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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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