Note: Maus jumps back and forth often between the past and the present. To facilitate these transitions in this summary, the Holocaust narrative is written in normal font, while all other narratives are written in italics.
The Second Honeymoon
Vladek is in Florida, and Art worries aloud to his wife about how he will take care of his father. Moving to Rego Park is still out of the question, and there is no way that Vladek could move in with him and Francoise since they live in a fourth floor walk-up apartment, and Vladek's heart would not be able to handle it. The phone rings, and it is Mala. She is back together with Vladek, and she is calling to tell Art that his father has been admitted to the hospital with water in his lungs for the third time in a month. Art hangs up and calls the hospital, but Vladek is not there. Worried, he calls Mala back, and she tells him that Vladek left the hospital against the advice of his doctors. He looks sick and says that he does not trust the doctors in Florida; he wants to see his own doctor in New York.
Art flies to Florida to help Mala with his father. When he arrives, Vladek is lying in bed, breathing with the help of an oxygen unit. Art has arranged for emergency oxygen on their flight back to New York, and for an ambulance to pick them up at the airport. Art asks Mala how and why the two got back together, but she says that she doesn't know. She seems as unhappy as ever, and now Vladek is even more difficult than he was a few months ago. The next morning, everything is packed. Art and Vladek sit outside on deck chairs, and Vladek tells his son about the period of time just after the war, during which he moved to Sweden with his wife to await a visa to the United States. He took on labor jobs for a while but eventually used his resourcefulness and natural sales abilities to work his way up to become a partner at a Jewish-owned department store. Their visas arrived a few years later, and the family moved to New York, where he made a living selling diamonds.
Vladek, Art, and Mala prepare to board a flight to New York later that day. The plane is delayed six hours before takeoff, and when it finally comes time to board, Vladek complains that his oxygen unit isn't working, and that he cannot breathe. The crew tells them that Vladek is too sick to fly, but they refuse to leave the plane. Eventually Vladek checks his oxygen unit again and says that it is working, and the plane takes off. An ambulance meets them at the airport (a half-hour late), and Vladek is taken to the hospital. His doctor performs thorough tests and decides that he can go home. Art was hoping that his father could stay in the hospital, but he takes his father back to Rego Park, where Mala is waiting.
About a month later, Art visits his father again for the first time since Florida. Vladek often gets confused these days, and they are preparing to sell the house and move to Florida permanently. Art sits down by his father's bed to record the final chapter of his story.
Vladek is staying with Shivek on a farm that the Americans are using as a base. Eventually, they are made to relocate to a camp for displaced persons, At the camp, Vladek gets a fever, and the doctors tell him that he is having a relapse of typhus. The fever subsides, but Vladek is told that something else is still not right. A year later, he is diagnosed with diabetes. Vladek and Shivek eventually leave for Hannover, where Shivek has a brother. There are no passenger trains, but they board a freight train towards the city. The tracks are often broken, and the trip is long as the trains are forced to make constant detours through war-torn Germany. When they finally arrive in Hannover, Shivek's sister-in-law suggests that Vladek go to a large camp nearby to look for word of his wife. At the camp, he sees two girls from Sosnowiec, who tell him that Anja is alive, but that Sosnowiec is still a dangerous place, as there are stories of Poles continuing to kill Jews after the war has ended.
Undeterred, Vladek sends her a letter and makes his way back to Sosnowiec. With the letter he also sends a photo of himself in concentration camp-style pinstripes, which the photographer had ready for "souvenir photos." The trip through Poland takes three or four weeks. He eventually makes his way to the Sosnowiec Jewish Organization, and he is reunited with his wife, "such a moment that everybody around was crying together."
With this, Vladek ends his story. "I'm tired of talking, Richieu," he tells Art, calling him by the name of his dead brother, "and it's enough stories for now."
For the most part, the author's drawings of Jews have been almost completely generic, consisting of nothing more than eyes, mouth, nose, and whiskers. By making all Jewish people look alike, Spiegelman has thus far created the impression that the Holocaust happened to a mass of anonymous people. By drawing the Jews as mice rather than as people, he has removed the reader's ability to fully identify with the main characters of the story. Though Maus is a story about people (as opposed to mice), the nature of the drawings adds distance between the reader and the characters. The photo of Vladek Spiegelman on page 134 changes all of this in an instant. What could once have been read as the story of an anonymous mouse becomes the story of a man with a face. By showing us this photo, the author forces the reader to reconsider the terrible events of the previous pages in a different light, as all the pain and suffering become associated with the man in the photo. Though the story to this point has certainly been poignant and emotional, the photo allows the reader to more closely empathize with the Vladek and his experiences.
The photo also forces readers to reconsider the way they think about the millions of people whose lives have been affected by the Holocaust. The amount of death, destruction, and pain is almost unimaginable, and contemplation of the total number generally creates a sense of a faceless mass of victims, much like the mice in Maus, who all look essentially the same. By showing the face of one of the Holocaust's victims, readers are asked to think about the Holocaust in terms of its effects on millions of individuals, each with their own friends, families, loves, and ambitions. Seen in this way, the tragedy of the Holocaust is multiplied exponentially.
The photo of Richieu in the acknowledgements of Book II has a similar - though slightly different - effect. Vladek, for his part, survived the Holocaust, but he did not emerge completely unscathed: he lost most of his family, and his personality was been forever altered by the terrible events. Richieu, on the other hand, did not survive the Holocaust. His photo, in contrast to Vladek's, is a reminder that those who died should likewise be thought of as individuals.
Vladek's last words underscore serve as a final reminder that the events of the Holocaust have had a lasting effect on the people who lived through it. By accidentally calling Art by the name of his son who died in the Holocaust, he betrays the fact that the events are never far from his mind.