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Holocaust survivor speaks to packed house

Jake Essman / The Arbiter

In world history, the Holocaust stands out like a horrible scar. Perhaps no singular event has  impacted the  world as heavily.

The current generation is fortunate for the opportuniry to learn from the horrors of the Holocaust directly from a first-person perspective—learning about it from a person who lived through it. Marion Blumenthal Lazan is one of those people.

On Tuesday, Marion spoke in the Special Events Center about her acclaimed memoir, “Four Perfect Pebbles: A Holocaust Story.”

The expected attendance was 400 to 450 people, but about 1,000 showed up, forcing the organizers to set up folding chairs on the stage for people to sit in.

The surprisingly large crowd came to hear Lazan described in-depth the uprising of anti-Semitic practices and laws in her homeland. After the passing of the Nuremberg laws in 1935, that took away basic rights for the Jewish people and segregated them into a completely different race, Lazan’s father, a shoemaker, decided it was time to leave Germany and head for the safe haven America provided.

Lazan’s presentation summarized the amazing story of her and her family as they attempted to escape Nazi Germany in the years leading up to World War II. Unfortunately, she and her family ended up trapped in Holland, awaiting departure by boat to America.

Only weeks before they left, the Nazis invaded. Being of Jewish faith, Lazan and her mother were separated from her father and brother, and Lazan spent the next six and a half years living under the brutal conditions of the notorious Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany.

The story painted a picture similar to “The Diary Of Anne Frank,” showing the true reality of the viciousness Jews endured during the Holocaust. However, Lazan’s underlying message in telling her tale was different.

“In a few short years, we will not be here any longer to give a first-hand account. The students here this evening; it is their generation that is the last generation that will hear these stories first-hand,” Lazan said.

Lazan stressed how important it was to keep the Holocaust alive in our minds and hearts, even after all those who were physically affected by it have passed on.

Kaitlyn Loveland, a junior radiology major, was touched by this message.

“She really urged us to see the good in everyone, and how everybody has trials and she didn’t downgrade other people’s trials compared to her story, which was obviously horrible,” Loveland said.

But Lazan wasn’t there just to tell people about the Holocaust, or her own personal experiences in the Holocaust. Lazan was there because she had a favor to ask everyone in the room.

 “I ask you to please share my story, or any of the Holocaust stories that you read about. Share them with your friends. Share them with your family. You the students, share them with your children someday. When we aren’t here any longer, it’s you who will have to bear witness,” Lazan said.

Gayle Greenough, a senior radiology student, was greatly affected by Marion’s speech and plea.

“You almost come out speechless, you don’t really know what to say,” Greenough said. “She’s so confident in what she says, and with her experience, that I don’t really know how someone can actually go through it and come out so strong. She doesn’t hide from what happened, she doesn’t leave any details out.” 

By the end of the night, many of the eyes that had spent an hour watching Marion’s bright composure as she told her harrowing tale had began to water.

Afterward, Marion sat down out front of the center and signed copies of her book, taking questions and speaking more personally with her audience. Everyone who sat in attendance took in a message which filled their hearts: We are the last generation. It is up to the students.