Maus is the German word for "mouse." Using the German word emphasizes that the graphic novel revolves around Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, both as it happened in the World War II era and in the Holocaust's effects on future generations. The title refers to how the Nazis, in their propaganda, constantly referred to the Jews as pests or vermin, in other words, as mice, rats, or cockroaches that had to be exterminated. It also refers to the way the Jews tried to hide underground from the Nazis, like mice. In addition, mice are often seen as weak and defenseless creatures and because of laws stripping them of their rights, the Jews were also defenseless in Germany and the German-occupied territories. Finally, maus plays on the German word mauscheln, which refers to how the Germans thought the Jews spoke German differently from Aryan Germans. How people speak becomes an important theme in this story. For example, Vladek's ability with languages helps him. Thus, we can see that one simple word in a title contains multiple layers of meaning.