Holocaust survivor speaks to Philly students: 'Hatred against anybody is a destructive thing'

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Thursday, May 9, 2024
Holocaust survivor to students: 'Don't give up, you'll get stronger'
Holocaust survivor speaks to Philly students: 'Hatred against anybody is a destructive thing'

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- It's one thing to read about history. It's an entirely different experience to hear from someone who lived it.

That's exactly what happened Thursday at Franklin Towne Charter High School in Wissinoming.

Holocaust survivor and author Michael Fryd spoke to the students there about his experience, which began when he was just three years old as German forces rounded up his family.

"There will be times when you feel life is terrible, but I believe it is going to get better," said the 88-year-old as he visited the school.

"I love talking to young people...opening up their eyes to something you normally don't get exposure to."

Fryd spent about an hour with high school students talking about his experience surviving the Holocaust when he was a child.

"In 1939, the Germans invaded Poland and soon after we were all rounded up and put behind barbed wire," he said.

"Honestly it blew my mind. Knowing that this generation, we don't get to see a lot of Holocaust survivors," said 10th grader Juliani Cruz.

Prior to Fryd's visit, tenth-grade English students at the school read the 1960 memoir Night, which details the author's Holocaust experience.

Students say hearing from Fryd is even more impactful than reading the story of a Holocaust survivor.

"Hearing from him... (his) words actually hitting me," said 10th grader Azeriah Gonzalez. "(It's) not me reading it and taking it one way. It's somebody actually with feelings and a heart."

Franklin Towne Charter High School English Teacher Tracy Tierney also appreciated the lesson that Fryd's visit added.

"As a teacher, I feel it's very important to have someone who has lived and experienced history come and speak to my students," she said.

The visit was made possible through a collaboration with the Holocaust Awareness Museum in Elkins Park, PA.

"At the Holocaust Awareness Museum, we're dedicated to providing programs to schools," said Fabulous Flores, education director at the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center.

She said that any school that would like to request a speaker can do so on the nonprofit's website hamec.org/.

Fryd told the students how his family escaped captors and then hid out for years.

"We spent the next three years living in a cellar.... Eventually, we were liberated," he said giving much of the credit to his mother who sought out food and resources for his family and other Jewish families.

"My mother, God bless her, is the reason I'm standing here. We spent the next three years living in a cellar. I published a book called 'My Mother's War.'

Fryd hopes that students can also see the bigger picture of his message.

"I want them to get something more than just about the Holocaust," he said. "Hatred against anybody is a destructive thing."

Tenth grader Davianni Herpin understood how the message can be just as impactful today.

"Just so we don't make the same mistakes in the future," she said.

As he answered questions from the audience, Fryd left the students with an inspiring message.

"My experience taught me never to give up," he said. "Don't give up, you'll get stronger. You'll be amazed by what you can do."