.

According to website research, all copies of Maus at the Chesterfield, Richmond and Henrico public libraries were verified; some places have a waiting list.

“I think it’s great…you know, maybe it introduces people to this history that they haven’t learned about it before,” Ferenczy said.

The novel also skyrocketed in #1 bestseller on Amazon’s online bookstore.

Overall, the hope of the Virginia Holocaust Museum is that people in education reach out to them with questions about available resources when talking about this time in history.

Copyright 2022 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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