Marion Blumenthal Lazan isn’t just a sweet old lady comparable to most of our grandmothers. Instead, she is a remarkable woman with an even more remarkable story to tell. The story is one of hardship, pain, and suffering, but also, a story of triumph and hope.
On Oct. 15, the short statured lady stepped on the new PAMS stage to the sound of applause and began reliving the horrific details of her childhood in Nazi-controlled Europe. Although she was only a mere four years old when her family began their journey to escape Germany, her memories of the events remain vivid. Along with her older brother Albert, and loving parents, Mrs. Blumenthal Lazan moved to Holland awaiting their immigration papers to America. However, just a month before their ship was planned to set sail to freedom, the Blumenthal family was forced to a concentration camp under the rule of the Nazis and lived in appalling conditions.
Throughout the span of the next six years, Marion would be deprived of a childhood and lived each day full of terror. She witnessed events that “No one of any age should see,” she said, but remained hopeful. The only way she was able to remain hopeful was by creating games that she could play to distract herself from the pain and terror. For example, the search for four pebbles of the same size became Marion’s way of predicting her family’s fate. “If I was able to find four perfect pebbles,” she said, “my family would all survive. However, if only two or three could be recovered the fate of my family seemed grim.” Somehow she always came across four pebbles though, even if she did “cheat” along the way. Her game, her rules.
As she continued her story, the students listened eagerly in anticipation of a happy ending to the horrifying story. Eventually, after being liberated by the Russian allies, the Blumenthal family moved to a temporary home in Holland where freedom seemed well within reach. Finally Marion could have back what she had longed for all along. The three B’s (a real bed, a warm, bath, and plenty of bread) where no longer just a dream to her. Sadly, Marion’s father died a short six weeks after liberation, and with nothing left to offer them in Europe, the rest of the Blumenthal family boarded a ship to America with few belongings, freedom in sight, and a hopeful future in mind.
After she arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey, the now twelve year old Marion Blumenthal and her family moved to the Midwest, planting roots in Illinois. Marion worked hard both in school and at home to learn a whole new language (English) and help her mother manage a business. Many long hours paid off when she graduated 8th in her high school class, only five years after arriving in America.
She went on to marry her husband, Nathaniel Lazan, with whom she recently celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary. Three children, nine grandchildren, and one great-grand daughter later, the Lazans live a blessed life, but never fail to remember their past.
Although the students may have anticipated an inspiring story of survival, what they did not expect were the wise words Mrs. Blumenthal Lazan had concerning their futures. Somehow the story of finding her four perfect pebbles gave an audience full of teenagers encouragement to search for their own perfect life. She urged them to live life as if it is their last day, and to always remember the past that leads them to their future.
Marion Lazan’s journey has been told in so many ways. Her story was co-authored and made into an award winning book entitled “Four Perfect Pebbles,” as well as made into a two act musical. Marion does everything in her power to share her story, and encouraged the students to help her do so as well. “You are the last surviving generation to hear my story first hand” she reminded us. It’s our job to not only learn from her journey, but retell it so others can do the same.
To learn more about Marion’s story, please visit her website www.fourperfectpebbles.com.
Alex Speers is a writer for The Purple Press, Phoenixville Area High School’s newspaper.