Memphis Archives - StoryCorps

On The Day Their Concentration Camp Was Liberated, Two Former Prisoners Found Love

In 1945, the Allied forces arrived at the Theresienstadt concentration camp and liberated thousands of prisoners – many of whom were Jewish. The front gates swung open and anyone who was able wandered into the nearby town in search of food and clothing. But one woman, Mina Bergman, was sick with typhus, barefoot, and unable to walk. Mina’s sister set off, promising to bring back whatever she could find. She returned with Yehuda Czarnoczapka, who introduced himself and gave Mina a few potatoes and a pair of shoes he’d found. “I think the efforts he went through won her over,” said Susan Moinester.

Passports of Mina Czarnoczapka and Yehuda Czarnoczapka issued in a displaced persons camp in Linz, Austria, after their release. Photos courtesy of Susan Moinester.

Despite the trauma, her parents endured, and Susan remembers growing up in a home filled with love. Her mother had a particular thirst for life that remained unaffected by the war. She loved to attend parties, see Broadway performances, and encouraged her daughters to date and have fun. “That was the harshest demand she placed on me,” remembers Moinester.

Mina Czarnoczapka and Yehuda Czarnoczapka in a displaced persons camp in Linz, Austria in 1945. Photo courtesy of Susan Moinester.

Like many Holocaust survivors, Yehuda and Mina have passed away, but each year Susan and family honor their story of their liberation and enduring romance. Top photo: Margot and Susan Moinester in Memphis, Tennessee in 2022. Photo courtesy of Susan Moinester. This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Originally aired January 27, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

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“I Have These Dreams Where I Go Back”: Dad and Daughter Mourn a Syria They Once Knew

Walid Sakaan grew up in Syria and immigrated to Memphis in his 20s, where he settled and raised a family of his own. Despite moving away, he always stayed connected to where he was from— which included a large close knit family, where he was one of eleven siblings. 

Photo: Walid Sakaan (bottom center) with his siblings in Aleppo in 2006.

In an attempt to connect to her father’s roots, Walid’s daughter, Magda, moved to Syria as an adult and built a life for herself there but when the war began in 2011, she left and they have both not been back since. 

They came to StoryCorps to remember both the country and the people they love.

Top Photo (left to right): Magda Sakaan and Walid Sakaan at their StoryCorps interview in Memphis, Tennessee in 2019. By Eleanor Vassili for StoryCorps.

This interview is part of the Anwar Collection of Muslim Voices through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Originally aired March 12th, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

“He Did His Own Eulogy”: An Eyewitness Recalls Dr. King’s Final Speech

In 1968, more than 1,300 Black sanitation workers began to strike in Memphis, Tennessee, demanding better working conditions and fair wages. Clara Jean Ester, then a 19-year-old college junior, joined the protests in solidarity.

Photo: A young Clara Jean Ester, who graduated from Memphis State College, now known as the University of Memphis, in 1969. Courtesy of Clara Jean Ester.

When Clara wasn’t in school, every spare moment she had was spent on the picket lines or at the strike headquarters, Clayborn Temple. And later that year, Clara witnessed Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. give his final speech in Memphis. The next day, she was at the Lorraine Motel when Dr. King was assassinated. 

Clara, now 72, sat down for StoryCorps in Mobile, Alabama, to talk about bearing witness to Dr. King’s final days.

Top Photo: The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stands on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN, a day before he was assassinated at approximately the same place. From left to right, Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson, King, and Ralph Abernathy. (AP Photo/Charles Kelly, File).

Originally aired January 15, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.