Parallel Journeys
  • Alternative view 1 of Parallel Journeys
  • Alternative view 2 of Parallel Journeys

Parallel Journeys

4.2 54
by Eleanor H. Ayer

View All Available Formats & Editions

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

…  See more details below


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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ayer juxtaposes the stories of two WWII youths, one a German Jew and the other a Hitler Youth, excerpted from their published memoirs. "Weak execution undermines the premise of the volume," said PW. Ages 10-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
Ayers has crafted a remarkable book in Parallel Journeys. Alternating chapters describe the lives of Alfons Heck, a 16-year-old leader in the Hitler Youth, and Helen Waterford, a Jewish wife and mother who experienced the Holocaust. As Helen and her husband hid their young child with a Christian family near Amsterdam, Alfons was becoming the youngest top-rated German glider pilot. While Alfons led thousands of young German Hitler Youth in combat at the front, Helen was struggling to survive Auschwitz. The book centers upon the direct quotations of Helen and Alfons, with the text by Ayers supplying much-needed historical background and further detail. Differing in two main ways from other World War II/Holocaust novels, this book should be required reading for any student studying World War II. First, it tells the story of World War II from two different points of view, and second, Ayers does not conclude with the peace treaty. The book goes on to describe the difficulties of readjusting to life following the war. Readers can gain an understanding of the extreme displacement experienced by the Jews, left without a country, as well as of the emotional turmoil of the German people, many of whom felt betrayed by Hitler and personally guilty for the war crimes committed by the Nazis. The book ends with the amazing story of how Helen and Alfons finally met in America. The two now give lectures as a team, stressing the fact that the Holocaust, with its beginnings in prejudice, must never be forgotten in order that it may never be repeated. This is a compelling and amazing story of survival and forgiveness, for both the Jews and the Germans. 2000, Aladdin Paperbacks, Ages 11 to 17, $16.00 and$5.99. Reviewer: Elizabeth Pabrinkis
The journeys chronicled here are the contrasting WW II lives of Helen Waterford and Alfons Heck. Removed by geography as well as 60 years of history, we Americans often don't realize much about this conflict. First, the people involved were often neighbors. Helen, daughter of a middle-class Jewish family, and Alfons, son of an upper-middle-class German family, were born just a few miles apart. Second, Germany conscripted youngsters into the army via the Hitler Youth. Alfons joined as soon as he reached "the magic age of ten." Third, some of these children became disillusioned with Hitler long before their elders did. And fourth, everybody's life was torn apart because of this war. The book is a combination of narrative and diary-like entries from both Helen and Alfons, and they take turns talking. Reading about Alfons' love of Hitler, when it looked as if the Reich actually would last 1000 years, we're held by a kind of sick fascination. Reading about Helen's wartime experiences, we just feel sick. "If it had been me, could I have coped as well?" And then, 40 years after the war ended, the two met in San Diego, where they both had settled. It's hard to believe that Helen felt no hatred for this former enemy, but she had great compassion for him. He had to face hatred and intolerance, though, from Americans who didn't understand that he was also a victim of the Nazi machine. Helen and Alfons now speak about the war years to school and community groups, hoping that their friendship will mean something, that what happened in Germany will never happen again, that Hitler's "legacy should remain a lasting warning to the world." An ALA Best Book for YAs. Highly recommended. KLIATT Codes:JSA*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1995, Simon & Schuster/Aladdin, 244p, notes, bibliog, index, 20cm, 94-23277, $5.99. Ages 13 to adult. Reviewer: Judith H. Silverman; Chevy Chase, MD, May 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 3)
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-This is a book to make your blood run cold. Through Ayer's narrative and excerpts from Heck's memoirs, A Child of Hitler and The Burden of Hitler's Legacy, readers learn how Alfons changed from a loving, wholesome boy to a ``Nazi devil'' (even the Germans called the elite Hitler Youth by that name). It is frightening to see how easily young people can be swayed, and readers learn just how it happened. Alternating chapters reveal Helen Waterford's story through excerpts from her book, Commitment to the Dead, and Ayer's background material. Fleeing with her fiancee to Amsterdam after Kristallnacht, Helen was again caught in the Nazi noose and struggled to survive. As her plight grew more desperate, Alfons rose higher and higher in the Hitler Youth. Eventually, when he and his ragged corps faced annihilation by the Russians, he realized how Hitler had sacrificed his ``children.'' When Alfons and Helen met in the U.S. 40 years after the war, they found that they shared a common purpose: to help young people understand that peace and compassion are possible between individuals, and on a larger scale as well. Their first-person accounts are interwoven with Ayer's words so seamlessly that readers are unaware of the intrusion of a third person. She is an excellent biographer, capturing nuances of her subjects' characters and personality traits. A fascinating work.-Marcia W. Posner, Holocaust Memorial and Educational Center of Nassau County, Glen Cove, NY

Read More

Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >