April 24, 2003
Survivor Film Aims to Educate Students
As a child at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, Marion Blumenthal Lazan spent hours looking for four identical pebbles inside her shabby living quarters.
"I decided that if I were to find four pebbles of about the same shape and size, that the four members of my family would all survive," explained the Holocaust survivor in "Marion's Triumph," a new documentary narrated by "Will & Grace's" Debra Messing. "Somehow, this gave me something to hold onto, some distant hope."
According to Lazan, now a New Yorker, her story is one "that Anne Frank might have told had she lived." Her four family members did survive, although her father died shortly after being liberated.
John Chua, a Los Angeles filmmaker of Chinese descent, became inspired to create a Holocaust-related documentary in 1994, when students at Castlemont High School in Oakland were reportedly laughing and heckling during a screening of "Schindler's List."
"It came to me that students should be watching an actual testimony and archival footage," Chua said. "Most Holocaust documentaries are not geared at the understanding level of middle school kids. They don't give the background and what the kids felt like."
In his research, Chua found Lazan's young adult novel, co-authored by Lila Perl, "Four Perfect Pebbles" (William Morrow, 1996). The filmmaker contacted the survivor and filmed some of her nationwide speaking engagements at middle schools and high schools.
Adding archival footage and interviews, Chua created an age-appropriate documentary, which is currently making its way into classrooms around the nation.
Like other Holocaust survivors, Lazan is adamant that her story be passed on to future generations.
"The students that hear me today will have to be witnesses, and I ask them to please share my story or any other Holocaust stories," Lazan said. "They'll be the only ones left to tell the story when [I'm] gone, and it's a story that needs to be told."
To order a VHS tape copy of "Marion's Triumph," call Liz at Seventh Art Releasing, (323) 845-1455.