FULTON – Fulton City School District students in grades five and six learned an important lesson in history when Holocaust survivor Marion Blumenthal Lazan recently spoke to the large group: spread the message before the history is forgotten.
That heartfelt sentiment is what will keep the memory of the six million Jews alive who were killed in Hitler-ruled Germany.
Lazan shared her story of growing up in concentration camps, where she often was hungry, cold and separated from her brother and father.
It was the strength, persistence and will to live she received from her mother that helped keep her alive.
The Fulton students learned that Lazan has shared her story to thousands of children over the past 20 years so they hear a first-hand account of the deplorable conditions, disease and tragedy during World War II.
Decades after the Holocaust ended, the pain and presence of the experience is still so real to Lazan.
She said she won’t forget the big “J” stamped on identification cards and passports, the yellow Star of David the Nazis required her to wear as a child or the odor of death.
The sight of German shepherds today still scare her because they bring back horrific memories from German guards at concentration camps.
Students sat quietly and wide-eyed and Lazan detailed frightful nights and worrisome days. Lazan encouraged them not to take their warm bed, plate full of food, personal belongings and loving relationships for granted because in a moment’s notice that all could be taken away.
Her inner strength helped save her, as she counted on finding four perfect pebbles to represent each member of her family.
If she could find four perfect pebbles, all similar in size, then everyone in her family would come out of their situation alive. In 1945 they were liberated and a few years later arrived in America.
Adaptation to a new way of life wasn’t easy, but persistence and joy were welcoming parts of freedom and helped her achieve great success.
That included high school graduation at age 18 in Illinois. Her whole story is recapped in her memoir, “Four Perfect Pebbles,” which dozens if students read ahead of Lazan’s visit.
The group asked her such detailed questions, referring to the number of languages she can speak, what it was like getting a job when she came to America, what happened to her pebbles, her age and if she knew Anne Frank.
At the end of her presentation, she was happy to pose for photos with students and Fairgrieve student Brenda Longok thanked her for coming.
Volney Elementary School sixth grade teacher Bill Cahill said if students take away just one thing from the school year he hoped it would be Lazan’s real-life account of history. Soon,
Lazan said, there will not be any Holocaust survivors.