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One Step Ahead - A Mother of Seven Escaping Hitler's Claws: A True History - Jewish Women, Family Survival, Resistance and Defiance against the Nazi War Machine in World War II

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Hitler's attack on Russia in the spring of 1941 and the Nazi eastward blitzkrieg form a dramatic backdrop to this true story. On the first day of Operation Barbarossa, in the midst of battle, Esther Parnes leads her family east, away from the Polish village of Skalat. A step ahead of Hitler's earth-scorching troops, Esther and her children endure hunger, disease, and blood Hitler's attack on Russia in the spring of 1941 and the Nazi eastward blitzkrieg form a dramatic backdrop to this true story. On the first day of Operation Barbarossa, in the midst of battle, Esther Parnes leads her family east, away from the Polish village of Skalat. A step ahead of Hitler's earth-scorching troops, Esther and her children endure hunger, disease, and bloodshed. But Hitler's four-year campaign defeats neither Mother Russia nor Esther Parnes. In an era when women were confined to traditional household roles, at a time when proud men bowed their heads as they stood at the edge of a pit waiting to be shot, this redheaded woman challenged Adolf Hitler. Based on extensive interviews and independent research into the Parnes family's plight and the Nazi war on Russia, this book tells the story of an extraordinary mother's battle to save her seven children.


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Hitler's attack on Russia in the spring of 1941 and the Nazi eastward blitzkrieg form a dramatic backdrop to this true story. On the first day of Operation Barbarossa, in the midst of battle, Esther Parnes leads her family east, away from the Polish village of Skalat. A step ahead of Hitler's earth-scorching troops, Esther and her children endure hunger, disease, and blood Hitler's attack on Russia in the spring of 1941 and the Nazi eastward blitzkrieg form a dramatic backdrop to this true story. On the first day of Operation Barbarossa, in the midst of battle, Esther Parnes leads her family east, away from the Polish village of Skalat. A step ahead of Hitler's earth-scorching troops, Esther and her children endure hunger, disease, and bloodshed. But Hitler's four-year campaign defeats neither Mother Russia nor Esther Parnes. In an era when women were confined to traditional household roles, at a time when proud men bowed their heads as they stood at the edge of a pit waiting to be shot, this redheaded woman challenged Adolf Hitler. Based on extensive interviews and independent research into the Parnes family's plight and the Nazi war on Russia, this book tells the story of an extraordinary mother's battle to save her seven children.

30 review for One Step Ahead - A Mother of Seven Escaping Hitler's Claws: A True History - Jewish Women, Family Survival, Resistance and Defiance against the Nazi War Machine in World War II

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kellie

    this is an extraordinary story about a family that traveled one step ahead of the Nazis through Europe and Asia. They literally traveled thousands of miles mostly by foot. They were lucky. Even the bad turned out to be good. I'm not sure how to give examples without giving the whole book Away, but I'm really glad that I read this.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    One Step Ahead: A Mother of Seven Escaping Hitler’s Claws: A True History is by Avraham Azrieli. It is a fascinating story of the efforts of a Jewish Mother in Hungary to keep her family together and alive during the final years of the Holocaust despite weather, bombings, Russian soldiers, and German soldiers. It is told in first person by the Mother. June 22, 1941 was a joyous day for Esther. Her seven children had all made it through the winter and were all healthy. Her son Moishe was eighteen One Step Ahead: A Mother of Seven Escaping Hitler’s Claws: A True History is by Avraham Azrieli. It is a fascinating story of the efforts of a Jewish Mother in Hungary to keep her family together and alive during the final years of the Holocaust despite weather, bombings, Russian soldiers, and German soldiers. It is told in first person by the Mother. June 22, 1941 was a joyous day for Esther. Her seven children had all made it through the winter and were all healthy. Her son Moishe was eighteen and although he limped from a misformed foot, he was healthy and very bright. Sally was 15 and into theatre and in love, Izzy was thirteen and spent a lot of time with his father, Clare was ten, Johnny was eight, Tonia was five, and Genia was three. Her first son Buma’leh died at 6 months. Her husband Samuel was a tailor and did very well. She felt God was watching them. Moishe came in and told her that young men were being taken and he decided to leave. He was going to his aunt’s home with his friend Azeil Bauer, also 18. Azeil was in love with Sally and had been so since she was thirteen. After he had left, Esther found out that Sally had gone with them. Samuel and Esther were very upset and the next morning went after them. Esther could not be separated from her other children so they borrowed a horse and wagon, added a few pillows and blankets to the wagon, and set out with their children. An orphaned nephew Yossel (13) who was inseparable from Izzy, a pregnant niece Toibe and her husband Lionik also came with them. They joined a mass of people leaving Skalat ahead of the Germans. By the time they finally found the three, it was too late to go back. The Germans were too close. They had no choice but to go on. Where were they going? Right now they were between the Soviets and the Germans. They were constantly being bombed and strafed. It was through sheer luck or God’s intervention that they avoided being killed. Would they ever get back to Skalat and the rest of the family? This book tells of an event that is not talked of often. That is on the Jews who were fleeing the Germans but were running straight into the Soviets. It is quite an interesting story.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bev Walkling

