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Holocaust survivor: 'You're the last generation that will hear from us'
Marion Blumenthal Lazan speaks to cadets in Mitchell Hall April 17, 2012, about her experiences during World War II in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, located in northwestern Germany. She told the audience, "I do recognize the importance of sharing that period of history because in a few short years, Holocaust survivors will no longer be able to give a firsthand account of it." (U.S. Air Force photo/Raymond McCoy)
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Holocaust survivor: 'You're the last generation that will hear from us'

Posted 4/20/2012   Updated 4/20/2012 Email story   Print story


by Amber Baillie
Academy Spirit staff writer

4/20/2012 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- To this day, 77 year-old Marion Blumenthal Lazan feels a strong sense of fear whenever she sees a German shephard.

It takes her back to that cold, rainy night in 1944 when she arrived at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at just 9 years old and was threatened along with thousands of other Jews by Nazi guards with vicious police dogs.

Although it's difficult for Lazan to revisit that dark period, she shared her story with 90 cadets on Tuesday at a luncheon in the Mitchell Hall Formal Dining Room for Holocaust Remembrance Week.

"Although I've spoken to an upward of 1 million students and adults over the past 20 years, it still hasn't become easy," Lazan said. "I do recognize the importance of sharing that period of history because in a few short years, Holocaust survivors will no longer be able to give a first- hand account of it."

"You're the last generation that will hear from us, so I ask you to share my story or any of the Holocaust stories that you have read and heard about," she added.

Lazan spoke about her experiences during World War II in Nazi concentration camps, to liberation and how she started her life anew in the United States.

"Mine is a story that Anne Frank might have told had she survived," Lazan said. "This is a story that could bring a message of preservance, determination, faith, and above all, hope."

Lazan said she will never forget the night of Nov. 9, 1938. Often referred to as Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass, Nazis and their followers destroyed Jewish stores, synagogues and books, and Lazan's father was sent to a concentration camp.

"This was the beginning of a massive physical and verbal assault against Jews in Germany," Lazan said. "In reality, this was the beginning of the Holocaust."

The Blumenthal family: Marion, her mother, Ruth, father, Walter and brother, Albert, had filed papers to immigrate to America but we're trapped by the Germans the Netherlands and eventually shipped to a concentration camp.

"When we saw the cattle cars in which we were to travel in, our fears began to mount," Lazan said. "Adults suspected and they somehow knew what was in store for us."

Lazan said while at Bergen-Belsen, 600 people were crammed into crude, wooden barracks with two people per bunk.

"There was no privacy, no toilet paper, no soap and hardly any water to wash with," Lazan said. "In the almost year and a half we were there, never once were we able to brush our teeth."

Lazan said she never knew if she'd survive when she would be marched to the showers once a month.

"Watchful eyes of the guards ordered us to undress and because people had heard about exterminations and gas chambers, we were never quite sure what would come out when the faucets were turned on, water or gas?"

Lazan said death was an everyday occurrence, often caused by malnutrition and dysentery, and the dark living quarters would cause people to trip and fall over the dead.

"We as children saw things that no one, no matter the age, should ever have to see," Lazan said. "I know that you've probably heard and seen movies and documentaries about the Holocaust but the constant foul odor, filth and continuous horror and fear surrounded by death is indescribable. There is no way that this can actually be put into words or pictures."

Lazan said she would play make-believe games in her pastime, one in which became very important to her and eventually the title of her book, "Four Perfect Pebbles."

"I decided that if I was to find four pebbles of about the same size and shape, that it would mean my four family members would all survive," Lazan said. "I always found my four pebbles and this game gave me some distant hope."

Lazon said her meager diet caused her stomach to shrink. Hunger became no longer painful.

"By liberation, at age 10 and half, I weighed 35 pounds and my mother, a mere 60," Lazan said. "There is no doubt in my mind that it was my mother's inner strength and fortitude that finally saw us through."

In April 1945, the Russian army liberated the Nazi train that Lazan and her family were on. The train was headed to the extermination camp and gas chambers.

"It's truly remarkable how any of us were able to survive in such horrendous conditions. Five hundred people died on the route or shortly after."

One of those was Lazan's father, who died of typhus six weeks after liberation.

Two years later, at age 13, Marion and her mother and brother immigrated to the United States.

"It's a wonderful story of how we gradually recuperated and started our lives a new," Lazan said.

Lazan graduated from high school on time, after a delayed education, and married her husband Nathaniel Lazan, who was once a B-25 pilot in the Air Force.

"My relationship with the Air Force goes back to the 1950s," Lazan said. "It was a proud moment when I pinned the silver wings on my husband in 1955 at Reese Air Force Base in Lubbock, Texas."

Lazon said that despite all of the terrible things that happened to her as a child, her life today is full and rewarding.

"I'm very grateful that I survived body, mind and spirit and was able to perpetuate my heritage with my husband and family," Lazan said.

Holocaust Remembrance Day was April 19.

4/24/2012 9:28:18 AM ET
When I was stationed in Germany I visited and went through the Dachau Concentration camp in 1989. The two words inscribed on the wall became the rallying cry for the world NEVER AGAIN
Mike Weber, Ft Walton Beach Fla.
4/23/2012 6:41:45 PM ET
We must NEVER EVER let this happen again.Relaxing and then meditating can greatly help because praying is more effective. Praying though without meditation is also good. We need to pray that this never happens again.Today we need to Pray for Peace. Very very important.This will help so that we achive Peace and so this never ever happens again.
Deborah S., St. Clair Shores MI
4/23/2012 12:38:20 PM ET
May we NEVER FORGET and as a nation may we NEVER let something like this happen again. We can't let the world try and make this disappear. We need to remember so HISTORY DOES NOT REPEAT ITS SELF May GOD BLESS AMERICA and watch over her.
Marjie, Aurora CO
4/22/2012 9:50:34 AM ET
This story brought a tear to my eye. What a wonderful lady to share this experience with the cadets. Remember this history lesson everyone and don't let it happen again.
Susan Betcher, Luray VA
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