Though she doesn't remember for certain, Marion Blumenthal Lazan said she must have seen Anne Frank when they were both prisoners in the Nazi-controlled Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
But she was a teenager, recalled Lazan, who spoke at area schools and libraries last week. "What use would she have had for a 9-year-old girl?"
But while Frank's story ended with her tragic death, Lazan's story is filled with endurance, determination, faith and survival.
Lazan was sent to Bergen-Belsen along with her parents and brother Albert, one month before the family had scheduled a flight to the United States.
At the camp, the family was starved, living on watery soup and one small piece of stale bread each day. Lazan said she barely bathed and that her clothes and hair were infested with lice.
"I played make-believe games to pass the time," said Lazan. "I would search for four perfect little pebbles, each one representing a member of my family. I thought that if I found them, then we would all make it out alive."
While all four family members survived their imprisonment, Lazan's father died of typhus shortly after the war ended.
Lazan, now 73 years old, weighed only 35 pounds in the spring of 1945 at age 10. Slowly, she regained her strength and began her education.
At age 13, Lazan immigrated to the United States. Landing in Peoria, Ill., Lazan was placed in the fourth grade with 9-year-olds. Though she spoke little English, Lazan persevered, graduating with honors from high school only five years later.
Lazan also met her future husband in Peoria.
Nathaniel Lazan was a student at Bradley University, who fell in love with the 16-year-old Marion at first sight.
"I saw her at a Yom Kippur service, and I asked to walk her home," said Lazan. "I've been walking her home ever since."