Long Island Teen Connects With His Roots, Meets Holocaust Survivor

Posted on April 25, 2023

PLAINVIEW, NY — Amid an unsettling time for Jews as acts of anti-Semitism are surging, the United Jewish Appeal paired dozens of Long Island teens with Holocaust survivors.

Due to the lack of remaining eyes from this vital part of world history, each survivor was grouped with a dozen or so students for the Witness Project.

One of the teens, Henry Kettner, is a 10th grader at Plainview-Old Bethpage-J.F.K. High School.

“I thought it would be a really good idea to try and pass on their stories to make sure that they’re never forgotten,” Kettner told Patch.

Kettner, 16, is the only student from his school participating in this program. He would meet his survivor Sabine Breier, who lives in Westbury, every two weeks at the Sid Jacobsen JCC in East Hills.

Even though Sabine was an infant when the Holocaust broke out for her family in Berlin, she brought plenty of perspective to the students.

“Each time she told us more and more about her story,” he said. “She had her older sister with her. [Sabine] got a lot of the stories from her.”

Sabine and her sister were saved by the Kindertransport, a rescue mission in Europe transporting children away from the Nazis.

They were brought to the U.K., living with foster families in England until Sabine was eight. Relatives arranged for her migration to the U.S. a year later with a Jewish family.

While Kettner, who is Jewish, has knowledge of the Holocaust, he was not familiar with the Kindertransport.

The time with Sabine will last a lifetime for Kettner, but for the project, it was culminating with conversations by many of the students Monday night at the Tilles Center.

“I feel it’s a good thing connecting to my roots. I think it’s a really good opportunity, even if you’re not Jewish,” Kettner said of the experience. “Their stories–they’re so insightful. I really enjoyed it.”

As Jews live with anti-Semitism as a reality in society, Kettner learned firsthand how it can spread with such serious consequences.

“It definitely shows what hatred can lead to and what the drawbacks and implications are of hatred,” he said.

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