Susan Snyder: My name is Susan Snyder and
I am a curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I first came to know of Krystyna
Chiger, who today is Kristine Keren, through another colleague who asked me to contact
her: perhaps I would be interested in her story for an upcoming exhibition that we were
having. I did call her and I asked if she would be willing to loan an artifact that
she wore while she was in hiding. It’s an artifact that has quite a unique story. It
was a sweater that she wore in Lvov. She was a Jewish little girl who had to go into hiding,
and I asked her if she would be willing to lend the sweater for our upcoming exhibition.
And she agreed. Kristine Keren: Wherever I went from place
to place I had one thing that I wanted to wear: it was my sweater that my grandmother
knitted for me before the war. Susan Snyder: When the exhibition ended after
a two-year, multi-city run, I went back to her and I asked her if she would be willing
to donate the sweater. It was a much more of a difficult decision for her to decide
to donate it rather than just to loan it to the Museum. But she agreed, and we acquired
it. You look at the sweater and you think, a seven-year-old
child wore this in the sewers for fourteen months. The sweater is beautifully made; we’ve
looked at it with the conservators and the conservators think the pattern was probably
a pattern her grandmother created herself and hand-knit. And so for Kristine, the sweater
has a very emotional background because it was something that her grandmother had made
for her. The family was imminently going to be deported.
Her father decided they needed to go into hiding. His choice was to break through the
ground of an apartment into the sewage system. And the whole family, along with some dozen
other friends and family, went into the sewers. Just days into being in the sewage system,
they were discovered by a non-Jewish sewer worker, named Leopold Socha. The fear was
that Socha would give the family up to the Gestapo that had occupied the city. So the
family was very fearful of this, but in the end Leopold Socha decided that he was going
to help the family. Kristine’s story really helps us to illustrate
the experiences of Jews who were living in and around Lvov and what happened to them.
Because it’s such an unusual collection to have, and also just that it’s a textile
that managed to survive, it’s extremely important. We use it as a jumping-off point to talk about
the greater history of Lvov. To have this kind of original primary source material is
very important. The Museum is still actively collecting. There
is still a large survivor community and we are very interested in knowing about their
material and their stories. And it’s important to collect it from survivors who can really
tell us as much as possible. Once a survivor passes away, we do not have that history anymore.
If you know survivors or second generation who have materials that would be of interest
to the Museum, we would like to hear from you.