Several times a month, Marion Blumenthal Lazan stands before groups of people and relives the most terrifying years of her life. Lazan is a Holocaust survivor and author. She has dedicated her life to letting people know no matter how terrible this event sounds in history books it was worse to live through. She brought that message to Parkersburg this week, speaking to students at Jackson Middle School, and later to groups at West Virginia University at Parkersburg, and Ohio Valley University.
In 1940, when she was only 4 years old, she, her brother, mother and father were taken prisoner by the Nazis while trying to flee to the United States. The Blumenthals spent the rest of the war in the notorious Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northwestern Germany.
During the six-plus years they were prisoners, the Blumenthals witnessed the horror of seeing thousands of people around them put to death, while the rest – including the Blumenthals – wondered if they would be next. The family did survive the war, but, unfortunately, her father died a few weeks after their liberation in 1945.
Lazan and her brother emigrated to the United States after the war and she settled in Peoria, Ill. She later married Nathaniel Lazan and had three children of her own. In 1976, she began to speak to groups about her Holocaust experience, and later wrote a memoir of her experiences, “Four Perfect Pebbles.” The book became an award-winning documentary.
Lazan’s goal is that by telling her story, it may help prevent another Holocaust. This is a noble undertaking, though the end of World War II did not end the mass killings of innocent people. Since then, several other megalomaniacal serial killers have followed Adolph Hitler’s example, and millions of people have died at their hands.
This does not weaken Lazan’s message. The Jackson Middle School students need to understand the hatred that existed in Lazan’s time still exists in our world today. It has, in fact, always existed.
The title of Lazan’s memoir, “Four Perfect Pebbles” was taken from a game she played every day at Bergen-Belsen in which she attempted to find four pebbles of the same shape and size. “I thought if I found four of them, the four members of my family would survive, my mother, my brother, my father and me,” she said to the students. “It was a tortuous game. It gave me something to hold on to.”
That “something to hold on to” was hope. Hope exists everywhere – even at a place of death like Bergen-Belsen.