Art Spiegelman and his graphic novels
Art Spiegelman and his Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus Getty

Pulitzer Prize-winner Art Spiegelman has branded Russian bookstores' decision to stop selling copies of Maus, his graphic novel about the Holocaust, the "harbinger of a dangerous thing". The Russian authorities have moved to remove Nazi insignia ahead of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

Copies of Maus have been withdrawn from Moscow's major book shops, because it includes a swastika on its cover.

"It's a real shame because this is a book about memory," Spiegelman told The Guardian. "We don't want cultures to erase memory."

In December, the Kremlin passed a law banning "Nazi propaganda", and since then authorities have reportedly raided toy stores and antique shops believed to be selling the paraphernalia.

A tip of the hat for Victory Day and a middle finger for trying to squelch expression
- Art Spiegelman, author of Maus

Maus won a Pulitzer in 1992 and was published in Russian in 2013. It is an anti-fascist about the Holocaust told through the memories of his father, a Polish Jew who moved to the US, in which the Jews are portrayed as mice and Germans as cats.

"I don't think Maus was the intended target for this, obviously," Spiegelman said. "But I think [the law] had an intentional effect of squelching freedom of expression in Russia. The whole goal seems to make anybody in the expression business skittish."

Spiegelman told the Guardian that it was particularly ironic that an explicitly anti-fascist book should be swept up under the law. "Stalin, after getting us into helping start world war two ... was probably responsible for making the Russians liberate a lot of those camps that helped my father survive. A tip of the hat for Victory Day and a middle finger for trying to squelch expression," he said.

Varvara Gornostayeva, the chief editor at Corpus, the book's publisher, told AFP that major bookstore chains were taking it off their shelves and internet sites.

"There is no Nazi propaganda in it. This is a book that should be on the shelves on Victory Day," Gornostayeva argued.