Holocaust survivor to speak on hope, perseverance

Holocaust lecture

Holocaust lecture

Christie Smith

One of the world’s few remaining Holocaust survivors will speak at the Great Hall in the Memorial Union at 7 p.m.

Marion Blumenthal Lazan is the coauthor of Four Perfect Pebbles, a memoir detailing her family’s experience in refugee and concentration camps during WWII, as well as the subject of the PBS documentary Marion’s Triumph: Surviving History’s Nightmare.

Lazan was born in Hoya, Germany, in 1934, according to her memoir Four Perfect Pebbles. Her parents worked in a family-owned shoe store in the small German town.

As the Nazis rose to power in Germany, the Blumenthal family applied for visas to come to America, but did not escape Germany in time. Lazan, her older brother and parents spent more than six years in refugee and concentration camps; enduring the infamous “death trains” and battling disease, starvation and tragedy.

Lazan and her family occupied several camps in Holland and Germany, including the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where Anne Frank died, according to her Bradley University biography.

When finally released from Nazi control, 11-year-old Lazan weighed just 35 pounds, according to Marion’s Triumph. Lazan was released along with her mother and brother; her father did not survive the Holocaust.

In 1948, the Blumenthal family was granted permission to emigrate to the United States. They lived in New York City before settling in Peoria, Illinois.

As one of few survivors still able to tell the tale, Lazan travels the world to speak not just of the pain and suffering she endured, but to spread “a message of determination, perseverance, faith and hope.”

Lazan is making her journey to Iowa State as part of the lecture series sponsored by the Health Promotion Club, ISU Hillel, Ames Jewish Congregation, Jewish Federation, Kawaler Foundation Fund for Judaic Studies and the Committee on Lectures funded by Student Government.

Health Promotion Club’s president Spencer Cain, senior in kinesiology and health, discovered Lazan’s story when she sat next to him on a flight. Cain opened up to his seatmate about a difficult situation he was in and was surprised to learn about Lazan’s tale of triumph, he said.

After parting at the airport, Lazan’s sense of hope stuck with Cain.

“I thought, I have to at least reach out and say thank you for opening my eyes and just thanks for that cool interaction we had,” Cain said.

Cain emailed Lazan through her website and started a correspondence that has now lasted more than a year.

With the support of the Health Promotion Club and the Lectures Committee, Cain helped organize Lazan’s trip to Ames.

In addition to speaking at Iowa State, Cain said Lazan will also be speaking at Ames Middle School and Drake University during her stay in Iowa.