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Bonnie Sussman to Present at National Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference

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A highly regarded expert in the area of Holocaust education, O’Dowd social studies teacher Bonnie Sussman will present at the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) annual conference, being held in Washington, DC, in December.

Sussman’s presentation, titled “Fighting to Survive! Teenage Diarists during the Holocaust,” will be delivered along with colleagues Lisa Bauman, of Blue Valley West High School in Overland Park, Kansas, and Colleen Tambuscio, of New Milford High School in New Milford, New Jersey. All three are members of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Regional Education Corps, and jointly lead an annual Holocaust Study Tour.

Session attendees will also have an opportunity to meet one of the diarists, Peter Feigl, who wrote about his day-to-day life, fears and hopes for the future. “The diary is fascinating,” Sussman said.

On the faculty at O’Dowd since 1990, Sussman introduced an elective course in Holocaust studies in 1996, and the book Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust, written by Alexandra Zapruder, is a staple in the course.

Sussman, Bauman and Tambuscio have created a study guide, Teaching “Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust,” that provides primary sources and lesson plans for language arts and history teachers to complement Zapruder’s award winning collection of diaries written by young people during the Holocaust. Some of the writers were refugees, others were in hiding or passing as non-Jews, some were imprisoned in ghettos, and nearly all perished before liberation.

The study guides give an overview of the diary entries, provide focus questions, learning goals, activities and assessments.

Sussman is passionate about teaching students about the Holocaust, and believes studying events of the past can provide insight about current conflicts.

“The kids don’t understand how the Holocaust could have happened.” Sussman said, “So we spend a lot of time analyzing behavior, and talking about what it means to be a citizen and the responsibility that we all have to speak out when we feel something is wrong.”  

The best advice Sussman says she can give to students is to care. “Like (Holocaust survivor) Elie Wiesel said, ‘The opposite of love is note hate, it’s indifference’,” Sussman said.


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