SHERIFF VINCENT DEMARCO COURTESY PHOTO | Holocaust survivor and author Marion Lazan-Blumenthal addresses inmates at the Suffolk County jail in Riverside Wednesday.
About 50 inmates gathered to listen to a message of hope delivered by Holocaust survivor and author Marion Lazan-Blumenthal in the Suffolk County Correction Facility chapel.
Ms. Lazan-Blumenthal spoke with incarcerated minors, women, and men about her Holocaust experience, recalling six and a half years of her childhood, during which she was forced to live in refugee, transit, and prison camps, including Westerbork in Holland and Bergen-Belsen in Germany.
She is the author of the book “Four Perfect Pebbles,” a memoir of her experience.
“No one is spared adversity. We all have issues to overcome. Above all, don’t ever give up hope,” Ms. Lazan- Blumenthal told the inmates Wednesday in the jail’s chapel.
People were just intrigued by what she was saying,” said Kristin MacKay, a correctional facility spokeswoman. “When she began talking about her mother, one kid started getting visibly upset, teary. He told her about how he gets upset when his mother comes to visit him in jail. He was inspired by what she said.”
“Incarceration isn’t easy, and while the experience of holocaust survivors was far more challenging and punitive than any American correctional setting, Marion’s story of survival and success resonated with our inmates,” said Sheriff Vincent DeMarco said after the event.
Ms. Lazan- Blumenthal spoke for about an hour, at times pausing to take questions or offer words of encouragement.
“The women all went up and hugged her,” Ms. MacKay said. “They were just very, very touched that she came.”
The facility regularly hosts speakers as part of the sheriff’s special incarcerated youth program, but doesn’t typically allow both incarcerated men and women in the chapel at the same time,
Community volunteer Liz Stokes, who helped organize the event, paved the way for Mrs. Lazan- Blumenthal’s visit, Ms. MacKay said.
Ms. Stokes moderates a self-help group and book club for incarcerated women at facility.
“She’ll often bring books in for the women, stories about survival, hope and courage,” Ms. MacKay said.
She brought in Mrs. Lazan-Blumenthal’s memoir for the inmates to read and reached out to Ms. Lazan-Blumenthal, asking her to visit.
Ms. Lazan-Blumenthal originally made arrangements to come in November, but had to reschedule after Hurricane Sandy. It was her fourth visit to a correctional facility.
She said she particularly enjoys speaking with troubled youth.
“They need to know that the outside does care, and that we want to help them, and see that there is a bright horizon out there, not just what they were involved in,” Ms. Lazan- Blumenthal said in an interview. “Above all these young people needed the extra attention, they needed the hugs, and many hugs were shared.”
“They were hugely responsive. They had questions and they were truly involved in the presentation, I could tell,” Ms. Lazan- Blumenthal said.
Mr. DeMarco said “she drove home the message that regardless of their present circumstances in life, they can have a very good life if they are determined enough to change its course.”
For information on Marion Lazan- Blumenthal’s holocaust experience visit http://www.fourperfectpebbles.com.