    This book is part memoir, based on interviews with Esther Parnes surviving children, and part history book with alternating sections between chapters detailing the history of the Germans during that time period. Many quotes were included from other books and these were referenced. An additional reading list was included at the end of the book for those interested in learning more. The book tells the story (supposedly from Esther's viewpoint) of one family's escape from a city in Russian occupied This book is part memoir, based on interviews with Esther Parnes surviving children, and part history book with alternating sections between chapters detailing the history of the Germans during that time period. Many quotes were included from other books and these were referenced. An additional reading list was included at the end of the book for those interested in learning more. The book tells the story (supposedly from Esther's viewpoint) of one family's escape from a city in Russian occupied Poland as the Germans are rapidly advancing. The story is quite fascinating as this family struggled to stay together against all odds. I confess I didn't really like what I read about Esther or her husband. The family didn't survive solely because of her strength. But the reader can make up their own mind on this as they read the book. This book would have been better had it included a map and ideally some family pictures.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dr.J.G.

    One step ahead, the title, is clear in the context of the holocaust perpetrated with full intention during WWII by the nazi regime across all of occupied Europe, and chiefly in the eastern sector. This is the story of a family that fled across border to east for reasons not then clear to them, but fleeing the advancing German forces that not only had no compunction firing and bombing aimed at fleeing poor civilians in wagons or on foot, women, children, old or sick, but in all probability were o One step ahead, the title, is clear in the context of the holocaust perpetrated with full intention during WWII by the nazi regime across all of occupied Europe, and chiefly in the eastern sector. This is the story of a family that fled across border to east for reasons not then clear to them, but fleeing the advancing German forces that not only had no compunction firing and bombing aimed at fleeing poor civilians in wagons or on foot, women, children, old or sick, but in all probability were ordered to do so too and used not only infantry and artillery but their vastly modern air force too, for this purpose. This family fled their home and town Skalat, at the then border of Poland and Ukraine, escaping the death that overtook the hundreds on road alongside, often by inches, and survived this and much more. And it took most of the time span of this escape for them to realise they were fortunate to have left, for no one of their families or friends back home had survived! Priceless reading, even when one is familiar with the general holocaust picture of events that took place.

  5. 5 out of 5

    vicki

    I really enjoyed this story. The true story about a mother trying to keep her 7 children together as they try to stay away from the German invasion into their homeland of Poland. What they went through on a very long journey throughout Russia by foot, wagon, or train. I also liked how the author would put little sections in on what Hitler's thoughts were. The story kept me interested all the wsy.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Yibbie

    It's not often that I give a true account one star, and what I could glean about this woman's life deserves a full five stars. However, I can't recommend it first because of one completely inappropriate scene and second the writing style. It's written in first person. It's written as if Esther Parnes is telling us her inmost thoughts and struggles. What she thought of each child and situation is detailed. That would have been fine, if Azrieli had actually met her, or she had kept a diary, but It's not often that I give a true account one star, and what I could glean about this woman's life deserves a full five stars. However, I can't recommend it first because of one completely inappropriate scene and second the writing style. It's written in first person. It's written as if Esther Parnes is telling us her inmost thoughts and struggles. What she thought of each child and situation is detailed. That would have been fine, if Azrieli had actually met her, or she had kept a diary, but neither one happened. He could only rely on interviews with her children. So really most of it is made up. It would have been better classified as historical fiction. There was one curse word. That one scene was totally unnecessary to the story line and certainly not handled modestly or delicately.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Susan Keefe

