Tennessee Archives - StoryCorps
Renew today to double your impact Renew by 4/30

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. 

With your support, StoryCorps is able to record more stories that help lift up underrepresented voices, bridge political and social divides, and preserve personal histories for the future.

Donate

“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.

“I Want to be Remembered as a Person Who Cared”: A 93-Year-Old Retired Nurse Looks Back on Her Service

Ruth Owens has lived her whole life in the mountains of rural Tennessee. She worked as a nurse in the area for over four decades, eventually retiring when she was 85 years old.

Now 93, she sat down at StoryCorps with her grandson, James Taylor, who, along with several of her kids and grandkids, followed in Ruth’s footsteps to become a nurse. 

They begin by talking about Ruth’s childhood in the late 1930s and how she eventually found her calling. 

Photo: Ruth Owens with her grandson, James Taylor, in April of 2019 at their StoryCorps recording in Cookeville, TN. Photo by Rochelle Hoi-Yiu Kwan for StoryCorps.

Originally aired March 20, 2020 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

This interview was recorded in partnership with Independent Lens and WCTE as part of a project to record stories about health and access to care in rural communities.