Maus

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Tosha Character Analysis

Anja’s older sister. Tosha is married to Wolfe, and is mother to Bibi. After the war begins, Tosha carries a vial of poison around her neck at all times. When the Germans evacuate the ghetto Zawiercie, she poisons herself and the three children in her care (Bibi, Lonia, and Richieu, who Vladek and Anja thought would be sager with Tosha), rather than allowing the Nazis to send them all to Auschwitz.

Tosha Quotes in Maus

The Maus quotes below are all either spoken by Tosha or refer to Tosha . 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

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.

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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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Tosha Character Timeline in Maus

The timeline below shows where the character Tosha appears in Maus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 4
Family, Identity, and Jewishness Theme Icon
...are living in the house with Anja’s parents and grandparents, as well as her sister, Tosha; Tosha’s husband, Wolfe; their daughter, Bibi; and Anja’s niece and nephew, Lonia and Lolek, whose... (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
...Richieu away to hide anyway. He begins to tell the story – how, in 1943, Tosha took all the children into hiding – but Artie stops him. Vladek needs to tell... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5
Death, Chance, and Human Interdependence Theme Icon
...before. Each day, they are marched into Sosnowiec to work in German shops: Anja and Tosha in a clothing factory, he and Lolek in a carpentry shop. By this time, the... (full context)
Family, Identity, and Jewishness Theme Icon
Death, Chance, and Human Interdependence Theme Icon
...gives him some influence with the Germans in Zawiercie, and he wants to bring Wolfe, Tosha, and the three small children – Bibi, Lonia, and Richieu – home with him, so... (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
...of the Jewish Council, then ordered all Jews to present themselves for transport to Auschwitz. Tosha refused to allow herself – or her children – to die in the gas chambers.... (full context)
The Holocaust and the Responsibility of its Survivors Theme Icon
It was a long time before the family learned what had happened to Tosha and the children, Vladek says – but when they found out, it was the greatest... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 5
Family, Identity, and Jewishness Theme Icon
Guilt, Anger, and Redemption Theme Icon
...the recordings of 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... (full context)