Va. Holocaust Museum reacts to ban of ‘Maus’ by Tennessee school system

Published: Feb. 3, 2022 at 7:01 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus is drawing a lot of attention, including in the Richmond area, despite its publication date nearly 40 years ago.

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

“Three months and every day was a year for us,” read Virginia Holocaust Museum’s Education Director 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 likely crossed the minds of many men, women and children held in Europe’s concentration camps, especially Auschwitz.

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

“It’s a different type of book,” Ferenczy said. “It’s engaging maybe for students that might be reluctant readers or don’t find history interesting.”

Last month, a Tennessee school board banned the book due to “inappropriate language” and an illustration of a nude woman. Some say the work isn’t age-appropriate.

“This time - it’s traumatic, it’s dark, it’s horrific,” Ferenczy said. “In teaching this history, we’re trying to shed light on man’s inhumanity to man.”

When teaching about the Holocaust, guidelines have been established by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. The recommendation is to start teaching about this time in history by sixth grade.

“[That] does not mean you talk about every single aspect of that history,” Ferenczy said. “It really is dependent 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.

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

While not all resources are one size fits all, an open dialogue is essential.

“We’re hoping that if any of those discussions are had in Virginia, that before a book is banned, reach out to the museum, so we can talk with you about it,” Ferenczy said.

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

Despite its ban in Tennessee, it has sparked interest around metro-Richmond.

According to website searches, all copies of Maus at the Chesterfield, Richmond and Henrico Public Libraries have been checked out; some locations have a waitlist.

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

The novel has also skyrocketed to the No. 1 bestseller on Amazon’s online bookstore.

Overall, the hope by the Virginia Holocaust Museum is for those in education to reach out to them for questions about resources available when talking about this time in history.

Copyright 2022 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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