    The war time ordeals of a Jewish mother and her 7 children. This story is an amazing true account of the wartime struggles of a Jewish woman named Ester Parnes, her husband Samuel, and their seven children. In June 1944 they believe that they are safe from the atrocities of the Nazi concentration camps, as they are living in the small village called Skalat in eastern Poland. After World War I, the land was given to the Soviet Union under the 1939 treaty between Stalin and Germany, and the Soviet The war time ordeals of a Jewish mother and her 7 children. This story is an amazing true account of the wartime struggles of a Jewish woman named Ester Parnes, her husband Samuel, and their seven children. In June 1944 they believe that they are safe from the atrocities of the Nazi concentration camps, as they are living in the small village called Skalat in eastern Poland. After World War I, the land was given to the Soviet Union under the 1939 treaty between Stalin and Germany, and the Soviet people had been friendly, and they, and their relatives are happy, and have a good life. However, they soon discover that Adolph Hitler has no scruples about going back on his word as he instigates Operation Barbarossa. On the very day this happens the family find themselves fleeing the German planes and soldiers, desperate just to survive… When they join thousands of other Jews and tens of thousands of Polish people crossing the Zebruschk River, and entering the Ukraine, they believe it is only for a short time, and they are sure that they will be safe there until they can return to Skalat. However as the German army ruthlessly advances, slaughtering everyone in their path with Hitler’s “scorched earth” policy, the days and months turn into years. Watching those around them die from starvation, or being murdered by the Germans, the family suffer unimaginable hardships and find themselves doing what they have to, to survive. Driven further and further from their home on a journey which is to take them through the Ukraine, Russia, and into Asia. I found this story totally absorbing and the very fact that it is written from true accounts given to the author by the Ester Parnes children and grandchildren, makes it even more interesting. Not only did I learn a lot about the plight of these people during World War II, but I also could not help but be amazed at their strong faith and true sense of family, which bound them together, and gave them a reason to survive. Of course during the war years, despite being on the run from the Germans, their normal family life continued, and like all families disagreements and disputes arose, however, strong in their faith, they still manage, despite everything, to remain united. Having read modern history at school, this book should, I feel, be part of the curriculum as not only is it a compelling story of one families family’s survival during World War II, but also reveals how Adolph Hitler thought, and explains the timing and reasons behind his policies. I would highly recommend this book as a fascinating true account of the bravery and fortitude of Ester Parnes, and her family during WWII.

  8. 5 out of 5

    sheryl

    ...just finished this on my kindle cause it was only $.99. i wish i could get more ebooks but that's just another "beef" i have. i can almost never "check out" an ebook from my library system due to greed of publishers who can't make as much money selling their books to libraries. sigh. as i moved thro this book i became more and more annoyed at the first person style as if esther were writing a diary... which she didn't. the author never met her yet most of the book is written in the first perso ...just finished this on my kindle cause it was only $.99. i wish i could get more ebooks but that's just another "beef" i have. i can almost never "check out" an ebook from my library system due to greed of publishers who can't make as much money selling their books to libraries. sigh. as i moved thro this book i became more and more annoyed at the first person style as if esther were writing a diary... which she didn't. the author never met her yet most of the book is written in the first person in an overwrought emotional manner as if the author were inside her head going on and on about her perfect children...every one of them handsome and beautiful and loving and perfect, etc. i finally thot to myself...this isn't a true story but then at the end i read where all her kids ended up and their kids, etc. he did interview them but i do believe this should have been classified as historical fiction BASED on a true story. i also HATED "her" (the male author's) constant reference to her god who she called MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE and also her reference to hitler as SATAN (both in caps). this didn't seem very authentically jewish to me? but the fact that she kept giving her god credit for saving her and all her children countless times because...i don't know...she was special? constantly referencing god and sharing her prayers constantly to "him". as if all the other thousands of splattered dead bodies they saw everywhere and heard about were somehow "out of the god loop". this kind of thing drives me nuts tho all 4 of my siblings see their world this way. (so it's personal for me) there is this awful event related where they see these little red shoes on the ground that they think will fit one of their girls so she runs over to get them and finds that the shoes are filled with the actual feet of a dead girl whose remainder of body has been blown away somewhere by a bomb! ...so THAT little girl or her parents or somebody forgot to pray? AARRGGHH.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Shirley

