Maus

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Richieu Character Analysis

Vladek and Anja’s firstborn son. Richieu dies during the war, when his Aunt Tosha poisons him to prevent him from being captured by Nazi soldiers during the evacuation of Zawiercie. Though they never talked about him to Artie, Vladek and Anja kept Richieu’s photograph in their bedroom throughout Artie’s childhood.

Richieu Quotes in Maus

The Maus quotes below are all either spoken by Richieu or refer to Richieu . 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 4 Quotes

Ilzecki and his wife didn’t come out from the war. But his son remained alive; ours did not.

Related Characters: Vladek Spiegelman (speaker), Richieu , Mr. Ilzecki
Page Number: I.81
Explanation and Analysis:

Vladek and his wife, Anja, had a first son named Richieu, and when Vladek explains his experiences during the Holocaust to his son Artie, he lingers on the memory of Richieu. Here, he tells Artie that his associate, Mr. Ilzecki, had a young son who survived World War II--despite the fact that Ilzecki himself did not. By contrast, Valdek did survive the war, though his first child did not.

There is no rhyme or reason in World War II, and in fate in general--indeed, as the passage suggests, the only "rule" of the war seems to be that no family emerged unscathed. Vladek was lucky and blessed to survive the Holocaust, but he could do nothing to pass on his good fortune to his child.

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Part 1, Chapter 5 Quotes

When things came worse in our ghetto, we said always: “Thank God the kids are with Persis, safe.” That spring, on one day, the Germans took from Srodula to Auschwitz over 1,000 people. Most they took were kids — some only 2 or 3 years. Some kinds were screaming and screaming. They couldn’t stop. So the Germans swinged them by the legs against a wall … and they never anymore screamed. In this way the Germans treated the little ones what still had survived a little. This I didn’t see with my own eyes, but somebody the next day told me. And I said, “Thank God with Persis our children are safe!”

Related Characters: Vladek Spiegelman (speaker), Richieu , Bibi , Lonia , Persis
Page Number: I.108
Explanation and Analysis:

As the situation deteriorates for Jews under Nazi rule, tragedy strikes Vladek's community. Nazis savagely murder hundreds of children--a crime that's virtually unspeakable. Vladek and his family have sent their own children into the care of Persis, the head of the Jewish council in the ghetto. Vladek believes that his child and his family's children will be safe with Persis, because Persis has some power with the Nazis. Little does Vladek know (at the time) that Persis will be murdered soon, leaving the children to be killed--ironically, by Tosha (Anja's sister).

The passage is enormously sad--so sad that there's almost nothing left to say about it. In the midst of tragedy, there's nothing Vladek can do but thank God that he and his own loved ones are safe. And yet the tragedy is even greater than he imagines, since his loved ones are anything but safe. Spiegelman suggests that the scale of suffering at this stage in the book is really beyond human understanding--we can only bear witness to it and remember.

Tosha: No! I won’t go to their gas chambers! And my children won’t go to their gas chambers! Bibi! Lonia! Richieu! Come here quickly!

Vladek: Always Tosha carried around her neck some poison … She killed not only herself, but also the 3 children. I’m telling you, it was a tragedy among tragedies. He was such a happy, beautiful boy!

Related Characters: Vladek Spiegelman (speaker), Richieu , Tosha , Bibi , Lonia
Page Number: I.109
Explanation and Analysis:

In this wrenching section of the book, Tosha (the sister of Anja) makes a big decision. She knows that she and her sister's children will be arrested by the Nazis and sent to their deaths in the gas chambers. Instead of allowing such an atrocity to occur, Tosha decides to kill herself, along with the children.

Vladek's grief at hearing that Richieu (his child) was murdered is beyond understanding. It's not even clear that Tosha did the "wrong" thing--she probably did protect Vladek's children from an awful, prolonged death, preceded by weeks of fear, starvation, and cold. As Hannah Arendt said, the Holocaust forced the Jews to do things that were neither wrong nor right--things that were simply outside the scope of mortality altogether. Spiegelman dares us to judge Tosha's actions--our own criteria of good and evil simply aren't strong enough to help us understand her decision.

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.

Part 2, Chapter 1 Quotes

I never felt guilty about Richieu. But I did have nightmares about S.S. men coming into my class and dragging all us Jewish kids away. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t obsessed with this stuff … It’s just that sometimes I’d fantasize Zyklon B coming out of our shower instead of water. I know this is insane, but I somehow wish I had been in Auschwitz with my parents so I could really know what they lived through! … I guess it’s some kind of guilt about having had an easier life than they did.

Related Characters: Arthur (Artie) Spiegelman (speaker), Anja (Anna) Spiegelman , Françoise Mouly , Richieu
Page Number: II.16
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Artie tries to come to terms with his own guilt concerning the Holocaust. He tells his wife, Francoise, that he sometimes wishes he’d been a part of the Holocaust. Furthermore, he continues to think about his dead brother, Richieu—although he claims not to feel any survivor’s guilt, it’s clear enough that he does.

In short, Artie feels guilty that he's alive and his brother, Richieu, is dead: growing up, Artie sometimes felt that he was competing with Richieu (who died long before Artie was born) for his parents' love. Artie senses that there's always going to be a gap between himself and his parents: because his parents went through the horrors of the Holocaust, they'll never be able to understand Artie's "normal," trivial life.

