‘That’s the burden we carry’

Five Towns event recalls the Holocaust

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Seventy-two years ago to the date that Marion Blumenthal’s family — her father Walter; her mother, Ruth; and Marion and her brother, Albert — were liberated from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945, the Hewlett resident, now Marion Lazan, will be the keynote speaker at a Five Towns Holocaust Remembrance Day event at Congregation Beth Sholom on April 23.

Holocaust Remembrance Day is the 27th day of the Hebrew month Nisan and marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The Greater Five Towns Community Yom Hashoah commemoration will include 23 other synagogues; a reflection by Jake Levy, the fourth-generation descendant of a Holocaust survivor and an eighth-grader at the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway Middle School; a video presentation; and singing by the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach’s fifth-grade choir, directed by Sandy Shmuely.

“I think it really brings the message home,” Nathaniel Rogoff said of having Lazan speak at the remembrance. He is one of two event organizers, along with fellow Woodmere resident Dana Frenkel. “Unfortunately, we won’t have the survivors with us much longer. It’s a lesson we can never forget as Jews, and in the Five Towns that’s the burden we carry.”

Lazan, is now 85, and she and her husband, Nathaniel, 82, travel the world, spreading the message that treating people with kindness and respect is the key to reducing intolerance, and reminding people about the mass killing of Jews and others by the Nazis from the late 1930s through 1945.

Her memoir, “Four Perfect Pebbles,” co-authored with Lila Perl, recounts the Blumenthal family story and the events that shaped her life, including the death of her father, from typhus, six weeks after he was liberated. The book is now in its 28th printing for the hard cover edition, and a 20th anniversary publication is slated for later this year.

“I always say that the important lesson of the dark period of our history is to be kind, good and respectful to each other,” Lazan said in a phone interview. She was in Israel celebrating Passover with her family. “We have to reach out, and ultimately it’s up to us to form a basis for peace and respect between countries.”

The Holocaust defined Lazan’s life, and as a survivor she has shared her story with people of all ages, ranging from elementary schoolchildren to adults.

“I’m always told, ‘It’s amazing’ that it sounds like I told [my story] for the first time,” she said. “Audiences are not all the same. I spoke to University of Notre Dame freshmen and they [had] never heard such a story. All ages identify in some way, and the mission is so very important, as time is running out.”

Holocaust survivors are dying. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum defines survivors as “any persons, Jewish or non-Jewish, who were displaced, persecuted or discriminated against due to the racial, religious, ethnic, social and political policies of the Nazis and their collaborators between 1933 and 1945.” This also includes former concentration camp and prison inmates, ghetto residents and people who were refugees or were in hiding.

The museum’s Registry of Holocaust Survivors contains the names of more than 195,000 survivors and family members, and more are added daily. An increasing number of them, who registered their names and historical information over the past 15 years, are now dead.

Rabbi Kenneth Hain, the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Sholom, said he believes that remembering the Holocaust has never been more important due to the ever-increasing incidents of global violence, with a good portion of it directed against Jews or Israel.

“It demands we take our enemies words seriously,” Hain said. “It calls for world leaders to take Israel’s fear for its security and survival seriously. It calls for world leaders and non-Jews alike, who hope for a better world, to join together on Yom Hashoah and pledge just never forget, and now more than ever, never again!”

Have a story or opinion to share on remembering the Holocaust? Send your letter to the editor to jbessen@liherald.com.