Marion Blumenthal Lazan, author of Four Perfect Pebbles and one of a dwindling number of remaining Holocaust survivors, visited The Waldorf School of Garden City on November 16th to share her experiences with our middle and high school students. The presentation held students and faculty in rapt attention as they listened to her story of survival, hope, and her plea for young people to continue to share these stories with future generations to ensure that atrocities like this never happen again to anyone. Her positive message of love and respect for all people was well received, and her upbeat demeanor admirable after enduring such a horrific period in history.
Marion recounted her early childhood living for over six years in refugee and transit camps as well as the prison camp Bergen-Belsen–the same camp where Anne Frank, her sister, and about 50,000 others died– in northwestern Germany. She barely remembers life before the camps; she only knew about the outside world from the stories her mother told her. Miraculously, while in the camps Marion never lost hope. Enduring malnutrition, cold, disease, and having no toys or creature comforts, she invented games not only to occupy herself but to help her imagine an ending to her and her family’s suffering and imprisonment.
In 1945 at the age of 10, after the camp was liberated, Marion, her mother, brother, and father were reunited and lived in Holland while they tried to acquire the paperwork to travel to the United States. Marion’s father, whose dream it was to immigrate to the U.S., unfortunately succumbed to typhus that he contracted in the camp before this could happen. In 1948 Marion, her mother, and brother made their way to the United States and settled in Peoria, Illinois, where Marion quickly learned English, graduated from High School at age 16, fell in love, and married Nathanial Lazan at age 18. She went on to write a book, Four Perfect Pebbles in the form of a memoir and has dedicated her life to educating people about the Holocaust and journey of hope. The book was also made into a PBS documentary called Marion’s Triumph narrated by actor, Debra Messing.
Each and everyone of us must do everything in our power to prevent such hatred, such distraction, and such terror from reoccurring. We can begin by having love and respect and tolerance and compassion towards one another regardless of religious beliefs, regardless of the color of our skin, regardless of national origin. This respect to one another must begin in our homes around the kitchen table or the dining room table– wherever we gather…
[see video clip below]
In the English curriculum, WSGC seniors have read several chapters from a textbook on the Holocaust published by Facing History and Ourselves, where they focus on the decade or so prior to WWII and look at all the factors that allowed Hitler and the Nazi party to rise to power. Later they will read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, a deep exploration of Frankl’s own Holocaust experience, and how he used said experiences to inform his own philosophies on life. In the past the class has also watched the film Night and Fog, a 1956 documentary by French Director, Alain Resnais made 10 years after the liberation of the concentration camps. The Documentary focuses on the abandoned camps of Auschwitz and Majdanek and describes the lives of prisoners.
Marion ended her talk by playing a song written about her experience after which several students stayed behind to ask additional questions. Marion and her husband Nathanial, a former U.S. Air Force pilot, were incredibly gracious with their time and stories and the School deeply appreciates their efforts and having the great opportunity for them to visit the School. This was an incredible experience for the WSGC students and employees, and one that will not be possible in the near future. Read more about Marion and find additional resources about Holocaust education on her website www.fourperfectpebbles.com.