Comic Legends: The Horrors of the Holocaust Explored By an Unexpected Mouse
Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the seven hundred and forty-ninth installment where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.
A cartoonist in an internment camp during World War II did a comic book starring Mickey Mouse in that same internment camp.
Many comic book fans are familiar with art spiegelman's masterpiece, maus, which tells the story of his parents' ordeal during the Holocaust with the Jewish people depicted as mice, the Nazis depicted as cats and the various other people from other countries depicted as different animals (Poles were pigs, Americans were dogs, etc.)Click the button below to start this article in quick view. Start now
However, shockingly enough, spiegelman was not the first cartoonist to use a mouse protagonist to show the horrors of the Holocaust. Back in 1942, Horst Rosenthal created the short satirical comic book, Mickey au Camp de Gurs (translated to Mickey Mouse in the Gurs Internment Camp)...
Obviously, being in an internment camp, Rosenthal did not have official permission to use Mickey Mouse and he noted so on the cover ("Publié Sans Autorisation de Walt Disney" ("Published without Walt Disney's Permission")
Gurs was a French internment camp that the French Vichy government used to detain a number of different people, but most prominently were Jews who had fled to France from Germany in the 1930s. That was precisely the case for Rosenthal, who had moved to France in 1933 as soon as Adolf Hitler came to power. Rosenthal noted the absurdity of him fleeing to France to protect himself from the Nazis, only for the Nazis to take over France, as well.
The absurdity of his situation was the main point behind his comic book. Rosenthal decided to spotlight the absurdity of it all by having Mickey Mouse be sent to Gurs.
The comic book opens with Mickey just living his life...
when he is arrested on suspicion of being Jewish...
Rosenthal included a photo of the camp...
He showed the conditions...
and the corrupt authorities involved...
Finally, Mickey has had enough and, realizing that he is, after all, a fictional character, he decides to leave for America instead, noting, "And so, because I'm nothing more than a drawing, I rubbed myself out with a stroke of the eraser… and… ta-da…!!! The police can always come and look for me in the land of lib...ty, eq...ity and frat...ity (I'm talking about America!)."
That, of course, is the national motto of France that Rosenthal is noting that they no longer live up to, hence Mickey now referring to America instead of France as the land of liberty, equality and fraternity.
The comic book is trademarked 1942. Tragically, that was the year that the people held in Gurs were transferred to extermination camps. Rosenthal was sent to Auschwitz where he was murdered the day that he arrived.
The comic book somehow survived and spiegelman himself was one of the people who first drew it to international attention when he featured it in his 2011 reference book, MetaMaus (that contained historical material related to maus).
What a stunning and tragic work.
It was finally officially released a few years ago, over 70 years after Rosenthal's tragic murder (among the millions of other tragic murders committed during the Holocaust)...
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