In the classic graphic novel Maus, Art Spiegelman uses dehumanization as a key literary technique. The choice to draw all the Jews as mice hammers home the trapped, scared feeling of living as prey on every panel. The choice to draw the Germans as cats dehumanizes the Nazi party as well, though in a different way. It turns them into inhuman hunters who are ruled by animalistic instincts. The choice to illustrate the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats works on both a conscious and subconscious level,\ and is one of the main reasons for the enduring popularity of the book.
In Maus 1: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History, dehumanization is a central theme—both in how the Nazis sought to dehumanize the Jews in the concentration camps and also from the Jewish perspective—how the sense of being a human being could start to unravel when put under those conditions. A good example of the latter is in the very first pages of the book, where a young Art complains to his father Vladek that he fell and how his friends skated away without him.
His father replies: “Friends? Your Friends? If you lock them together in a room with no food for a week…then you could see what it is, friends!” The inhuman conditions of Auschwitz have, understandably, had a long-lasting effect on Vladek. The horrible atrocities of the camps, which the reader sees later in the novel, are touched on here with the suggestion that, when people are dehumanized, societal human bonds such as friendship begin to break down.