On Wednesday, March 30, nearly 100 Cudahy High School students, including students from Cudahy’s Literacy in Action class, shared a powerful message on tolerance and acceptance from Holocaust survivor Susie Fono. Fono, a long time resident of Milwaukee, delivered a powerful message based on her experiences with tragedy and survival under both the Nazi and Soviet occupations of Hungry.
Susie Fono was only seven years old when the Nazis attacked and took over her homeland of Hungary. Despite her young age, she remembered the day when the Nazis imposed ethnic laws on the Jewish population. Ms. Fono spoke of the day-to-day battles of survival with her family, recounting how she and her sister were banned from dancing in the Budapest ballet, as well as sharing feelings about being labeled with the yellow star. She was able to engage students, communicating her feeling of uncertainty when her father was taken away to a labor camp, and how her mother fought to keep the family together. She also shared pictures of her beloved grandparents who were taken away and never seen again.
Sonja Rhode teacher of Literacy in Action states: “When I heard about Susie Fono, our class was investigating the following question: ‘Why do people challenge expectations?’ This question centered around the theme ‘Against the Odds’. We looked at this question from our own personal perspectives and experiences, then from others perspectives presented through the entries in the Freedom Writers' Diaries plus through the lyrics of India Arie's song ‘Strength, Courage and Wisdom.’ Susie's message was a good fit with the juxtaposition of these two texts.”
Rhode also noted: “We continued to investigate different perspectives to answer how society influences our choices. Looking at the short story by Guy de Maupassant ‘The Necklace’, and a contemporary memoir by Farah Ahmedi, entitled ‘The Fashion Show’. The message delivered in these texts, and that of Susie Fono, are the same - That we cannot forget what making-fun of others and discriminating against others leads to.”
Fono bore witness to those who did not survive the Holocaust and spoke candidly for tolerance and acceptance. Many students left quietly, holding back the sadness that had encompassed the room. Others felt the need to reach out to Ms. Fono with a hug and a smile.
“Susie Fono’s message was a very powerful one that will definitely stay with me for some time,” states senior Sarah Kepper. “She talked of respecting and accepting each other’s differences. The first-hand experience was something I had never heard before, and the details given made it all the more real to me. History is my favorite subject and I’m very grateful for this rare opportunity to listen to a lady who lived through one of the most significant and influential events of all time.”
Fono’s story message is not to hate or regret the Holocaust, but to have the power to overcome hardships with the support of family and friends.
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