A woman who spent much of her childhood in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during World War II described her horrific experiences at the hands of the Nazis to students at Stimson Middle School on Wednesday.
Marion Blumenthal Lazan, who authored a memoir, Four Perfect Pebbles: A Holocaust Story, said, “Death was an every day occurrence” at the camp, where her father, mother and brother, Albert, were imprisoned. “We, as children, saw things that no one should ever see,” she said, citing the disease, cruelty and malnutrition that hung over the camp.
In the years leading up to World War II, her parents had delayed exiting Germany as the Nazi oppression of Jews worsened, wanting to protect older relatives who didn’t want to leave. Eventually they managed to flee to to Holland, thinking they would be safe. Not long after, the Germans invaded, sending the family on a hellish path of terror in a series of camps until the end of World War II in 1945.
At Bergen Belsen, she said, the prisoners had heard stories about gas chambers at Auschwitz. “We got showers once a month,” she said. “We were never sure which would come out, water or gas.”
All four members of her family survived the war, but her father died weeks later of typhus. At age 10, she weighed 35 pounds.
Three years later, the family of three boarded a ship to the United States and new lives.
Lazan’s message was also one of hope and a reminder of where hate can lead.
“Each and every one of us must do what we can to stop the hate,” she said. Look for our similarities, she said, and “respect the other.” She encouraged students to never blindly follow others, and to always do their best and take advantage of every educational opportunity.
When her family arrived in the United States, she had to learn yet another language, and quickly. Her mother insisted on two things, she said, that the children learn English and that they work hard. Their success, she said, “Was our revenge to the man with the moustache.”
Lazan and her husband, Nathaniel, live in Hewlett.
Stimson students asked questions after Lazan’s talk. HuntingtonNow photos