Marion Blumenthal Lazan, a longtime Hewlett resident, has received the highest honor given by the German government, for her courageous retelling of her experience of living through the Holocaust.
“We’re running out of time — this is the last generation that’s going to hear this firsthand — but the questions answered and the lessons learned is what’s so important,” Lazan said.
David Gill, the consul general of Germany, welcomed Lazan, 89, and about 20 of her family members and friends to his New York City apartment on Jan. 21, where he presented her with a Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, given to individuals for their service to the nation.
“By sharing your experience as an eyewitness and survivor of the Holocaust, you help to preserve the remembrance for further generations and contribute to the fight against anti-Semitism and to keeping the demand of ‘Never Again’ alive,” Gill wrote in the letter informing Lazan of the award.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier selected Lazan for the award, which recognizes achievements in entrepreneurial, global, philanthropic, religious, scientific and social work, explained Eva Maria Marks, head of press at the consul general’s office. About 1,000 people are honored each year by the German government, in a tradition that began in 1951.
During the ceremony, Gill recounted Lazan’s story from birth to early childhood in her hometown of Hoya, Germany, her family’s desire to immigrate to America in the face of rising antisemitism, and the six and a half years she spent in refugee, transit and concentration camps in Netherlands and Germany before Jews were liberated in 1945. He spoke of her strength and “unwavering belief in humanity,” and noted that she chose a path of advocacy and education after the Holocaust.
“It is truly impressive, and cannot be praised enough, how much time and effort Marion Blumenthal Lazan devotes to public speaking, addressing students at various levels of education worldwide, as well as adult audiences in religious institutions and civic organizations,” Gill said.
Michael Lazan, Marion’s son, spoke of the success of her book, “Four Perfect Pebbles,” which has sold 800,000 copies in five languages, her global presentations, and her tireless efforts to promote Holocaust education.
“In a time marred by a disturbing rise in antisemitism and alarming ignorance about the Holocaust, this honor is particularly significant,” Michael said. “It signifies a commitment by the German government to combating historical ignorance and fostering a world where tolerance prevails.”
In an email Lazan’s daughter, Susan Weinberg, shared a news release about the award, noting its added significance amid a resurgence of antisemitism.
“Marion Blumenthal Lazan, at the age of 89, remains undeterred in her mission to combat misinformation and educate people about the Holocaust,” Weinberg wrote. “The global rise in anti-Semitism … serve(s) as a stark reminder of the critical importance of her tireless efforts.”
“It was an extraordinary, extraordinary, beyond extraordinary experience,” Lazan said of the award ceremony. “I didn’t know what to expect, but it was quite elaborate.”
She said she planned to continue sharing her story with people of all ages around the world.
“Be kind and good and respectful towards one another — I keep saying that that’s the basis for peace,” she said. “Such a simple, simple message, and so difficult to achieve.”