Holocaust survivor speaks at OMMS

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 12, 2003

A woman who endured one of the greatest human tragedies in the history of the world, who survived an unspeakable evil while millions of others perished, shared her nightmare&045;and her dreams&045; with the students of Oak Mountain Middle School recently.

Holocaust survivor Marion Blumenthal Lazan has seen things she hopes the hundreds of children at Oak Mountain Middle School never will.

&uot;When I talk about this it is as if I am reliving a nightmare,&uot; Lazan said. &uot;I’ve done it hundreds of times and it has not gotten any easier.&uot;

Lazan stressed the importance of keeping the memory of the Holocaust circulating, in the school’s packed gymnasium on April 30.

&uot;Yours is the very last generation that will hear these stories first hand,&uot; she said. &uot;Please share them with your children someday, please share them with your grandchildren.

&uot;As horrible as it is, the story must be told&045;only then can we guard against this ever happening again.&uot;

As a child Lazan found herself and her Jewish family trapped in Germany as Adolph Hitler began his rise to power.

She and her mother, father and brother managed to escape to Holland but were soon rounded up by Nazi troops.

For six and half years the Blumenthal family endured the horrors of the Holocaust. They were tormented physically and mentally while they were transferred from camp to camp including stays at Westerbork in Holland and the notorious Bergen-Belsen in Germany.

Remarkably they all managed to survive until liberation, although her father died of typhus shortly thereafter.

&uot;It is truly remarkable that any of us were able to survive under such horrible conditions,&uot; Lazan said.

But Lazan’s story is not only one of death, pain and suffering&045; it is a message of hope, faith and the triumph of the human spirit.

&uot;It is not so much what happens to a person, but how they deal with it that makes a difference,&uot; she said.

Three years after Europe was liberated by allied troops, Lazan, her brother and mother obtained the papers necessary to immigrate to the United States.

At the age of 13, in Peoria, Ill., Lazan was placed in a fourth grade class with 9-year-olds.

Two years later she graduated at the age of 18, ranked eighth in her class at Peoria Central High School.

She later met and married Nathaniel Lazan, who she credits as her &uot;inspiration&uot; in life.

She has three children and nine grandchildren.

&uot;My life today is full and rewarding,&uot; she said.

Lazan was held at some of the same camps as the well-chronicled Anne Frank, who’s published diary has been read by millions of people world-wide.

Lazan also wrote her own account of the Holocaust.

Her novel, &uot;Four Perfect Pebbles&uot;, was co-authored with Lila Pearl.

Lazan describes her novel as a story like Frank might have written if she had survived.

Frank died of typhus in 1945 at Bergen-Belsen. She was fifteen years old.

Many schools, including Oak Mountain Middle, have used &uot;Four Perfect Pebbles&uot; to help teach students about the Holocaust.

Although she did not begin talking publicly about the Holocaust until 1979, Lazan now speaks at hundreds of schools and organizations asking her audience to be tolerant of others and not stereotype individuals based on religious belief, color, race or national origin. She stresses the importance of positive thinking as well as creativity and inner-strength when working to overcome adversity.

&uot;Look at your similarities and respect your differences,&uot; Lazan told the students at Oak Mountain Middle. &uot;Please do not judge the entire group by the actions of some or one.

&uot;The respect for one another must begin at home,&uot; she said. &uot;It must begin with you, the students, in the classrooms, in the halls of our schools. It must begin with our children.&uot;