Marion Blumenthal Lazan, a Holocaust survivor, recently provided a message of hope, strength and love to the students of Central Square Middle School; a message that she has shared with the school for more than 10 consecutive years.
During Hitler’s rise to power, Lazan endured numerous horrors as a young child, living six and a half years in refugee, transit and prison camps including Westerbork in Holland and Bergen-Belson in Germany.
Lazan, her mother, father and brother were lucky to survive the camps, but Marion lost her father to typhus soon after her family’s emancipation.
Despite her past experiences, Lazan has remained a devout optimist and travels the world reminding students of the importance of respecting one another, regardless of race, religion, nationality or physical appearance.
“We must not take our freedom for granted,” she said. “Let us all, each and every one of us, re-double our efforts to be kind and good and respectful to one another. It is such a simple message, and yet so difficult to achieve.”
Lazan spoke of a game she used to play by herself in the camps, a coping mechanism that gave her hope to continue on.
Each day, she would go out in search of four perfectly sized pebbles that represented herself and each member of her family. Finding four was a sign that her family would survive.
“I always found my four pebbles. I made it my business to find my pebbles. I cheated all the time,” said Lazan humorously. “When I found them, I put them in a safe place. Next time I would search for four, and I couldn’t find that third one or that fourth one, I knew exactly where to go and pick them up. Maybe that was cheating, but it was my game, and guess who made the rules?”
Lazan told the students that they were probably among the last generation that would hear the stories of Holocaust survivors first-hand, and she pleaded with them to share her story with their friends and families, and some day, their children.
“It is you who will have to bear witness when (Holocaust survivors) are no longer here, so that we can guard from that kind of tragedy ever happening again,” said Lazan.
Moved by her story, many of the Central Square students approached Marion for hugs and pictures following the presentation.
Many conveyed that they felt inspired to persevere through their own struggles and maintain a mindset of positivity.
Lazan left her audience with two other messages before concluding her presentation.
The first was to urge the students to refrain from generalizing a group for the actions of a few. Lazan was clear that she does not blame all of Germany for what happened so many years ago.
The second message was to encourage the use of social media only for good, aligning with the theme of respect and tolerance for others.
For more information on Marion Blumenthal Lazan, visit www.fourperfectpebbles.com
Pictures and video of Lazan’s presentation at Central Square Middle School can be viewed on the district’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/CentralSquareCSD.