"The world is beautiful, it is just some of the people in it that create such, such terror." Marion Blumenthal Lazan knows this lesson well. On November 1st, she virtually visited THS to share her story as a survivor of the Holocaust. Drawing from her experiences in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Mrs. Lazan spread her messages of kindness and tolerance throughout the THS community.
Mrs. Lazan was born in 1934, living in Hoya, Germany until she was 5 years old. At that time, her family decided to move to Holland with the intention of emigrating to the United States. The family was placed in Westerbork, a Dutch-controlled transit camp, for almost four and a half years. Mrs. Lazan describes this camp as “fine, until the Nazis took over Holland in May of 1940.” That is when her situation got much worse.
When Mrs. Lazan was 9 years old, the Nazis transported her family to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, the same place where Anne Frank died. The conditions were horrific: Mrs. Lazan explains, “There was never any privacy. There was no toilet paper. There was no soap and hardly any water with which to wash. In the almost year and a half that we were in Bergen-Belsen, never once were we able to brush our teeth.”
She depicts this place as an awful nightmare and has distinct memories of seeing wagons full of dead, naked bodies. The camp was finally liberated in 1945. Three years later, Marion, her mother, and her brother arrived in the United States.
One may expect this experience to destroy a person, but Mrs. Lazan has an unbreakable spirit of courage and hope. Despite not knowing any English at the age of 13, Mrs. Lazan graduated eighth in her high school class. She now travels internationally as a Holocaust speaker, using her past to teach the current generation.
During her THS presentation, Mrs. Lazan emphasized the importance of kindness: “That is the basis for peace, to be compassionate and understanding towards one another.” She also taught students not to judge anyone based on their religious beliefs or their racial or ethnic background. She has turned something so ugly into a source of inspiration and strength. Along with her presentations, Mrs. Lazan has written a book entitled Four Perfect Pebbles about her experiences.
Both students and staff were inspired listening to Mrs. Lazan’s speech. Mrs. Natrillo, who arranged this visit, explains, “I wanted students to see that optimism.” Mrs. Lazan encouraged the current generation at THS to never stop speaking of this event and to ensure that this hatred never happens again.
This photograph was taken in April of 1995 on Mrs. Lazan's very first visit back to Germany. On this trip, she went back to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, which is now a museum. Mrs. Lazan described it vividly, "It did not look the way I remembered it...There is green grass and shrubs, not bad looking at all, except for the mounds everywhere. Mounds with plaques that read, 'Here lie a thousand.' These are the mass graves of our people."