Survivor recalls life in Nazi camp
Holocaust survivor and author was at the University of Sussex last week talking about her time spent in the Bergen-Belson concentration camp during World War II.
Speaking at a lecture organised by the Centre for German-Jewish Studies and sponsored by the Association of Jewish Refugees, Marion Blumenthal Lazan recounted the conditions faced by the prisoners held by the Nazis.
Undergraduate student Joanna said: “It was really interesting to hear this information first-hand.”
She said it felt more compelling than learning from a textbook.
Mrs Blumenthal Lazan travels to schools, universities and other institutions to tell her story of life in the concentration camp at the hands of the Nazi party.
She recalled the widespread health problems in the camp leading to large numbers of prisoners succumbing to diseases such as typhus and dysentery; her father fell victim to typhus in the war’s immediate aftermath.
The author attributed her survival to a positive mental attitude and a never-give-up approach.
She said it also helped that she had her family by her side.
Mrs. Blumenthal Lazan told the students at the University of Sussex to be thankful for their education.
She said: “Don’t take it for granted,” and wished everyone a peaceful life.
Mrs Blumenthal Lazan also urged other holocaust survivors to speak out as well and make their experiences known as she said the number of people able to do so will only diminish.
Before the outbreak of war, she and her family had lived comfortably above their shoe business in Hoya, north of Hanover.
As the Jewish population were stripped of their civil rights, the family decided to move and were granted the paperwork to do so.
She travelled with her parents and brother to the Netherlands, from where they planned to emigrate to the United States.
During the interim period they were contained at the Dutch Westerbork camp, which mainly housed Jews from Germany but also other countries.
The family was thrown a lifeline when they were selected to be exchanged for German prisoners being held in Britain and were transferred from the Netherlands to Bergen-Belson, where the transfer was due to happen.
It was at this point that the Blumenthal family discovered that their names were not on, or had been removed from, the list of prisoners to be exchanged, and that they were to remain in Bergen-Belson.
It was only after the war was over that the Blumenthals received their paperwork and were finally able to emigrate to the United States, and they are still living in New York today.
After emigrating, Marion Blumenthal Lazan published the book ‘Four Perfect Pebbles’, which documents her experiences.
The title comes from a game she played whilst held captive in Bergen-Belson.
She set herself the task of finding four pebbles exactly the same dimensions to represent each member of her family; if she found all four then it meant that they would all survive.