Marian Blumenthal Lazan came to El Dorado County earlier this week and stole its heart.
“Mine is the story that Anne Frank might have told if she had survived,” began Lazan. “It’s a story of perseverance, determination, faith and above all, hope.”
Speaking to a mixed audience of hundreds of adults and children at the El Dorado Adventist School in Placerville and the next day at Rolling Hills Middle School in El Dorado Hills, the 76-year-old Holocaust survivor was warm, humorous and gentle as she shared an odyssey that started with a happy home over her father’s shoeshop in Germany, traveled through increasing restrictions on Jews to the violence of Kristallnacht, to transit camps as the family tried to emigrate from Germany, to detention camps, concentration camps, the horrors of the Death Trains and finally, to freedom and life in America.
“Never did we think the anti-Semitic activities in Germany would amount to very much,” said Lazan. “Kristallnacht was the beginning of the Holocaust. It was a massive verbal and physical assault on all German Jews.”
Blumenthal Lazan was only 4 when her family’s odyssey began. She was 10 when they were liberated in 1945 and weighed only 30 pounds.
“I saw a wagon filled with firewood at Bergen-Belsen,” said Lazan. “But after a few days of seeing the wagons, I realized that it wasn’t firewood, it was dead, naked bodies thrown on top of each other. They couldn’t keep up with the dead. We saw things that no one, no matter what age, should see.”
With no school, no toys, nothing to do in the concentration camp, Lazan kept herself busy by making up games. One was a game for her family’s survival. Each day she set herself the task of finding four perfect pebbles by the end of the day, one for each member of her family. “It was a tortuous game I invented to keep us all alive but it gave me distant hope.”
Using her experiences to emphasize her message of tolerance and respect, Lazan spoke directly to the audience. “After six and a half years of being a prisoner with no formal schooling, I felt like a misfit. I had to learn how to live in society,” said Lazan, who was placed in a fourth-grade classroom at the age of 13 after she immigrated to America with her family. “I was so different from them and I spoke differently, but they included me in their games and they helped me. You can do this for new children at school, new co-workers and neighbors.
“I have a favor to ask each of you,” Lazan said to the audience. “Please share my story and all Holocaust stories with your friends and family, your children, and, even someday, your grandchildren. You children — it is you who will bear witness to what you’ve heard and to make sure this does not happen to anyone again. Prevent our past from becoming your future.”
In her warm and gentle manner, Laza stressed, “Be good, be kind and be respectful and tolerant of each other. Each of us must do all in our power to keep such hatred and horror from happening again. Begin by showing love and respect for each other. Start in your homes, at the dinner table, in your places of work and in the towns and communities. Only if respect and tolerance are taught and followed will there be peace.”
Lazan gave the audience full measure of her attention — signing copies of her book, “Four Perfect Pebbles,” before and after the presentation and answering questions. She often referred to her husband of 58 years, Nathaniel Lazan, who was in the audience, with humor and obvious affection. The couple, both in their late 70s, keep up an arduous speaking and travel schedule and have a full and rich family life with three children and nine grandchildren as well.
At the end, Lazan complimented the audience on being concerned and involved and quoted Edmund Burke: ”The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ Stay involved.”
For more information about Marion Blumenthal Lazan visit her Website at fourperfectpebbles.com. She is also on Facebook.