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Perseverance. Determination. Faith and hope.
If it weren't for those things, Marion Blumenthal Lazan says she and her family wouldn't have survived the German Holocaust.
They were among the millions of Jews who were targets of extermination by Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime during World War II. About 6 million European Jews and 5 million others were killed during that time span.
Lazan survived the horrid Nazi concentration camps and was able to flee to the United States.
Today, she lives in New York and travels the country and abroad to tell everyone her account of one of the most terrible episodes in human history.
Lazan spoke Monday to a group of fifth-graders at Kershaw Elementary School. Students from Heath Springs Elementary joined them for that presentation.
Tuesday she spoke at Andrew Jackson Middle, Andrew Jackson High and Buford Middle schools. Friday she appeared at Lancaster High School.
Lazan asked the group of students Monday to imagine not having nearly enough water to bathe or drink.
Toilets and washing facilities were at a great distance in the concentration camps.
While in the camps, she and others would have to line up on a field every morning, regardless of the weather. Lazan and others had to use the warmth of their own urine to fight the cold.
Shaving your head bald was the only way to fight lice. Malnutrition and disease were rampant. As a result, death was an everyday occurrence.
"Bodies would not be taken away fast enough," Lazan said. "We, as children, saw things no one should ever have to see."
Poor was an understatement, she says. Birthday gifts to one another was a piece of bread saved from the previous week.
They ate so little that their stomachs shrunk, which Lazan describes at the time as a gift and a curse. With a smaller stomach, hunger wasn't as painful, she says.
At age 10, Lazan weighed just 35 pounds.
Lazan says faith and the hope of a brighter day allowed her family to remain strong during those years.
The Blumenthal family, which consisted of Lazan, her father,
mother and brother, were able to get to Holland several years before arriving in the United States.
But soon after they arrived in Holland, the country was taken over by the Nazis. So for nearly seven years, the family moved around from concentration camp to camp.
Not long after seeing freedom, Lazan's father died from typhus, a disease often found in conditions of poor hygiene. It was usually spread through body lice.
It must be kept alive
Lazan arrived in the United States when she was 13, three years after Word War II ended.
She's among the last generation still alive who survived the Holocaust.
"When we're not here any longer, it's you who will have to bear witness to the horror of the Holocaust," Lazan told the students. "It must be studied, taught and kept alive. Only then will we be able to keep it from happening again."
Lazan told the students to love everyone and treat people as individuals.
"Look for similarities and appreciate the differences," she said. "Never generalize and don't judge a group by the actions of one person within that group."
Now 73, Lazan first began speaking about her Holocaust experiences in 1979. Her memoir about the Holocaust, "Four Perfect Pebbles," was published in 1996.
More than 250,000 copies have been printed.
Kershaw Elementary media specialist Pam Bowers says Lazan's visit is priceless, as the students were able to put a real face on a subject they had studied earlier in the year.
"You can tell the kids about it all day, but to hear it from somebody who lived it is amazing," she said. "To talk to somebody who survived all this is bringing history to life."
Contact Jesef Williams
at 283-1152 or