Holocaust survivor recounts Nazi terrors to Mundelein High students
Marion Blumenthal Lazan, whose memoir "Four Perfect Pebbles" has been read by many Mundelein High students this year, recounted how 600 people lived in a barracks building made for 100, two people to each bunk. She talked of malnutrition, dysentery, lice and carts full of the bodies of her fellow Jews.
Roughly 50,000 people died at that camp, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum website, including famed diarist Anne Frank.
"Death was an everyday occurrence," Lazan told the respectfully silent audience.
And then there was the day in April 1945 when Lazan and her family were among the prisoners forced aboard a freight train headed to an extermination camp in Eastern Europe, only to be liberated by Russian troops before reaching their destination.
Emigration to the United States came three years later.
The number of people who were alive during World War II is declining, and that's also true for Holocaust survivors. Lazan appealed to the students to share her story with their families and eventually their children.
"In a few short years, we will not be here to give these firsthand accounts," she said. "I hope you can prevent our past from becoming your future."
Despite the grim history lesson, Lazan, who now lives in New York, also delivered a message of love and tolerance.
She urged the students to "be kind, good and respectful toward one another" as a way to prevent future atrocities. Don't blindly follow leaders, she cautioned, and don't generalize about people who are different.
At one point she introduced her husband, Nathaniel, and the couple received generous applause.
Diane Covert, head of Mundelein High's English and English language learner department, called Lazan's hourlong presentation "amazing."
"Her message of peace and hope and faith is something we really need in our world today," Covert said.