Parallel Journeys: More Than Just A Book
Parallel Journeys by Eleanor Ayer is a biographical book about two people who grew up only a few miles from each other. Helen Waterford was a young German Jew. As Hitler began to rise to power, she was able to hide in Amsterdam. Alfons Heck was a fanatic believer in Hitler and the “master race.” While their lives started in the German Rhineland, they followed vastly different paths. Helen’s path led to Auschwitz, and Alfons’s to a high rank in the Hitler Youth.
The book is chilling by nature of its topic. The title refers to Helen and Alfons’ lives. However, America could be on a parallel journey of its own. As I read the first thirty pages, I realized that every American should read this book. Many of the principles that Hitler used to gain power and command over the country are the same we see being employed by our leaders today.
Many people look back at the history of Hitler and wonder how anyone could possibly follow such madness. Haven’t we seen some of the same madness in our own country? Here are some of the steps I found in the book that struck a chord with what we are facing today:
1. Unfair Rulings
Germany was in shambles after World War I. Not only did they lose, but they were fined heavily in order to help repair the damage they caused. Those payments were part of the reason Germany was broke in the 1920s. The outlook was bleak: there was no work, no money, and no hope. But Hitler had other plans. He wanted to make Germany a strong nation again, so he formed the NAZI Party. NAZI stands for NAtionalsoZIalismus. Or, put simply, National Socialism.
As the NAZI power grew, more people began listening to Hitler. He promised restoration of Germany’s pride and work. And indeed, Hitler was able to create jobs for almost 6 million people. On a national level, things were looking up. How was Hitler able to make the changes?
He took the government into his own hands. Hitler never pretended to run the country fairly. While some elections were held, they were rigged. The outcomes of the elections were decided far in advance to ensure the Nazis got their way. Germany became a dictatorship under Hitler’s rule.
The debate regarding our last presidential elections continues to rage on. Nothing has been proven, but anyone with an ounce of common sense and a basic understanding of math knows that something suspicious occurred. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that when there are more votes than there are registered voters in an area then something is fishy. Also suspicious is the evidence that in some places, a specific number of votes are taken away from one party, and the opposing party’s numbers miraculously go up the exact same amount.
2. False News And Rumors
On February 4, 1933, a mere five days after Hitler was proclaimed Germany’s leader, he spread a rumor among the people. The rumor started that the communists were attempting to seize the government. The rumor was false. So why spread false news? Hitler used the rumor as a catalyst to issue a new decree for the “protection of the German people,” The “protection” mandated forbidding people to gather in public places, removal of a right to privacy, and removal of freedom of speech.
It is not hard to see the parallel lines drawn in our society. False news and rumors abound on the internet and news media. Fear mongering, burying truth, and limiting contact with others have been a major part of our lives for over a year.
As for our right to privacy, I have to wonder about the vaccination cards we receive. I consider vaccinations as part of my personal medical history. It is confidential information. I have no desire to discuss with strangers my personal medical issues and history.
Book burning is an abhorrent act. It is a common strategy of communism to remove any opinions that is against their agenda. Take away the people’s free-thinking or ability to speak their own ideas and you have an excellent foundation for any dictatorship. As Hitler continued to make changes for “the protection of the people,” more and more resources were destroyed. Though the exact number is hard to determine, it is believed that more than 70,000 books with messages deemed “threatening” to the Reich were destroyed. Even sadder is the fact that thousands of onlookers cheered.
Today we are seeing cancel culture try to remove anything that might be offending to anyone in any way. The task is impossible. It has gone from glorifying slavery to things like saying sheet music is racist. Or certain kinds of trees are racist. Certain children’s books have been banned due to “offensive content.” Where will it all end? When do we stop being so self-important and self-righteous and learn to be tolerant and laugh at ourselves a little?
As part of the censorship, Hitler passed “The Law Against Overcrowding in German Schools.” The schools were not actually overcrowded. There were too many Jewish children in the schools to please Hitler. Guess which students were told to leave the schools?
4. Create A Scapegoat
Hitler was venom on the Jewish community. He also had it in for Christianity and those who sympathized with the persecuted. While countless millions suffered, Hitler seemed to especially target the Jewish people. He blamed them for the loss of jobs and the financial ruin of Germany in the 1920s. As his power grew, so did his vitriol. The new mandates handed down were all about segregating the Jewish community. They were forced to give up school and their businesses, and were marked with the star of David. They couldn’t earn money to feed their families, shop, or get an education.
While it isn’t exactly a parallel, there are some disturbing similarities to mask-wearing. I’m not against wearing masks, but against the lack of choice in the matter. If you feel unsafe and you want to wear a mask, then do so. However, I would like the same courtesy in reverse. If I don’t want to wear a mask, I shouldn’t be forced. I shouldn’t have to wear a mask or be prohibited from buying groceries for my family. I think we should each be responsible for our own health.
I might have been able to accept the mask mandate as for “the good of the American public” if certain aspects made more sense. For example, the powers that be can’t seem to agree on what kind of mask to wear. First, it was anything—cloth mask, disposable mask, bandana, etc. Then it changed to masks that fit a certain way. The next report was we should wear two masks. Then the authorities said to wear the cloth mask over the disposable mask. There has been so much change, backpedaling, and circling back to find an answer that it is no wonder why people are becoming frustrated.
Despite all the mask finagling, people were still getting sick. The population then pinned its hopes on vaccines. But even fully vaccinated, people still cannot go into a store without a mask on. Why? Because it is no longer about the health of our nation. It is about showing unity to those in power and make the rules regarding mask mandates. It’s about following blindly and not being allowed to think and decide for ourselves.
Besides using masks to unify people, ideas are also used. Frustration can lead to violence. Who do we blame it on? Who’s at fault? Then begins the lashing out both verbally and physically. We got a close-up look at the backlash with all the riots last summer. Once the scapegoat is established, the punishment begins. We have had violence and destruction across the nation with no end in sight. A weakened nation means that philosophies and laws can be changed. Hitler employed the same tactics. He knew what he was doing.
Parallel Journeys is a bone-chilling read. It clearly outlines the strategy Hitler used. It is frightening how our present-day politics and social issues are mirroring those from the 1930s and 1940s Germany. The book is not a fictitious work. Remember the two main characters I mentioned at the beginning? The words of both Helen Waterford and Alfons Heck are screaming at us from the pages: Pay attention! Learn from history!
Every word in Parallel Journeys is a true account of what occurred in the lives of two young people. If you don’t believe my review, then read it for yourself. I guarantee you won’t look at today’s problems the same way. We are not more enlightened than the common German folks were. We are not special. But we are in danger of losing every last bit of our rights, global financial advantage, and national security.
Photo courtesy of Rajesh Raj on Pixabay