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The Green Sweater

Aug 28, 2020 by Eileen Adler

Our memories come and go, sometimes unaware of why, at this moment, something is remembered from long ago that was forgotten or hidden away. The memory of Krystyna Chiger was of a green sweater knitted for her by her loving paternal grandmother. The memory she’d like to forget is the fourteen months of hiding in a sewer below the ghetto in the city of Lvov, Poland during World War II, 1943-1944, for she and her family, being Jewish, were hiding from the Gestapo along with sixteen other desperate Jewish people. Through the entire ordeal, seven-year-old Krystyna wore her green sweater, which by the end of the war was in pitiful shape.

The war finally ended, and the family survived.
Krystyna Chiger moved to Israel and studied to become a dentist. While there she met her husband, Marian Keren, also a Holocaust survivor. Today they live in New York, the parents of two children and two beautiful grandchildren. Her Green Sweater is on display at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Krystyna donated to the museum and that’s where Lea Stern saw it and became haunted by it; she felt compelled to recreate it, throughout the process thinking about the sweater and what this child had experienced. Lea Stern visited Krystyna, bringing with her all the prototypes knitted by family and friends to invite Krystyna to select the one closest to her memory. “Now I have my sweater back,” she exclaimed when she held the sweater to her heart, hugging it. The sweater represents the survival and an act of love when her grandmother knitted it for her it in 1939.

The recreated sweater knitting pattern is available here and the proceeds will be donated to the Holocaust Museum.  

Museum curator Susan Snyder shares the story behind the donation of a young girl’s green sweater.

Rubin, Amy. “Oral history Interview with Kristine Keren.” 2007. Accession Number: 2007.349, RG Number: RG-50.030.0520.  

Chiger, Krystyna and Daniel Paisner. The Girl in the Green Sweater: A Life in Holocaust's Shadow. 2012. New York: St. Martin's Griffin; Media Tie-In edition.