    Keep My Family Together At All Costs This is a true story of a remarkable woman, Esther Parnes, that kept her family of seven children together through the worst of times. When Hitler sent his German Army to Poland with the orders to rid Poland of all Jews, Samuel and Esther Parnes left their home in Poland. They spent four years traveling at risk of life, hungry, and scared across the Ukraine, Russia and Asia just one step ahead of the Germans. Many times they were in dire danger of capture. Then Keep My Family Together At All Costs This is a true story of a remarkable woman, Esther Parnes, that kept her family of seven children together through the worst of times. When Hitler sent his German Army to Poland with the orders to rid Poland of all Jews, Samuel and Esther Parnes left their home in Poland. They spent four years traveling at risk of life, hungry, and scared across the Ukraine, Russia and Asia just one step ahead of the Germans. Many times they were in dire danger of capture. Then they spent five more years in displaced person camps until finally migrating to the state of New Jersey in the United States. This family lived in constant fear and throughout it all they stayed together as a family. Hunger was their largest constant as they kept moving to stay ahead of the German Army which meant death to them should they be caught. This book is sad, it is tragic, it will make you cry. It also shows love in the family for each other and compassion for others. There were humane people that helped them and there were mean people that did not. This should never have happened to them, and it should never again happen to another person. No one should ever have to fear for their life because of their race or their religion. I would recommend this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ladonna Creech

    True Story Of Hope And Survival In my opinion, this book deserves five stars because not only does it offer action-packed suspense, drama and romance, it provides fascinating historical facts about Hitler and the Nazi war machine (I'm fascinated, not impressed. I do not condone Nazism in the very least). The author is a master storyteller, which made for quite an enjoyable read. It's based on a true story, one that needed to be shared with the world. It documents a family's courageous flight to s True Story Of Hope And Survival In my opinion, this book deserves five stars because not only does it offer action-packed suspense, drama and romance, it provides fascinating historical facts about Hitler and the Nazi war machine (I'm fascinated, not impressed. I do not condone Nazism in the very least). The author is a master storyteller, which made for quite an enjoyable read. It's based on a true story, one that needed to be shared with the world. It documents a family's courageous flight to safety during one of the world's worst wars in history. I especially appreciate how it conveys the importance of maintaining loving relationships and embracing hope during times of hardship and persecution.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Goff

    One of the most informative and surreal books I have read. Although such a sad time and so many lives lost , I have become fascinated with halocast books. I cried thru most of it. Every one should read to make us truly appreciate our freedom. Thank you for all the research and time writing thus extrodinary book. One life best books I have ever read. I could hardly put it down. It was hard to read of all the human suffering but I feel like it needs to be told.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lori Fitzgerald

    Well worth the read! This book is an excellent account of the hardship endured by the few Jewish people caught in Hitler's crosshairs and lived to tell about it. Those who managed to escape being rounded up and sent to the death camps had just as hard a time trying to survive the ordeal. This book is a perfect example of their suffering. God bless them all.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

    Heartbreaking and inspiring! I am always encouraged by these stories of Jewish survivors from Hitler's jaw's. They inspire, they strengthen, they encourage those whom need help. I am so blessed to be one of G-D's holy people - I give thanks to Him -- blessed be He.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chrissy McNeill

    Amazing! Unbelievable story of dedication to family, life, and survival. They truly were guided to escape, by the Divine. It is an amazing story! I loved it!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Linda Nieuwendorp

    A must read!! Being Jewish my self and family who live through the war I read a lot of books on that time period, but this one of the best.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Barbara J. Rzepka

    A Real Heroine! This mother of 7 stopped at nothing to keep her children alive and together. She knew what unconditional love was.

