OBHS Students Learn First-Hand from Holocaust Survivor
Oyster Bay High School students in grades 10-12 hung on the words of 82-year-old Mrs. Marion Blumenthal Lazan, a Holocaust survivor who shared her horrific story, then turned her adversity into a powerful message of tolerance, love and respect.
“As children, we saw things that, at any age, no one should ever see,” said Mrs. Lazan, who was a young child when she and her family were forced to live in refugee, transit and concentration camps in Holland and Germany. “As a way of coping, I decided that if I could find four perfect pebbles, that would decide whether the four members of my family would survive. This game gave me something to hold on to.”
That game became the title of her book, Four Perfect Pebbles, that was also made into a documentary video called Marion’s Triumph, narrated by actress Debra Messing. Mrs. Lazan first gave a vivid encounter of her family’s comfortable life before World War II, then described the sheer horror and devastation they subsequently endured for 6 ½ years during the war. The lack of food, water left her weighing only 35 pounds at age 10 ½ and her mother weighing only 70 pounds, she said. Because of the deplorable conditions, dysentery and Typhoid Fever claimed lives, including that of her father.
“One day my mother managed to secretly make soup and some spilled onto my leg, I had to quietly suffer in silence, for if I cried out, it would have been the death of me,” she recalled.
After the war, Mrs. Lazan encountered new challenges. She and her brother, Albert, were sent to a children’s home in Israel, where they had to start a new life and learn a new language.
“I did not know what a store was, what money was, I didn’t have manners or really know how to behave,” she said. “At 11, I had my first formal education at a Montessori School and learned Hebrew and religion.”
About two years later, she, her mother and brother, finally arrived in America where she again, learned a new language and new way of life, noting that at age 13 she was placed in a fourth-grade class, but by the time she was 18, she graduated high school 8th in her class of 167 students, which garnered thunderous applause from the audience.
After describing the many blessing in life — Nathaniel, her husband of 57 years who was with her during her presentation; her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren — she implored, “We will not be around much longer, you are the last generation to hear our stories first-hand. It is you that will have to bear witness and share my story with your children and grandchildren so that it doesn’t happen again. You must show love, tolerance and respect for one another. Let us build bridges and reach out towards one another.”
Calling her presentation “inspiring, amazing and powerful,” students crowded around her to purchase her book. She signed the books, answered their questions and warmly hugged each one of them.
“It’s incredible that she was able to get up and so freely share her story, said senior Maggie Frankel. “I was surprised by how brave she was,” added Juliette Rebuth.
According to Mr. Joseph Pesqueira, supervisor of social studies, career technologies and service learning, “We invited Mrs. Lazan to speak at our school because of our current political climate and to spread understanding and empathy. We need to spread the idea that we are all people who deserve respect and to make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”
To learn more about Mrs. Lazan’s story or to purchase her book or video, visit her website at www.fourperfectpebbles.com.
Holocaust survivor Mrs. Marion Blumenthal Lazan holds up the Jewish star she had to wear as she tells her story of survival during the Holocaust to Oyster Bay High School students.
Mrs. Lazan signs her book, Four Perfect Pebbles, for students who purchased it.
Students, holding her book, pose for a photo with Mrs. Lazan, Oyster Bay High School Principal Mrs. Sharon Lasher, left, and Social Studies Supervisor Mr. Joseph Pesqueira.
Students and staff gather around Mrs. Lazan after her presentation. Standing next to her is Superintendent of Schools Dr. Laura Seinfeld.