Teaching Tolerance

Marion Blumenthal Lazan
Marion Blumenthal Lazan poses with students
A nonfiction book read by middle school students was brought to life when the author visited the school on October 25 to tell her life story in person. Holocaust survivor Marion Blumenthal Lazan shared the shocking details of her life in a concentration camp and life after the Holocaust. Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator David Ethe stated that her book and visit complemented the social studies curriculum, which as required by New York State, includes lessons focusing on the Holocaust and other human rights violations.
 
In her book, “Four Perfect Pebbles,” Lazan describes how along with her parents and brother, she survived abusive conditions in Westerbork, a death camp in Holland. The German-born Jewish girl, just nine years old, often had one piece of bread for an entire week and weighed only 35 pounds. Sharing a straw-filled mattress with her mother, they could not bathe often, had lice, infections and only one thin blanket during brutally cold winters. When they were allowed to shower, stripping their clothes in front of the guards, they did so in fear, not certain if the showers would spout water or deadly gases. Lazan’s father and brother were together in another part of the camp where men were held and forced to do hard labor.
 
She credits her survival and her positive view of life on her mother’s determination to live. After being liberated from the camp, Lazan came to the United States with her mother and brother. Her father had died only a few weeks after being liberated. Her mother lived to be 104-years-old, enjoying a full life with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
 
Lazan not only shared what it was like to live in a concentration camp but explained why it is important to treat others well, to accept differences in each other and to avoid making negative comments on social media. She and her husband have traveled to Germany to help educate children there about the atrocities that took place in their country. “We must share the story so that it never happens again,” Lazan explained.

Sixth-grade teacher Evelyn Mason said Lazan’s message was impactful. “This may be the most important message they will ever learn - to be respectful; to be the best person you can be; to treat others as you would yourself and to stand up against bullies.” She added, “If we all follow those simple rules, the rest will fall into place.” 

Sixth-grade teacher Michele Gaglione explained that the sixth grade studies the topic of the Holocaust each year, culminating in a visit to The Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County. This experience was even more impactful. “I know I will hold her message with me every day of my life and I hope the students will do the same.”