Helen Waterford; Holocaust Survivor and Lecturer
Helen Waterford, 86, Holocaust survivor who lectured on the evils of Nazism. Waterford paired up with Alfons Heck, a former member of Hitler Youth, to tour the United States speaking and writing about their vastly different experiences as a Jew and zealous young Nazi during World War II. The two unusually aligned speakers became friends as they visited more than 150 universities over a nine-year period, urging youths to avoid Hitler-type brainwashing. Colorado publisher Eleanor Ayer, who published Waterford’s autobiography “Commitment to the Dead” in 1987, wrote Waterford and Heck’s intertwined stories in her 1995 book “Parallel Journeys.” Choosing to believe in chance rather than fate, Waterford frequently related how she had come before Josef Mengele three times and inexplicably received his “thumbs up” signal that she should live. Of Lithuanian descent, Waterford grew up in Frankfurt, Germany, and fled with her husband to Holland, where they hid for two years before being captured by Nazis in 1944. Their daughter escaped only because Waterford had the foresight to place her with friends two years earlier. Her husband died in Auschwitz. Although nightmares haunted her after the war, Waterford always urged audiences to avoid hate and to “turn a black experience into a valuable one.” On May 4 in Tel Aviv.