Illustrated Holocaust memoir 'Maus' removed from Moscow bookstore over swastika cover

One person was told that by a bookstore clerk that the book would be unavailable until after Victory Day on May 9, celebrating the Soviet victory of Germany in World War II.

April 29, 2015 02:46
2 minute read.

Cover of the book 'Maus' by Art Spiegelman. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Russian authorities removed copies of the award-winning Holocaust memoir Maus from store shelves across Moscow this week in an effort to erase all traces of Nazi symbology ahead of celebrations marking the Soviet victory over Germany.

Maus – a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel recounting the wartime experiences of Jewish cartoonist Art Spiegelman’s father – portrayed the Jewish victims of the Nazis as anthropomorphic mice pursued by sadistic German cats.

The Moscow Times quoted one resident of the city who said she had been told by a clerk that the book would be unavailable until after Victory Day on May 9, which surprised her as Maus is “an anti-fascist novel.”

The publisher of the Russian edition told The New York Times that authorities “got scared that someone would see the swastika on the cover” but that the symbol was “just a caricature.

It does not fall afoul of the law banning fascist symbols.”

According to Boruch Gorin, a senior figure in the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, government inspectors are likely afraid of being accused of being less than zealous and are unable to read foreign-language copies of the book. He did not directly address the issue of Russian-language copies being taken off shelves.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post by Skype, Gorin explained that the ban was part of a larger trend of Russian authorities attempting to combat “revisionism and Nazism.”

The cover of the book Maus. [photo credit: Courtesy]

While the whole matter was “tragicomic,” he added, it has had the unintended benefit of massively increasing public interest in the book – “so that is a good part of all this stupidity.”

Ukrainian Chief Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, a strong critic of Moscow, had a different take.

In an email to the Post, Bleich said he saw the ban as “par for the course in a controlled society.”

“If people are afraid to express themselves freely and free speech suffers, it will affect all facets of life,” he explained, adding that Russian authorities have a habit of glorifying dictator Joseph Stalin, who led the Soviet Union during the war and who was responsible for millions of deaths in Ukraine.

“Someone should study how many innocent civilians were killed by Stalin and his henchmen before, during and after World War II,” Bleich wrote.

“Stalin was instrumental in beginning the war and it cannot and should not be overlooked in history.”

Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi-hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said the ban “makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.”

“It obviously must be based on ignorance of the book’s content or flawed judgment.”

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