Maus

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Mr. Zylberberg Character Analysis

Anja’s father, whom Vladek always refers to as “father-in-law.” The wealthy owner of a hosiery factory, Mr. Zylberberg is a devoted family man who does everything he can to protect his wife, Matka, and their family from danger and privation after the war breaks out. His wealth is not enough to save him from Nazi persecution, however. He dies in Auschwitz, after Vladek’s cousins Haskel and Jakov Spiegelman refuse to help smuggle him and Matka out of Srodula.

Mr. Zylberberg Quotes in Maus

The Maus quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Zylberberg or refer to Mr. Zylberberg. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Holocaust and the Responsibility of its Survivors Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Pantheon edition of Maus published in 1993.
Part 1, Chapter 5 Quotes

Haskel took from me Father-in-Law’s jewels. But, finally, he didn’t help them. On Wednesday the vans came. Anja and I saw her father at the window. He was tearing his hair and crying. He was a millionaire, but even this didn’t save him his life.

Related Characters: Vladek Spiegelman (speaker), Anja (Anna) Spiegelman , Mr. Zylberberg, Haskel Spiegelman
Page Number: I.115
Explanation and Analysis:

In the ghettos, Vladek tries to use his family connections--backed up with some bribery--to get himself to safety, along with his family. In the end, his connection, his cousin Haskel Spiegelman, can't sneak Vladek's father-in-law, Mr. Zylberberg, out of the ghetto--the old man is simply too old and feeble to be moved safely. Mr. Zylberberg is so desperate to leave and survive that he gives away all his money and jewels as bribes--he's a rich man, with a lot of money to throw around. But in the end, no amount of money can save him, and he's taken away to the death camps like all the rest.

The passage underscores the terrifying randomness of the Holocaust--there was absolutely no way to predict who would live and who would die. Even a rich, powerful man like Mr. Zylberberg wasn't likely to live--money did nothing to help him survive. The passage also reinforces the total breakdown of society during the Holocaust: money (the cornerstone of any society, let's be honest) no longer worked.

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Anja: The whole family is gone! Grandma and grandpa! Poppa! Momma! Tosha! Bibi! My Richieu! Now they’ll take Lolek! … Oh God. Let me die too!

Vladek: Come, Anja, get up!

Anja: Why are you pulling me, Vladek? Let me alone! I don’t want to live!

Vladek: No, darling! To die, it’s easy … but you have to struggle for life! Until the last moment we must struggle together! I need you! And you’ll see that together we’ll survive.

Related Characters: Vladek Spiegelman (speaker), Anja (Anna) Spiegelman (speaker), Mr. Zylberberg, Matka Zylberberg , Richieu , Tosha , Bibi , Lolek , Mr. Karmio , Mrs. Karmio
Page Number: I.122
Explanation and Analysis:

As the situation for European Jews deteriorates, Vladek's wife, Anja, falls into despair. She's endured more suffering than most people would have to deal with in ten lifetimes: her entire family, more or less, has been killed, or is on the way to death. Anja can barely stand to live any longer, so great is her misery.

At this moment in the text, Anja relies heavily on Vladek for emotional support. Her desire to give up in the face of such horror is entirely understandable, but Vladek takes a different view. He tries to convince Anja to be strong and optimistic: he says that they have a profound responsibility--they owe it to their dead relatives to survive the Holocaust together. One great tragedy of the Holocaust is that even when the victims survived (as Vladek and Anja did), they had to live with the agony and guilt of being the last living members of their families.

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Mr. Zylberberg Character Timeline in Maus

