Holocaust survivor shares story of determination
Holocaust survivor and author of “Four Perfect Pebbles” Marion Blumenthal Lazan will share her experiences and a message of hope and tolerance at two local events.
Lazan, 76, survived six-and-a-half years in refugee, transit and prison camps during Nazi Germany’s occupation of Europe. Her family of four — mother Ruth, father Walter, brother Albert and Marion — was trapped in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power. They escaped to Holland where, during the Nazi occupation, they were interred at Westerbork transit camp, then transferred to Germany’s infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and finally, at the end of the war, put on a “death train” with other prisoners, who were carrying deadly typhus virus, and sent to Berlin and the Polish border. The four almost survived everything the war threw at them, but six weeks after the war in Europe ended, Marion’s father, one of her “four perfect pebbles,” died of typhus.
Another test of survival came after the war as without a country, without a home and penniless, the three spent years looking for a home, learning several new languages and creating a new life.
In her memoir “Four Perfect Pebbles,” Lazan, with author Lila Perl, wrote of her family’s years as prisoners and the determination it took to survive even after being liberated. The book is now in its 23rd print edition and has been printed in English, German, Dutch and Japanese.
Lazan isn’t bitter, amazingly, and her presentations to more than 1 million students and adults focus on universal messages she wants to pass on.
“Bitterness would be very destructive to me and to the people who surround me’ Lazan explained. “I talk about treating each other with kindness and respect, with acceptance for each person’s uniqueness. We must build bridges to have peace in the world and we must begin with our children.”
She attributes her resiliency and survival to her 103-year-old mother. “It’s an inner wherewithal that carries you through and that came from my mother. She is amazing,” Lazan said. “I don’t know where she got her attitude and strength, but it carried us through even when we were physically finished.”
Lazan has been married to Nathaniel Lazan for 58 years and has three children and nine grandchildren. In 1995, on the 50th anniversary of the liberation from the camps, Lazan reluctantly returned to Germany with her husband and some of her children and grandchildren. They visited the site of her father’s grave and the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen.
“It had been burned to the ground by Eisenhower after liberation and now it is all green with trees, like a park — nothing like the way it had been. But there were mounds everywhere with signs saying ‘Here lie 1,000’ or ‘Here lie 2,500’ — the mass graves of our people. That was hard to see,” she said.
During a visit to her hometown of Hoya, Germany, the town officials apologised to her again and again for their treatment of the Jews. The Jewish cemetery in Hoya was badly neglected, but a non-Jewish couple had placed a foot marker in the Blumenthal family plot with a plaque honoring their memory.
“The book had just been completed but not yet printed,” said Lazan. “I wanted to acknowledge my gratitude to this couple with a photo of them and a paragraph in the book and was told it was too late. I insisted that they be put in the book or I wouldn’t allow it to be printed.”
In 2010 Hoya named their newest high school after Lazan, who was honored by the gesture. “It’s not so much about me but about the citizens addressing what was done in their country to their own people,” said Lazan.
“This is the last generation that will hear these stories and get their questions answered by people who were there,” she added. “I’m so grateful that I have the opportunity to do these talks, especially with students. It’s very important to get the message across to our children not to blindly follow a leader or anyone without checking your heart for possible consequences.”
She and husband Nathaniel are on the road, all over the nation and all over the world with her message of hope, determination and tolerance most days of the week. “Nathan is tremendously supportive; he’s the computer guy. We make a great team,” said Lazan.
Lazan will speak to students at the El Dorado Adventist School in Placerville in the morning on Monday, Nov. 14 ,and later the same day make a presentation open to the public at 7 p.m. at the Adventist School at 1900 Broadway, Placerville.
On Tuesday, Nov. 15, Lazan will share her story with Rolling Hills Middle School students. A presentation for the general public is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. at the school, 7141 Silva Valley Parkway, El Dorado Hills.
There is no charge for Lazan’s presentation, but a $2 donation is suggested to help defray costs. She will also make presentations at Capitol Christian Church in Sacramento and at Monte Vista High School in Danville while in California.
“Four Perfect Pebbles” can be purchased at the El Dorado Hills Library and the Main Library in Placerville for $5.95. Copies will also be available for purchase at the events while supplies last. Lazan will autograph books after each presentation.
Visit fourperfectpebbles.com for more information about Marion Blumenthal Lazan’s life or to contact her for presentations.
For more information on this special event visit the El Dorado County Library website at eldoradolibrary.org or call (530)622-3560.