Spiegelman doesn't reveal if Artie is right to point to a gap between his own life and those of his parents. Of course Anja and Vladek have had hard lives--but that doesn't necessarily mean that they're unable to love Artie fully (although this does help explain some of Artie's troubles with Vladek and his constant criticisms). Spiegelman implies that Artie is just burdened with guilt--even though his parents really do seem to love him, he feels a perverse desire to go through the Holocaust so that he can be truly close to them. 

Part 2, Chapter 5 Quotes

So … Let’s stop, please, your tape recorder … I’m tired from talking, Richieu, and it’s enough stories for now.

Related Characters: Vladek Spiegelman (speaker), Arthur (Artie) Spiegelman, Richieu
Page Number: II.136
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of Maus, Vladek reveals, beyond any doubt, that Richieu (his dead son, a victim of the Holocaust) is just as much a part of his life and his consciousness as is his living son, Artie. Vladek has just finished talking to Artie about his experiences during the Holocaust. Tiredly, he calls Artie "Richieu" by mistake. Vladek's mistake could suggest that he's slowly losing his mind to dementia. But it's also a sign that he thinks about his son constantly--not because he's getting senile but because he's a loving father. More generally still, Vladek's misstatement suggests the way that he continues to remember all his experiences during the Holocaust--just because they happened a long time ago doesn't mean they don't continue to affect his life.

Artie's burden, we come to realize, is that Vladek will never have his complete attention. On some level, Vladek will always measure Artie against Richieu, his deceased son, and compare his American life with Artie to his old European life with Richieu. While Artie will never be entirely okay with his father's "divided love," he's learned to accept Vladek's behavior and respect his father's courage and heroism.

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Richieu Character Timeline in Maus

The timeline below shows where the character Richieu 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
...factory, visiting Anja on weekends. That October, 1937, Anja gives birth to a son named Richieu. At the mention of his first child, Vladek saddens. Richieu did not survive the war. (full context)
Family, Identity, and Jewishness Theme Icon
Guilt, Anger, and Redemption Theme Icon
...are only seven months between February, when Anja and Vladek were married, and October, when Richieu was born, Artie asks whether Richieu was premature. Vladek confirms that he was, then launches... (full context)
Grief, Memory, and Love Theme Icon
Guilt, Anger, and Redemption Theme Icon
Shortly after Richieu is born, Anja begins to experience bouts of severe depression. Vladek returns from Bielsko following... (full context)
Death, Chance, and Human Interdependence Theme Icon
...and they have a lovely home with a Polish governess, Janina, to help care for Richieu. (full context)
Death, Chance, and Human Interdependence Theme Icon
...Anja she thinks of the Spiegelmans as part of her own family (she is cradling Richieu in her lap as she speaks). (full context)
Family, Identity, and Jewishness Theme Icon
Grief, Memory, and Love Theme Icon
...has dreaded for so long has begun in earnest. Anja is terrified. Vladek sends her, Richieu, and Janina to live with Anja’s family in Sosnowiec, and goes himself to the frontier... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3
Family, Identity, and Jewishness Theme Icon
Guilt, Anger, and Redemption Theme Icon
Despite all the distressing news, Vladek’s reunion with Anja and Richieu is filled with joy. Although it is a difficult time, they are happy simply to... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4
Family, Identity, and Jewishness Theme Icon
...house is very much the same as it was before he left. He, Anja, and Richieu are living in the house with Anja’s parents and grandparents, as well as her sister,... (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 children play together, Ilzecki tells Vladek that he has plans... (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
...he says, and the little boy survived the war even after his parents were killed. Richieu was not so lucky. In the end, Vladek says, he and Anja had to send... (full context)
Family, Identity, and Jewishness Theme Icon
Grief, Memory, and Love Theme Icon
Death, Chance, and Human Interdependence Theme Icon
Vladek, Anja, and Richieu are sent to the right – the good side of the stadium, for people who... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5
Family, Identity, and Jewishness Theme Icon
Death, Chance, and Human Interdependence Theme Icon
...he wants to bring Wolfe, Tosha, and the three small children – Bibi, Lonia, and Richieu – home with him, so he can protect them. Mrs. Zylberberg protests, saying the family... (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
Artie asks what happened to Richieu after Persis took him to Zawiercie. Vladek explains: a few months after the family separated,... (full context)
Family, Identity, and Jewishness Theme Icon
Grief, Memory, and Love Theme Icon
Death, Chance, and Human Interdependence Theme Icon
With Lolek gone, Anja becomes hysterical. They have recently heard the news about Richieu’s death – and the deaths of Anja’s sister, brother-in-law, and nieces – and with the loss... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 1
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
Artie wonders aloud whether he and Richieu would get along, if Richieu had survived the war. Vladek and Anja always kept a... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 5
Family, Identity, and Jewishness Theme Icon
Guilt, Anger, and Redemption Theme Icon
...his interviews with Vladek – to the part of the story when Tosha poisons herself, Richieu, and the other children – when Françoise comes in to offer him a cup of coffee.... (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
Vladek is resting in bed. The photograph of Richieu hangs on the wall above the dresser. Artie comes into the room and sits beside... (full context)
The Holocaust and the Responsibility of its Survivors Theme Icon
Family, Identity, and Jewishness Theme Icon
Grief, Memory, and Love Theme Icon
...over onto his side as though preparing to go to sleep. “I’m tired from talking, Richieu,” he says, “and it’s enough stories for now.” (full context)