German school named for Holocaust survivor

By Erin Wood Miller ’09 

Marion Blumenthal Lazan

MARION BLUMENTHAL LAZAN ’57 was the keynote speaker at Bradley’s Constitution Day in September 2009. Photo by Duane Zehr.

Holocaust survivor MARION BLUMENTHAL LAZAN ’57 doesn’t have distinct memories of Hoya, Germany. She was four when her family fled the small town for refuge in Holland, hoping to one day reach America and evade persecution by the Nazis.

But more than 70 years later, Marion’s hometown hasn’t forgotten her. On November 11, 2010, Hoya named its new high school the Marion Blumenthal Hauptschule, marking the first time a German school has been named for a living female Holocaust survivor.

“It’s not so much about me as it is about this little courageous town of just a few thousand people who are redressing the heinous and horrendous acts committed by the Nazis against Jewish people,” Marion said. “The tolerance and respect being shown by this town is huge, and it is my hope and prayer that this example will be emulated by other oppressive societies in the world.”

After Germany invaded Holland in 1940, the Blumenthals spent more than six years in camps that included Westerbork in Holland and the notorious Bergen-Belsen in Germany. They survived, but Marion’s father succumbed to typhus six weeks after liberation.

Thanks to the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society, Marion, her mother, and her brother ALBERT BLUMENTHAL '55, settled in Peoria in 1948. At age 13, Marion was placed in fourth grade because of her inability to speak English. However, she graduated from Peoria High School five years later, then attended Bradley.

Online

Visit bradley.edu/hilltopics/go/lazan to view a video of the school naming ceremony.

It took more than 30 years for Marion to speak publicly about her Holocaust experiences, but she has since shared her story with thousands and co-authored a memoir in 1996, Four Perfect Pebbles. “I am busy helping people of all ages learn the lessons from this dark period of history. My messages are simple. Don’t follow a leader blindly, and be kind, good, and respectful to one another.”

One of Marion’s presentations led to the naming of the new school. The principal, a teacher at the time, heard Marion speak in 2001 and contacted her last year. “There is not one Jewish person in Hoya, but this little town is doing everything in its power to redress the evil of the past,” Marion said.

She and her husband NATHANIEL LAZAN ’54 have three children and 9 grandchildren and live in Hewlett, New York.

For more information about Marion, visit fourperfectpebbles.com.