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Green striped wool knit cardigan made from a US Army blanket by a Jewish refugee in a DP camp

Object | Accession Number: 2007.511.2

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    Green striped wool knit cardigan made from a US Army blanket by a Jewish refugee in a DP camp


    Brief Narrative
    Green wool cardigan made by Olga Waldman while she was living in the Neu Friemann displaced persons camp near Munich, Germany, from 1945-1949. She knitted the sweater from the wool yarn of an unraveled US Army blanket. Olga and her eleven year old son, Mark, were visiting her parents in Srerszeniowce, Poland, when it was occupied by Soviet forces in September 1939. In March 1941, Germany broke the Nazi-Soviet Pact and invaded the town, deporting many Jewish inhabitants to the Tluste ghetto (Tovste, Ukraine). Olga procured false identities and she and her son escaped from the ghetto to Podhajce where they met Olga's brother, Israel. Afraid that they had been recognized, they went into hiding and left for Lvov. Olga and Mark separated from Israel and lived as Polish Catholics. The town was liberated by Soviet troops in 1944. After the war ended in 1945, they were repatriated to Poland. Mark's father, Pinkum, was killed in Majdanek concentration camp. Olga and Mark left Poland for Germany where they stayed in Dorth-Winau and Neu Friemann displaced persons camp for four years until emigrating to the US in 1949.
    use:  1945-1949
    use: Neu Freimann (Displaced persons camp); Neufreimann (Munich, Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Linda Wisen
    Subject: Olga Wisen
    Artist: Olga Wisen
    Olga Waldman was born in Breslau, Germany, (Wroclaw, Poland) on March 7, 1904, to Anna and Meier. She married Pinio Wisniarski and they had one son, Mark, born in Lublin, Poland, on July 23, 1934. Pinio sold household linens and bedcovers. Olga and Mark were visiting her parents in Szerszeniowce when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939; Pinio had remained behind in Lublin. A few weeks later, while Olga and Mark were with her parents, the Soviet Union occupied the town which was in eastern Poland which had been designated Soviet territory under the Nazi-Soviet Pact. The borders were closed and Olga and Mark remained in Szerszeniowce where Mark began first grade. Olga and her parents were afraid that they might be deported because her father was a landowner and beet farmer and the Soviet Communist government would want the land for a collective farm. During the summer of 1940, they spent their nights in the fields to avoid arrest.

    In June 1941, Germany broke the Nazi-Soviet Pact, invaded the Soviet Union, and soon occupied Szerszeniowce. Olga, Mark, her parents, and her brother, Laeb, and his wife were deported to the Tluste (Tvoste, Ukraine) ghetto. There were frequent Aktions when the Germans would arrest large groups of people for deportation to concentration camps. During these round-ups, the family would hide with a dozen or more people in underground burrows in a nearby stable and barn. One day, Mark was discovered alone by a German soldier who told Mark to take him to his house. The soldier then threatened to shoot everyone unless they gave him gold; they had some jewelry which they handed over to him. Living conditions were harsh in the ghetto; hunger and disease were widespread and Olga’s father, Meier, died of typhus. Olga had been corresponding regularly with Pinio in Lublin. But in the early winter of 1941, a letter that she had sent him was returned and the family believed that he was dead. The family decided that Olga and Mark had the best chance for survival outside the ghetto, as they could pass for Polish Catholics since they did not look Jewish and were fluent in Polish. Olga was able to obtain false papers for herself and her son and they left Tluste after four months. They traveled to Podhajce, Poland, where they met Olga’s brother, Israel. Israel was an engineer and Olga worked as his secretary. At some point they became afraid that they had been recognized and they left for Czortkow and then went to Lvov, (Lviv, Ukraine) hiding in barns along the way. In Lvov, they separated from Israel. Olga began a trade making marzipan which Mark sold on the street. Soon she began to get regular orders from local candy shops. Mark attended the fourth grade and they both became active in the Catholic Church. Mark became an altar boy and received his first communion.

    In the late summer of 1944, Lvov was liberated by the Soviet Army. Olga and Mark were afraid of retaliation and attacks against Jews after the war, so they continued to live as Polish Catholics. Israel rejoined them in May 1945 after the war ended. That summer, they were repatriated by the Soviets to Bytom, Poland, where they reclaimed their Jewish identities. Israel destroyed Mark’s awards and papers referring to his Catholicism. With the assistance of the American Joint Distribution Committee (Joint) and the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), they left Poland for Germany via Czechoslovakia. In one camp, where they lived for six weeks, Israel acquired a wife, Sophie. On September 9, 1947, they arrived at the Worth Donau displaced persons camp in Germany and began the application process for visas to the United States, where Olga had an aunt and uncle, Bernard and Ester Baer. On August 1, 1948, they were transferred to the Neu Freimann DP camp near Munich, Germany, to fulfill US immigration quotas for displaced persons. The German quota for visas was much larger than the Polish quota, so Olga obtained forged papers that identified them as German.

    Olga and Mark emigrated to the United States on March 5, 1949, on the ship, General W.G. Haan. They settled in South Bend, Indiana, and Americanized their surname to Wisen. Her brother, Israel, and his wife emigrated to Canada. They learned that Pinio had been killed in Majdanek concentration camp. The rest of her family also perished. Mark married Linda Hanes in 1960 and they had four children. Olga passed away, age 92, on January 4, 1996. Mark died on May 2, 2005, age 70.

    Physical Details

    Clothing and Dress
    Women's clothing
    Object Type
    Sweaters (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Dark green/ olive drab wool hand-knitted sweater with long-sleeves, a v-neck opening, and a drawstring waist. There are 7 multi-colored bands of blue, white, and pale red knitted on the front of the sweater and 7 button holes but no buttons.
    overall: Height: 22.500 inches (57.15 cm) | Width: 17.500 inches (44.45 cm)
    overall : wool

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The sweater was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2007 by Linda Wisen, the daughter-in-law of Olga Wisen.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:26:16
    This page:

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