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Maus | Book 2, Chapter 3 : And Here My Troubles Began (... And Here My Troubles Began) | Summary



Vladek Spiegelman is upset that Artie Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly are planning to leave him alone the next day. He tries to give them half-eaten food to take home but Artie refuses, so Vladek decides to try to return it to the grocery store. On their way there, he continues his story.

Nearing the end of the war, the Russians are about 25 miles away from Auschwitz, and the Germans are making preparations to move everyone in the camp into Germany. Vladek and a group of men prepare to hide in a dorm attic but abandon the plan after hearing the Germans are going to bomb and burn the entire camp. They fall in line with the other prisoners and have to endure a walk of hundreds of miles into Germany. After a brief stop at another small camp called Gross-Rosen, the prisoners are loaded onto a cattle train. The car is dangerously crowded, and they go without food and water for days on end. Again miraculously, Vladek is one of 25 out of 200 people who survive the train ride, which takes them to Dachau, outside the German city of Munich.

Dachau is overrun with lice, which are spreading typhus, a bacterial disease. People are dying from illness and fighting over soup, which isn't served to anyone who has lice on their clothing. Vladek gets an infection in his hand, and after he is released from the infirmary he meets a Frenchman who speaks English. The man is so grateful to be able to talk to someone else that he shares with Vladek the care packages his family sends him. Vladek trades some of the food to secure clean shirts for both himself and the Frenchman. Now they always get soup.

Vladek is stricken with typhus a few weeks later. He is taken to the infirmary, but he is too weak to eat and talk. Everyone assumes he's going to die. He hangs on, paying other patients with bread for assistance to and from the toilet. When his fever breaks, he's released from the camp as part of a prisoner of war exchange. He and other patients from the infirmary are put on a train heading toward the Swiss border.

Françoise stops the car on the way home from the grocery store to pick up a hitchhiker, who is black. Vladek freaks out. He doesn't trust this "shvatsa" (a derogatory Yiddish term meaning "black man") and watches the man closely to make sure he doesn't steal any of their food. Françoise is livid with Vladek after they drop off the man. "How can you, of all people, be such a racist!" she demands. "You talk about blacks the way the Nazis talked about the Jews!" Vladek insists there's no comparison. They go home to have lunch.


The Dachau Camp, located in Dachau, Germany, was the first concentration camp established by the Nazis and served as a model for all subsequent camps. Built in 1933, it was originally used as a detention center for those who opposed Nazi ideals, such as German Communists, Social Democrats, and trade unionists. Over time other marginalized groups, such as Roma gypsies, homosexuals, and Jehovah's Witnesses, were sent there as well. Jews didn't have much of a presence until 1938, when 10,000 Jewish men were sent there after Kristallnacht, a night of region-wide rioting and violence across Germany directed against Jews. Most of those men were released within a few months, but the numbers of Jews in the camp continued to rise throughout the course of the war. There is no evidence gas chambers were used in this particular camp, but thousands upon thousands died from the effects of medical experiments, forced labor, and poor sanitary conditions. Hundreds were killed in front of firing squads, and thousands more were shipped to a killing center in Austria. As the Allies closed in on Germany in 1945, the Nazis moved prisoners from all over Europe into Dachau, causing massive overcrowding that resulted in even more deaths from starvation and disease. Nearly 61,000 prisoners were liberated by the Allies on April 29, 1945. Seven thousand more on a "death march" away from the camp were rescued days later, but not all made it. For many it was far too late. Historians estimate 28,000 lives were ended at Dachau between 1940 and 1945.

Vladek survived the war, but, as Artie points out, there are also some ways in which he didn't survive. He was irrevocably changed by his experiences. Though he had always been a careful and practical man, his need to make use of every object in his path didn't start until the war nor did his penny-pinching ways. These traits are common in people who have withstood financial difficulties, but Vladek takes it to the extreme. He is literally trying to return boxes of food that have been opened and half-eaten. He doesn't understand this is socially unacceptable, nor does he see it's impractical—and financially ruinous—for stores to refund money for half-used products. He sees only a commodity that has no value for him but may have value for someone else.

One surprising thing about Vladek that doesn't change after the war is what we would call his racism. Françoise, who is French, is particularly upset about the way Vladek reacts to the hitchhiker. She did not grow up aware of the discriminatory attitudes against black people in the United States, so she is horrified by what Artie interprets as usual behavior for people of his father's generation. She thinks that Vladek, as a minority himself, should be less judgmental about other minorities. He knows what it's like to be discriminated against, so he should be more sympathetic to the man looking for a ride. Spiegelman includes this scene to show that suffering doesn't necessarily make a person better—it just makes someone a person who suffered and then shares unacceptable prejudices with others in a new environment.

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