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A story of horror and hope for Holocaust Memorial Day

Copyright: Imperial War Museum

Marion Blumenthal Lazan’s story of horror, hope and the will to survive, is the focus of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations at the University of Sussex on January 25.

In 1938 the Blumenthals made plans to emigrate to the United States as refugees from Nazi Germany. But shortly before the family’s scheduled departure from Rotterdam in spring 1940, the Germans invaded Holland, their ship was bombed and they were trapped. Marion was five years old.

For the next six and half years Marion and her family endured the terrifying and inhumane conditions of Hitler’s camps, including the notorious Bergen-Belsen, where her father contracted typhus and died.

When the war ended, it took three more years of struggle before Marion, her brother Albert and their mother obtained the necessary papers and boarded a ship for the United States.

Marion, whose memoir Four Perfect Pebbles recounts these experiences, has been speaking publically about the Holocaust since 1979 and implores her youngest audiences, ”the very last generation that will hear the story first hand”, to share her story with friends, family “and someday with your children.”

Her talk at the Chowen Lecture Theatre will be followed by the documentary film, Marion’s Triumph. Inspired by her memoir and directed by John Chua, the film features surviving members of the Blumenthal family as well as historical footage and animated flashbacks.

Professor Michael Farthing, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex, will open the programme of events, followed by brief speeches from Brighton and Hove Mayor Councilllor Anne Meadows, University of Sussex Students’ Union President David Cichon and Dr Gideon Reuveni, Director of the University of Sussex’s Centre for German-Jewish Studies.

A discussion on ‘Holocaust Remembrance and why it is important for everyone’, led by Rabbi Julia Neuberger DBE and chaired by Christian Wiese, Visiting Professor at the  Centre for German–Jewish Studies, concludes the day’s events.

The event, which begins at 1.30pm, is free and open to all.

Notes for editors

The University of Sussex Holocaust Memorial Day, organised by the University's Centre for German-Jewish Studies, takes place on Wednesday 25 January in the Medical School Building's Chowen Lecture theatre on the University campus and is open to all. Free entry to this event is made possible by the generous support of the Association of Jewish Refugees.

Julia Neuberger became a rabbi in 1977 and more recently was invited to join the European Council of Religious Leaders.  She was made a Life Peer in 2004 and has been a member of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, the Medical Research Council and the General Medical Council.  She is the author of several books on Judaism, women, healthcare ethics and caring for dying people.  Not Dead Yet, a manifesto for old age, appeared in May 2008, and her latest book, Is That All There Is? Thoughts on the Meaning of Life and Leaving a Legacy, was published in June 2011


1.30 pm Welcome:
Professor Michael Farthing, Vice-Chancellor, University of Sussex;
Councillor Anne Meadows, Mayor of the City of Brighton and Hove;
David Cichon, President, University of Sussex Students’ Union;
Dr Gideon Reuveni, Director, Centre for German-Jewish Studies.

1.45 pm ‘Four Perfect Pebbles – A Holocaust Story’: A Message of Perseverance, Determination, Faith and Hope. Marion Blumenthal Lazan.

2.30 pm Film: Marion’s Triumph, followed by a question and answer session chaired by Gideon Reuveni.

3.45 pm Tea, Sussex Medical School foyer.

4.15 pm Rabbi Julia Neuberger DBE. ‘Holocaust Remembrance and why it is important for everyone’,Chaired by Christian Wiese, Visiting Professor, Centre for German-Jewish Studies.


University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune and Jacqui Bealing. Tel: 01273 678 888. Email:


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By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Monday, 16 January 2012