Parallel Journeys Discussion Questions

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

'Parallel Journeys' by Eleanor Ayer is the true story of a Jewish woman and a boy in the Hitler Youth in Germany during World War II who later met in the United States. This asset provides classroom discussion questions about this book.

Parallel Journeys

Eleanor Ayer's Parallel Journeys explores the true stories of the lives of two people who live in close proximity but have vastly different life experiences. Helen Waterford is a Jewish woman who is sent to a concentration camp while Alfons Heck serves as an officer in the Hitler Youth. The following questions may be used for classroom discussions about this book.

Helen's Experience Questions

  • Describe Helen Waterford. What was Helen's life like prior to Hitler's rise to power? How does the author characterize Helen's marriage to Siegfried?
  • What are some ways the Waterfords are persecuted by the Nazis? How do they respond to persecution? Who are the people that help Helen and Siegfried? Why do you think some people are willing to put themselves at risk to help someone else? What would you have done?
  • Why do Helen and Siegfried leave Dora? Do you think this was the right decision? How does Dora respond to her mother when they reunite? What does this reveal about the consequences of childhood trauma?
  • Describe conditions for Helen at Birkenau and Kratzau. How does she survive? What does Helen do after the war? Why do Helen and Dora move to the United States? Why do you think they wait until after the war instead of moving before the war with her parents? Why do you think some families flee and others choose to stay when oppressive regimes take over a country?

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