Audience Level: Middle School through Adult – Karen A. Plummer, University of Akron, Akron, Ohio
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
Gr 7 Up – This devastating documentary tells the true stony of Holocaust survivor Marion Blumenthal (who co-wrote the best-seller Four Perfect Pebbles). Expertly mixing archival footage, photographs, and talking head interviews, director John Chua does a commendable job of capturing Blumenthal’s amazing life story. At age 68, she currently travels throughout the United States telling young students about the horrors of the concentration camps. The high schoolers shown sit with rapt attention as she describes the atrocities she witnessed and experienced. Blumenthal was a child in Germany in 1938 when she and her family were sent to a camp. She endured six and a half years of mental and physical torture, Blumenthal discusses this terrifying ordeal, and the video contains graphic footage of the dead and the starving. An imaginative child, she invented a game which involved four perfect pebbles everyday. If she found these four pebbles, this meant that she and her imprisoned father, mother, and brother would survive one more day. The Blumenthals did survive after much hardship, but her father died of typhus six weeks after being saved by the Soviets. Marion’s 94-year-old mother appears in present day interviews, sharp and full of life (but a little hard to under stand—subtitles would have been helpful). Marion’s brother is also filmed. Marion talks about how she immigrated to America in 1948, fell in love with the Statue of Liberty, excelled in school, and is now determined to educate others about the Holocaust. There are touching home movies, one from 1948 of the Blumenthal children enjoying a Purim pageant, and another from 1995 showing Blumenthal returning to the now peaceful places where she was once a prisoner. Although one or two segment seem a bit rushed and the sound is muddy in spots, the technical aspects are fine. Actress Debra Messing’s periodic narration is gentle and tender. This powerful look at one survivor’s strength, dignity, and spirit will be a valuable tool to teach Holocaust history.
—Brian E. Wilson, Evanston Public Library, IL
ALA BOOKLISt, Editor’s Choice
Gr. 6–12. Marion Blumenthal Lazan’s quiet determination and confident speaking manner make an impact. Though difficult, Lazan shares the horrors of her lost youth with audiences. Her memories of incomprehensible pain and torture are expressed with a composure born from the rigorous self-control and restraint she mastered during her childhood when she survived more than six years under the Nazi stranglehold. Excerpts from her speeches intermix with interviews with the warm and engaging Lazan and other family members who together survived the Holocaust. Family and archival photos personalize her story, while documentary footage testifies to the grisly realities of Nazi death camps and transports. Incredible home movies taken after World War II and footage of Marion’s recent return to Germany reveal the ongoing emotional healing. Despite the inclusion of some seemingly unnecessary animation, this fluidly-edited, compelling program digests and broadcasts a searing survivor story. – Ellen Mandel