JOPLIN, Mo. — As a child in Germany's Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Marion Blumenthal Lazan focused on finding four pebbles of the same shape and size. Success would mean that the four members of her family would survive the Nazi camp, she rationalized with a 9-year-old's innocence.
“This game gave me something to hold onto, some distant hope,” Lazan said Monday night. “I made it my business to find those four pebbles.”
Lazan, now 78, shared the memory from a camp in northwest Germany for several hundred people in a packed auditorium at Missouri Southern State University. It's a story she's told publicly for more than 30 years, and wrote about in a book, "Four Perfect Pebbles: A Holocaust Story," published in 1996. It's a story that Lazan urged her audience - especially younger ones - to pass along as the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles.
“It is your generation that is the last generation that will hear these stories firsthand,” she said. “When we are not here anymore, it is you who will have to bear witness.”
Lazan was the younger child of a Jewish family living above its shoe store in Germany in the 1930s. The Blumenthals — father Walter, mother Ruth, son Albert and daughter Marion — received papers they needed to immigrate to the United States as the Nazi party began its crusade against the Jews. In 1939, they left for Holland, from where they would depart.
But, in May 1940, one month before they were scheduled to leave for the United States, the Germans invaded Holland. The family was trapped at Westerbork transit camp.
They remained there nearly four years, until January 1944, when they and other Jews were shipped out in cattle cars for a Nazi camp in eastern Europe. Lazan and the other young children were naively “glad for the change of environment,” she said. The adults feared what lie ahead.