“Master Race”: Graphic Storytelling in the Aftermath of the Holocaust

  • Victoria Aarons


This chapter argues that an early graphic story, “Master Race,” published in 1955 by comics artist Bernie Krigstein and scriptwriter Al Feldstein, considered “one of the finest stories ever to appear in the comics form,” anticipated the emergence of the evolving and expanding genre of Holocaust graphic narratives. With memory as the controlling trope, graphic novelists and illustrators, through the juxtaposition of text and image, extend the narrative of the Holocaust into the present, creating a midrashic imperative to reconstruct and reanimate the experience of the Shoah. In recreating moments of traumatic rupture, dislocation, and disequilibrium, graphic narratives contribute to the evolving field of Holocaust representation by establishing a visual testimony to memory.


  1. Aarons, Victoria. “A Genre of Rupture: The Literary language of the Holocaust.” In The Bloomsbury Companion to Holocaust Literature, edited by Jenni Adams, 27–45. London: Bloomsbury, 2014.Google Scholar
  2. Adams, Neal, Rafael Medoff, and Craig Yoe, eds. We Spoke Out: Comic Books and the Holocaust. San Diego, CA: Yoe Books and IDW Publishing, 2018.Google Scholar
  3. Appignanesi, Lisa. Losing the Dead: A Family Memoir. London: Vintage, 2000.Google Scholar
  4. Baskind, Samantha, and Ranen Omer-Sherman, eds. “Introduction.” In The Jewish Graphic Novel: Critical Approaches, xv–xxvii. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2010.Google Scholar
  5. Bayer, Gerd. “After Postmemory: Holocaust Cinema and the Third Generation.” Shofar 28, no. 4 (Summer 2010): 116–132.Google Scholar
  6. Benson, John, David Kasakove, and Art Spiegelman. “An Examination of ‘Master Race.” In A Comics Studies Reader, edited by Jeet Heer and Kent Worchester, 288–305. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2009.Google Scholar
  7. Cavna, Michael. “MetaMaus: Maus’ Creator Art Spiegelman Reveals Emotional Journey to Today’s 25th Anniversary Book.” The Washington Post, October 4, 2011.
  8. Chute, Hillary. “Comics as Literature? Reading Graphic Narrative.” PMLA 123, no. 2 (March 2008): 452–465.Google Scholar
  9. ———. Disaster Drawn: Visual Witness, Comics, and Documentary Form. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press and Harvard University Press, 2016.Google Scholar
  10. Corman, Leela. “Bearing Witness at Buchenwald.” Tablet Magazine, Online, April 20, 2017.
  11. ———. “Drawing Strength from My Grandfather, Who Carried His Losses from the Holocaust.” Tablet Magazine, December 30, 2013.
  12. ———. “The Book of the Dead.” Tablet Magazine, May 4, 2016.
  13. Cravett, Paul. “Miriam Katin: Coming to Terms,” December 17, 2015.
  14. Croci, Pascal. Auschwitz. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2004.Google Scholar
  15. Dres, Jérémie. We Won’t See Auschwitz. Translated by Edward Gauvin. London: SelfMadeHero, 2012.Google Scholar
  16. Eisenstein, Bernice. I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors. New York: Riverhead Books, 2006.Google Scholar
  17. Eisner, Will. Comics and Sequential Art. Tamarac, FL: Poorhouse Press, 1985.Google Scholar
  18. Farris, Emil. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2017.Google Scholar
  19. Galek, Michael, and Marcin Nowakowski. Episodes from Auschwitz. St. Joseph, Missouri: K&L Press, 2009.Google Scholar
  20. Hartman, Geoffrey. “Shoah and Intellectual Witness.” Partisan Review 1, no. 1 (1998): 1–8.
  21. Havazelet, Ehud. “To Live in Tiflis in the Springtime.” In Like Never Before, 231–250. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998.Google Scholar
  22. Jablonski, Carla, and Leland Purvis. Resistance. New York: First Second, 2010.Google Scholar
  23. Jukovsky, Martin. “‘Master Race’ and the Holocaust.” Impact.
  24. Katin, Miriam. Letting It Go. Montreal, Quebec: Drawn & Quarterly, 2013.Google Scholar
  25. ———. We Are on Our Own: A Memoir. Montreal, Quebec: Drawn & Quarterly, 2006.Google Scholar
  26. Kehe, Marjorie. “Art Spiegelman: Don’t Call Comics ‘Graphic Novels’.” The Christian Science Monitor, March 17, 2009.
  27. Kichka, Michel. Second Generation: The Things I Didn’t Tell My Father. France: Dargaud, 2012. English translation, Amazon Digital Services LLC, January 27, 2016.Google Scholar
  28. Kleist, Reinhard. The Boxer: The True Story of Holocaust Survivor Harry Haft. London: SelfMadeHero, 2014.Google Scholar
  29. Krigstein, Bernard. “Master Race.” In B. Krigstein. Volume One (1919–1955), edited by Greg Sadowski, 218–225. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2002.Google Scholar
  30. Kubert, Joe. Yossel: April 19, 1943. A Story of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. New York: ibooks, Graphic Novel, 2003.Google Scholar
  31. Kurzweil, Amy. Flying Couch. New York: Black Balloon Publishing and Catapult, 2016.Google Scholar
  32. Lambert, Joshua. “How Comics Help Us Combat Holocaust Fatigue,” February 9, 2017.
  33. Lemelman, Martin. Mendel’s Daughter: A Memoir. New York: Free Press, 2006.Google Scholar
  34. Lutes, Jason. Berlin. Montreal, Quebec: Drawn & Quarterly, 2018.Google Scholar
  35. McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: William Morrow and HarperCollins, 1993.Google Scholar
  36. Mendelsohn, Daniel. The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million. New York: HarperCollins, 2006.Google Scholar
  37. Modan, Rutu. The Property. Translated by Jessica Cohen. Montreal, Quebec: Drawn & Quarterly, 2013.Google Scholar
  38. Pak, Greg, and Carmine Di Giandomenico. X-Men: Magneto Testament. New York: Marvel, 2008.Google Scholar
  39. Rifas, Leonard. “War Comics.” In The Routledge Companion to Comics, edited by Frank Bramlett, Roy T. Cook, and Aaron Meskin, 183–191. New York: Routledge, 2017.Google Scholar
  40. Robbins, Trina. Lily Renée, Escape Artist. Minneapolis: Graphic Universe, 2011.Google Scholar
  41. Roman, Rafael Pi. “New York Voices—Interview with Art Spiegelman.” NY Voices, November 25, 2012.
  42. Sim, David. Judenhauss. Kitchener, ON: Aardvark-Vanaheim, 2008.Google Scholar
  43. Spiegelman, Art. “Ballbuster: Bernard Krigstein’s Life Between the Panels.” The New Yorker 27, no. 20 (July 22, 2002).
  44. ———. MetaMaus. New York: Pantheon, 2011.Google Scholar
  45. Versaci, Rocco. This Book Contains Graphic Language: Comics as Literature. New York: Continuum, 2007.Google Scholar
  46. Wiesel, Elie. “An Old Acquaintance.” In Legends of Our Time, 39–53. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1968.Google Scholar
  47. ———. “Why I Write: Making No Become Yes.” The New York Times Book Review, April 14, 1985, pp. 13–14.Google Scholar
  48. Yelin, Barbara. Irmina. London: SelfMadeHero, 2014.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victoria Aarons
    • 1
  1. 1.Trinity UniversitySan AntonioUSA

Personalised recommendations