Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Parallel Journeys by Eleanor Ayer with Helen Waterford and Alfons Heck

Parallel Journeys is the story of Helen Waterford, a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust and Alfons Heck, a high ranking Hitler Youth. They didn't meet during the WWII, but after the war they meet and spoke out against what happened during the Holocaust.

This was the first memoir I've read that tells the story from the perspective of a person who participated with exuberance in Hitler's plan to destroy an entire race. I found Alfons Heck's honesty haunting and courageous. He details how Hitler trained the youth of Germany to hate Jews and to embrace Germany as the master race that would control the world. The brainwashing of the children was methodical and well planned. Heck was able to realize that he too was a victim of Hitler's evil. 

Eleanor Ayer's husband died in the death camps and she nearly died. They sent their young daughter into hiding, and she survived, but after being away from her parents for three years, she had a hard time adjusting to her mother. So much was stolen from Ayer. 

I enjoyed reading about their speaking tours and how some people were angry with Ayer because she sat alongside a member of the Hitler Youth - one that had fought and killed allied troops. I appreciated her ability to forgive and to understand the he too was a victim. 

Heck said, ""When I speak to young people, the message I hope that they most remember is this: the murder of eleven million people in the Holocaust began very simply with prejudice, minor harassment. If you allow harassment to grow and fester, if you do nothing to stop it, then you become one of the perpetrators. What began in the Hitler years as minor harassment turned, in the end, to genocide" (226).

This is an important book that was written for readers over age ten and shows the importance of kindness and fighting against bigotry of any kind. 

Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

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