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Parallel Journeys by Eleanor H. Ayer
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Parallel Journeys (original 1995; edition 2000)

by Eleanor H. Ayer, Helen Waterford, Alfons Heck

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Member:leibrockkr
Title:Parallel Journeys
Authors:Eleanor H. Ayer
Other authors:Helen Waterford, Alfons Heck
Info:Aladdin (2000), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:biographical literature, the Holocaust, pictures, picture history, historical literature, history, Nazis, multicultural literature, informational literature

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Parallel Journeys by Eleanor H. Ayer (1995)

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Parallel Journeys compares and contrasts the real-life stories of Helen Waterford and Alfons Heck. Excerpts from each of their books/memoirs were taken and alternate to tell of their experiences during World War II. Readers follow Helen as she flees Amsterdam only to end up in Auschwitz. Meanwhile, Alfons grows from a young, happy boy into a devout Hitler follower and member of the Hitler Youth.

This incredible story offers to widely-varying perspectives on the same time period during one of the most horrific times in our world's history. The real-life, alternating perspectives may draw in young readers and expose them to nuances of these two people's experiences that can be valuable. The book offers unique insight in that respect, and it can be life-changing for readers. Additionally, it may entice them to read/learn more about this infamous time in history. ( )
  leibrockkr | Dec 3, 2012 |
"Parallel Journeys" by Eleanor Ayer, is the story of two young Germans during WWII. The girl (Helen Waterford) was Jewish and fled to Amsterdam to escape the Nazi's only to get captured there and end up at the Auschwitz concentration camp. The boy (Alfons Heck) was an avid member of the Hitler Youth, and by the time he was 16 (16!) had achieved a rank equivalent to a major general just before the war ended - he commanded 6,000 Hitler Youth troops.

Although the two never met during the war (they were about 19 years apart in age), the story unfolds by chronologically switching back in forth between their perspectives, so the reader gets to see what each was doing at the same points in time. It is geared toward teenagers because the author describes in detail the adolescence of both individuals, and how the choices they made during that time effected the rest of their lives. There is a lot of discussion about the Hitler Youth as well, and how many young kids died for the Nazis. There are a lot of quotes taken directly from their respective biographies included in the narrative.

I enjoyed the book not only because of these individuals' huge part in history (she actually knew the Frank family; he once met Hitler in person) but because it goes on to tell how the lives of all the people panned out. Unbelievably, they actually met in 1980 and did a series of lectures together. Very interesting stuff! ( )
  kristi17 | Feb 27, 2011 |
ALA Best Books For Young Adults , CBC/NCSS Notable Children's Book in Social Studies , Christopher Award
A story written from two different sides of the Second World War by two people that were born in the same area of Germany. Alfons Heck was a young and impressionable German caught up in the fanaticism of the “master Race” that Hitler was creating. He belonged to the Hitler Youth and wanted nothing more than to fight for what he believed in.
On the other side Helen Waterford, a young German Jew who was persecuted throughout the war, hiding when she could and eventually found her backed in a cattle car with the last stop being Auschwitz.
The way this book was written is quite unique in the way is shows both sides of the war. It shows how young impressionable people can be persuaded to do just about anything. Alfons only concerned himself with fighting for the Motherland. He did not know or did not believe what was happening during the war to the Jewish race. If he heard anything he was so well “programmed” that he believed it was propaganda from the other side. Helen left Germany for Holland because of the tolerance for the Jew’s. She eventually had to go into hiding and then shipped to Auschwitz for the “final solution. Her struggle to survive, and overcome all that she had to is evident in the book. Her ability to forgive has to be the most amazing part of this book. It should definitely be considered when choosing books to read that about the Holocaust and Second World War. ( )
1 vote tgallant | Dec 6, 2009 |
Parallel Journeys by Eleanor Ayers, Alfons Heck, and Helen Waterford is a devastating book that will make you wonder how people could have possibly been so evil, stupid, and strong. It is a narration through the two books Commitment to the Dead by Helen Waterford and A Child of Hitler by Alfons Heck. Parallel Journeys tells the stories of both Alfons and Helen’s lives. Helen was a married Jewish woman by the time World War II began. At that same time, Alfons was a proud young member of the Hitler Youth.
Throughout and long after the war, they both suffered because of Adolf Hitler. Helen suffered from starvation and the fear of dying in a concentration camp. Alfons suffered from having his childhood taken away from him at the tender age of ten. He grew up believing Hitler was a god and he would do anything to help that god. Heck’s friends and family where killed sacrificing themselves for the Fatherland. Alfons Heck suffered the most after the war. He had to carry the burden of his “god” who had tricked him into believing he was a great, wonderful, innocent man. His situation was very similar to many other Hitler Youth members.
When I read about Alfons Heck carrying the burden of Hitler and receiving hatred from lots of people because of his membership in the Hitler Youth, I had to stop reading to try to figure out this question. Are Alfons and other Hitler Youth members guilty of the crimes they committed during World War II, or are they innocent because of their age? This is a very hard question, but I would consider them to be guilty. Even though they were young, they knew they were killing people. They certainly shouldn’t be as harshly sentenced or blamed as those who tried to convince these Hitler Youth members to commit these crimes.
To try to lessen the burden he had to carry, Alfons fled Germany and moved to Canada. Eventually he would move out of Canada and into the United States. After Heck moved to America, he started writing articles for newspapers and magazines about his membership in the Hitler Youth. Helen Waterford read one of these articles and then did the unthinkable. She called Alfons to ask him if he would want to start lecturing with her about World War II. Heck agreed, and soon they were speaking to hundreds of high school and college students.
After they had each told their story, they would allow the audience to ask them questions. Many of these questions where very hard for them to answer. One student even asked Alfons if he would have shot Helen if he was told to. Heck told the truth; yes he would have killed her, because he was taught to follow any order no matter how absurd or evil. Helen and Alfons had a very fragile and strange relationship.
Because of her friendship with a German, Helen received more nasty remarks and questions then Alfons. Many of those questions where similar to, “When did you stop hating Alfons?” to this Helen replied that she had never hated him. That shocked many people. They then wanted to know what she expected to gain from not hating him. She explained that, “I had learned only too well that hate is a boomerang that only destroys the sender. I wanted to build peace, not feed the flame of a never-ending destruction."
Parallel Journeys does a great job of explaining the tragedy of World War II. It is a wonderful, informational comparison of two memoirs. Surprisingly, it is one of the best books I have ever read. I recommend this book to anyone over the age of twelve, because for younger kids this might be a little too scary. For everyone else, this is an excellent read if you want to learn about World War II. ( )
  nitalaabs | Feb 25, 2009 |
Parallel Journeys by Eleanor Ayers, Alfons Heck, and Helen Waterford is a devastating book that will make you wonder how people could have possibly been so evil, stupid, and strong. It is a narration through the two books Commitment to the Dead by Helen Waterford and A Child of Hitler by Alfons Heck. Parallel Journeys tells the stories of both Alfons and Helen’s lives. Helen was a married Jewish woman by the time World War II began. At that same time, Alfons was a proud young member of the Hitler Youth.
Throughout and long after the war, they both suffered because of Adolf Hitler. Helen suffered from starvation and the fear of dying in a concentration camp. Alfons suffered from having his childhood taken away from him at the tender age of ten. He grew up believing Hitler was a god and he would do anything to help that god. Heck’s friends and family where killed sacrificing themselves for the Fatherland. Alfons Heck suffered the most after the war. He had to carry the burden of his “god” who had tricked him into believing he was a great, wonderful, innocent man. His situation was very similar to many other Hitler Youth members.
When I read about Alfons Heck carrying the burden of Hitler and receiving hatred from lots of people because of his membership in the Hitler Youth, I had to stop reading to try to figure out this question. Are Alfons and other Hitler Youth members guilty of the crimes they committed during World War II, or are they innocent because of their age? This is a very hard question, but I would consider them to be guilty. Even though they were young, they knew they were killing people. They certainly shouldn’t be as harshly sentenced or blamed as those who tried to convince these Hitler Youth members to commit these crimes.
To try to lessen the burden he had to carry, Alfons fled Germany and moved to Canada. Eventually he would move out of Canada and into the United States. After Heck moved to America, he started writing articles for newspapers and magazines about his membership in the Hitler Youth. Helen Waterford read one of these articles and then did the unthinkable. She called Alfons to ask him if he would want to start lecturing with her about World War II. Heck agreed, and soon they were speaking to hundreds of high school and college students.
After they had each told their story, they would allow the audience to ask them questions. Many of these questions where very hard for them to answer. One student even asked Alfons if he would have shot Helen if he was told to. Heck told the truth; yes he would have killed her, because he was taught to follow any order no matter how absurd or evil. Helen and Alfons had a very fragile and strange relationship.
Because of her friendship with a German, Helen received more nasty remarks and questions then Alfons. Many of those questions where similar to, “When did you stop hating Alfons?” to this Helen replied that she had never hated him. That shocked many people. They then wanted to know what she expected to gain from not hating him. She explained that, “I had learned only too well that hate is a boomerang that only destroys the sender. I wanted to build peace, not feed the flame of a never-ending destruction."
Parallel Journeys does a great job of explaining the tragedy of World War II. It is a wonderful, informational comparison of two memoirs. Surprisingly, it is one of the best books I have ever read. I recommend this book to anyone over the age of twelve, because for younger kids this might be a little too scary. For everyone else, this is an excellent read if you want to learn about World War II. ( )
  SpriteGoodNight | Feb 24, 2009 |
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Parallel Journeys is dedicated to the two people whose courage and candor in telling their very personal stories--publicly and from the same stage--have made this book possible. -E.H.A.
LJCRS Book Fair Selection 5761
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Truth can be stranger than fiction.
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'Tis strange, but true; for truth is always strange, -- Stranger than fiction.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0689832362, Paperback)

She was a young German Jew.

He was an ardent member of the Hitler Youth.

This is the story of their parallel journey through World War II.

Helen Waterford and Alfons Heck were born just a few miles from each other in the German Rhineland. But their lives took radically different courses: Helen's to the Auschwitz extermination camp; Alfons to a high rank in the Hitler Youth.

While Helen was hiding in Amsterdam, Alfons was a fanatic believer in Hitler's "master race." While she was crammed in a cattle car bound for the death camp Auschwitz, he was a teenage commander of frontline troops, ready to fight and die for the glory of Hitler and the Fatherland. This book tells both of their stories, side-by-side, in an overwhelming account of the nightmare that was WWII. The riveting stories of these two remarkable people must stand as a powerful lesson to us all.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:00 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

She was a young German Jew. He was an ardent member of the Hitler Youth. This is the story of their parallel journey through World War II. Helen Waterford and Alfons Heck were born just a few miles from each other in the German Rhineland. But their lives took radically different courses: Helen's to the Auschwitz extermination camp; Alfons to a high rank in the Hitler Youth. While Helen was hiding in Amsterdam, Alfons was a fanatic believer in Hitler's "master race." While she was crammed in a cattle car bound for the death camp Auschwitz, he was a teenage commander of frontline troops, ready to fight and die for the glory of Hitler and the Fatherland. This book tells both of their stories, side-by-side, in an overwhelming account of the nightmare that was WWII. The riveting stories of these two remarkable people must stand as a powerful lesson to us all.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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