  17. 5 out of 5

    P. P

    Recommed this for your library Fast paced activity in this story had me unable to put this one down. I enjoyed hearing from a mothers point of view.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    Amazing book This book is a truly amazing story of family and survival in the face of so much pain. The mother is truly one strong woman who kept her family together.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Susan V

    Very interesting to follow their lives as they travel around Europe fleeing for their lives.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Strength of one mother's love The story reaffirms the struggles to live, which many of us who have a much different life. Refreshing and well written.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michele

    Never Forget. Amazing story of strength and will. Ratings don't bring the harsh reality of that time to light. The story needs telling, however and should be shared.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Christy David

    How strong love really is Unbelievable events through each page. Shows how much unconditional love a mother has for her children,and what she will do to protect them.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Laura Fiorenza

    One Step Ahead Saved the Life and Generations Ahead I read WW2 books. The historical, facts of the Reich , the English, French, Germans and countless Jewish survivor stories. This unique account is not to be missed. A Jewish family that does not recognise that their Jewishness is their death warrant and that they have escaped. This story starts in Eastern Europe through Russia, down through Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and route you don't here much about when reading about WW2. This foamy survives har One Step Ahead Saved the Life and Generations Ahead I read WW2 books. The historical, facts of the Reich , the English, French, Germans and countless Jewish survivor stories. This unique account is not to be missed. A Jewish family that does not recognise that their Jewishness is their death warrant and that they have escaped. This story starts in Eastern Europe through Russia, down through Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and route you don't here much about when reading about WW2. This foamy survives harsh conditions, foreign lands, and has no I'd e a throughout that their friends and family back home have perished. Only the impulsiveness of young love, a mother's fierce determination to keep her family together, and divine intervention keep this family alive through the holocaust. The desperation of hunger, thirst and sickness keep this family moving through lands both barren and exotic. An excellent opportunity to understand yet another human experience of WW2 in lands foreign to most of us. Well written, humorous, ironic, eventful and interesting with a happy ending.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Joanne VanVelson

    Outstanding A must read. We have as a free people no idea of what the Jews were subjected to but through books like this. This book, It brings tears to your eyes with the turning of each page. Never could I have imagined the pain and suffering of those who survived. God bless those that perished. Shame on those that killed any human being because of their beliefs. Shame, shame to the Nazi regime and all of those who who helped them kill and main another person because of their beliefs. God bless Outstanding A must read. We have as a free people no idea of what the Jews were subjected to but through books like this. This book, It brings tears to your eyes with the turning of each page. Never could I have imagined the pain and suffering of those who survived. God bless those that perished. Shame on those that killed any human being because of their beliefs. Shame, shame to the Nazi regime and all of those who who helped them kill and main another person because of their beliefs. God bless all those who helped the oppressed. Let's make this a loving world we all live in. Teach love, not hate.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Martin

    The courage of resistance. This is a true account of a family determined to stay together against insurmountable odds. As Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler, this family endures countless hardships and are forced to make tough decisions. This should be required reading for all students to understand the plight of the effects of war on individuals and countries. This book has made a deep, lasting impression on me. This is a book that will stay with me for years. Thank you for this body of work.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Interesting story The book tells an interesting story about a Jewish family staying just steps ahead of the invading Russians. The mother is truly a rock, protecting her children and loved ones. There are numerous errors of fact about the war. This gives me the impression it is a fictionalized account based on stories handed down in the family, not nonfiction as described.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Toni

    Fantastic True Story That Seems Unreal! The whole time I was reading this book I thought it can't be a true story, yet it is. I still can't get over what this family went through and the fact that they ALL survived. Amazing true story. Thanks to the author for writing and thanks to the family for allowing us to walk with them through their harrowing experiences.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sandy Nasteff

    TheA book you will never forget the journey this family endured led by this mother will be with you forever. The journey they endured was enhanced by using historical facts including places and dates. The book concludes with a comprehensive summary of all the family members and people included in in their amazing story .

  29. 4 out of 5

    patricia w wiktorek

    A True Heroine A mother always tries to protect her children, but Easter went beyond belief. Fleeing from the Germans, experiencing unbelievable,but true, hideous situations. She made life as bearable as possible. Traveling through a 1000 miles to save her own. She was one of Hitler's best opponants as in the end, she won.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Phyllis Stinson

    Fair Read This tells of a family that runs from the Germans and steal to survive. They magically find watermelon on the road. They seem to always find horses. I am sure they had a hard time but this wasn't my favorite book. I flipped through a lot because it was average after reading about the concentration camps.

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