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Zylberberg appears in Maus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 2
The Holocaust and the Responsibility of its Survivors Theme Icon
Grief, Memory, and Love Theme Icon
Guilt, Anger, and Redemption Theme Icon
Death, Chance, and Human Interdependence Theme Icon
Around the same time as Miss Stefanska’s arrest, Vladek’s father-in-law offers to give Vladek money to open a textile factory. He moves to Bielsko to... (full context)
Grief, Memory, and Love Theme Icon
Guilt, Anger, and Redemption Theme Icon
...the Zylberbergs, and finds Anja inconsolable; she tells him she doesn’t want to live. Vladek’s father-in-law tells him about a sanitarium where Anja can receive treatment, and urges him to take... (full context)
Death, Chance, and Human Interdependence Theme Icon
...whether this robbery was motivated by anti-Semitism. Vladek does not think it was. With his father-in-law’s help, he builds up the factory again, and soon he and Anja are living a... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4
Family, Identity, and Jewishness Theme Icon
Vladek has returned to Sosnowiec to find that life in his father-in-law’s house is very much the same as it was before he left. He, Anja, and... (full context)
The Holocaust and the Responsibility of its Survivors Theme Icon
Death, Chance, and Human Interdependence Theme Icon
After their first dinner with the now-reunited family, Mr. Zylberberg tells Vladek that all Jewish-owned businesses have been confiscated by the Germans. His hosiery... (full context)
The Holocaust and the Responsibility of its Survivors Theme Icon
...an armband emblazoned with the Star of David, identifying him as a Jew. He meets Mr. Ilzecki, a tailor to whom he sold textiles before the war. Mr. Ilzecki now makes... (full context)
The Holocaust and the Responsibility of its Survivors Theme Icon
...be taken away if the Nazis discovered this. When he returns home, he tells his father-in-law about the incident. Mr. Zylberberg arranges working papers for Vladek through a friend, the owner... (full context)
The Holocaust and the Responsibility of its Survivors Theme Icon
Family, Identity, and Jewishness Theme Icon
Death, Chance, and Human Interdependence Theme Icon
...them and shooting them. He fears for his life, but is saved when he spots Mr. Ilzecki, who lives nearby and pulls Vladek into the safety of his home. For hours,... (full context)
Family, Identity, and Jewishness Theme Icon
Grief, Memory, and Love Theme Icon
Vladek tells Artie that Mr. Ilzecki had a son about the same age as Richieu. One afternoon, while the two... (full context)
The Holocaust and the Responsibility of its Survivors Theme Icon
Family, Identity, and Jewishness Theme Icon
Grief, Memory, and Love Theme Icon
Guilt, Anger, and Redemption Theme Icon
Death, Chance, and Human Interdependence Theme Icon
Vladek slowly stops pedaling his stationary bicycle. A defeated look passes over his face. Mr. Ilzecki gave his son to his Polish friend, he says, and the little boy survived... (full context)
The Holocaust and the Responsibility of its Survivors Theme Icon
Family, Identity, and Jewishness Theme Icon
Grief, Memory, and Love Theme Icon
Death, Chance, and Human Interdependence Theme Icon
...dealing goods on the black market. Among these men are Nahum Cohn, a friend of Mr. Zylberberg with whom Vladek has often done business, and Cohn’s son, Pfefer. The Germans leave... (full context)
The Holocaust and the Responsibility of its Survivors Theme Icon
...he seeks more legitimate work, in a carpentry shop managed by the Germans. Lolek and Mr. Zylberberg work in the shop as well. None of the men are paid for this... (full context)
The Holocaust and the Responsibility of its Survivors Theme Icon
Family, Identity, and Jewishness Theme Icon
Guilt, Anger, and Redemption Theme Icon
Death, Chance, and Human Interdependence Theme Icon
...send all Polish Jews older than seventy to Theresienstadt, a camp in Czechoslovakia. Anja’s grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Karmio, are in their nineties and still living with the Zylberberg family. They... (full context)
Family, Identity, and Jewishness Theme Icon
Grief, Memory, and Love Theme Icon
Death, Chance, and Human Interdependence Theme Icon
...or sister. It is not until later that he learns what has happened: Mordecai approved Mr. Spiegelman’s documents and sent him to the good side of the stadium, but Fela and... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5
Death, Chance, and Human Interdependence Theme Icon
In the summer of 1943, Vladek and the Zylberberg family move houses. He and Anja, Mr. and Mrs. Zylberberg, and Lolek are the only ones left. They build another bunker, this... (full context)
The Holocaust and the Responsibility of its Survivors Theme Icon
Family, Identity, and Jewishness Theme Icon
Grief, Memory, and Love Theme Icon
Death, Chance, and Human Interdependence Theme Icon
...but that it will be too conspicuous if he tries to sneak out the elderly Mr. and Mrs. Zylberberg. Mr. Zylberberg is desperate to escape, and gives all his valuables to... (full context)