The Girl in the Green Sweater A Life in Holocaust's Shadow

Krystyna Chiger with Daniel Paisner

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

304 Pages


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In 1943, with Lvov's 150,000 Jews having been exiled, killed, or forced into ghettos and facing extermination, a group of Polish Jews daringly sought refuge in the city's sewer system. The last surviving member of this group, Krystyna Chiger, shares one of the most intimate, harrowing and ultimately triumphant tales of survival to emerge from the Holocaust.The Girl in the Green Sweater is Chiger's first-person account of the fourteen months she spent with her family in the fetid, underground sewers of Lvov.

The Girl in the Green Sweater is also the story of Leopold Socha, the group's unlikely savior. A Polish Catholic and former thief, Socha risked his life to help Chiger's underground family survive, bringing them food, medicine, and supplies. A moving memoir of a desperate escape and life under unimaginable circumstances, The Girl in the Green Sweater is ultimately a tale of intimate survival, friendship, and redemption.


Praise for The Girl in the Green Sweater

"Despite the substantial number of Holocaust memoirs that have been published, The Girl in the Green Sweater manages to touch us in an unexpected way, revealing highs and lows in man’s capacity for evil, as well as his capacity to love life and other human beings. Through the eyes of the child that Krystyna Chiger was in Lvov, Poland, in 1939 we see the whole moral universe."Naomi Ragen, author of The Saturday Wife and The Covenant

"Krystyna Chiger provides keen insight into her escape as a child from the Lvov ghetto, and her family's breathtaking survival for over a year in a web of sewer tunnels beneath the city. The Girl in the Green Sweater is a tribute to the ingenuity of Chiger's parents, who kept their family intact and able to survive the unimaginable. An important addition to Holocaust literature that vividly describes a harrowing childhood faced with enormous strength and courage."—Michael Bart, author of Until Our Last Breath: A Holocaust Story of Love and Partisan Resistance

"A haunting survival story you will not soon forget . . . A straightforward account of [Chiger's] family's witness to the incredible sadism, suffering, and cruelty heaped upon the Jews of Lvov under the Russians and then Hitler. Throughout Chiger's story, time and again, we are vividly reminded that we humans—even as very young and frightened children—are capable of enduring, and surviving, much, much more than we know."—Karen Tintori, author of Unto the Daughters: The Legacy of an Honor Killing in a Sicilian-American Family and Trapped: The 1909 Cherry Mine Disaster

"This often unimaginable survival story should not be missed."—Port Washington News (Port Washington, New York)

"Four-year-old Chiger thought of herself as a princess in her family's grand home in Lvov, Poland, in 1939. But things quickly changed as the Germans took all their belongings, their business, and their house, and moved them into one room in the ghetto. Finally, survival meant hiding for 14 months in the dark, slimy, airless sewers under the city. Leopold Socha, a sewer inspector, brought the family and 17 other people food, supplies, and news of the outside world, saving them and, he hoped, his soul as well. Although the survivors paid him, he continued to help them long after their money had run out. To keep warm, Chiger wore a green sweater knitted lovingly for her by her grandmother. The garment is now on display in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, along with her appalling story. The author writes with a compelling style that imparts the horrors of the sewer, the cruelty of the Gestapo, and the Russian 'liberation.' From her grand home to the sewers of Lvov, Chiger's exceptional story of a small Jewish girl stands out among the many Holocaust survival narratives as one that will touch the hearts of teens and adults alike and bring home the horrors of this very dark period in history. Use it to personalize the study of the Holocaust in world history, social justice, or psychology class."—Ellen Bell, Amador Valley High School, Pleasanton, California, School Library Journal

"Gripping memoir of a Polish family that escaped the Nazi liquidation of Jews by living in sewers for 14 months. Assisted by veteran co-author Paisner, Chiger begins her story with short, colorful childhood memories of idyllic life in prewar Lvov: 'Like a princess. That is how I grew up, like a character from a storybook fable.' With the Nazi invasion on September 1, 1939, however, everything in four-year-old Krystyna's life unraveled. Under the Hitler-Stalin nonaggression pact, at first the Soviets ruled eastern Poland, including Lvov. They nationalized her parents' textile shop and forced the family to take additional residents into its spacious apartment, but things were 'mostly okay.' But not after Hitler declared war on Russia in June 1941, and the Nazis occupied all of Poland. They used Ukrainian soldiers to terrorize and persecute Lvov's 150,000 Jews; theft, destruction of Jewish businesses, systematic forced labor and murder became everyday experiences. Chiger's father Ignacy had one goal: to keep his family safe. To that end he unashamedly employed guile and bribes; even his expert carpentry skills came in handy to construct secret spaces in which his daughter and son could hide during 'liquidation actions.' When Nazis invaded Lvov's Jewish ghetto for a final 'action' in May 1943, the Chiger family and five other Jews descended into the city's filthy sewers to hide. They were helped by a Catholic sewer worker who saw their salvation as a means of atoning for his early life as a criminal. Lively prose deftly describes the smell, the pitch-dark, the cold, the rats and the harrowing fear of being discovered by Nazis. Through it all, Ignacy Chiger's ever-present sense of humor kept his family strong . . . Captures both tragic events and beautiful images that continue to haunt the author after more than 60 years."—Kirkus Reviews

"A gripping account of survival and friendship."George Cohen, Booklist

"In this puissant memoir, Holocaust survivor Chiger and co-author Paisner detail Chiger's early years, largely spent hiding from Nazi and Ukrainian persecution. Told from a precocious child's point of view, Chiger chronicles long, dark hours spent in silence with her younger brother, Pawel, in makeshift bunkers and behind false walls while their parents worked menial jobs for meager rations. Chiger's seven-year-old cypher possesses a self-awareness that springs from her inner and outer turmoil, capturing well the despair and terror of a life in hiding. After the Chigers are forced into the underground sewer system, with a collection of strangers, by the Lvov ghetto liquidation in May 1943, the family spends fourteen months in the most unsanitary conditions imaginable, sharing quarters with rats and human waste. Amid the sick and starving, young Chiger clings to hope through make believe games, trust in her parents, and the Catholic sewer worker who provides their only access to the outside world. With a powerful story and a keen voice, Chiger's Holocaust survivor's tale is a worthy and memorable addition to the canon."—Publishers Weekly

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THE GIRL IN THE GREEN SWEATER by Krystyna Chiger, Daniel Paisner | Kirkus Book Reviews
Read the Kirkus Review of THE GIRL IN THE GREEN SWEATER A Life in Holocaust's Shadow. Gripping memoir of a Polish family that escaped the Nazi liquidation of Jews by living in sewers for 14 months.

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Read an Excerpt

KRYSTYNA CHIGER survived the Holocaust by hiding with her family in the sewers of Lvov, Poland for 14 months. A retired dentist, she lives in Long Island.  DANIEL PAISNER has collaborated on many books, including the New York Times bestselling Last Man Down: A Firefighter's Story of Survival and Escape from the World Trade Center.

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  • Krystyna Chiger with Daniel Paisner

  • Krystyna Chiger survived the Holocaust by hiding with her family in the sewers of Lvov, Poland for 14 months. A retired dentist, she lives in Long Island. 

    Daniel Paisner has collaborated on many books, including the New York Times bestselling Last Man Down: A Firefighter's Story of Survival and Escape from the World Trade Center.