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Each year their family honors 2 Holocaust survivors' enduring romance

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Time now for StoryCorps. Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this date, 78 years ago, Allied troops liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp, where more than 1 million people were murdered. Today, we bring you the story of two people liberated from another camp - Theresienstadt. That's where Yehuda Czarnoczapka walked into a barrack and met a young woman named Mina. She had no shoes and was too hungry and sick to leave her bed. So Yehuda gave her a pair of shoes and a potato and won her heart. They were married three months later. Recently, their daughter, Susan and granddaughter Margot came to StoryCorps to remember them.

MARGOT MOINESTER: What was it like being raised by two survivors?

SUSAN MOINESTER: It was an embarrassment to be a survivor or the child of a survivor. I really don't remember people even talking about the Holocaust openly until the early 70s. So I think early on they did feel shame. I just remember always being embarrassed by my parents' accents. But I just wanted to be an American, which is what they wanted too. They loved this country, you know?

M MOINESTER: Yeah.

S MOINESTER: My father's health was very fragile. My mom said that there was not one night of their life together that he didn't wake up in a nightmare or, you know, scream out in his sleep. I was 5 when he had his first heart attack, so we always had to be really careful not to upset my dad. So we would not cry in front of my dad. We would save it for my mom. I loved to put my head in her lap, and she would stroke my hair. And she always told my sister Helen and I that we were miracles. And we were just adored.

M MOINESTER: Yeah. So I don't have that many memories of Grandma Mina, which makes me really sad. But I remember her coming as a survivor and talking to my class once early on in elementary school. I feel like she was at first reticent, you know, like that desire to not really go back in the past.

S MOINESTER: Yeah, she did not want to. She did it for you. And I think she found it a lot less traumatic than she thought she would. It's an extraordinary legacy, unfortunately.

M MOINESTER: We celebrate the day Grandma and Grandpa were liberated. How do we do that?

S MOINESTER: Your dad and I buy each of you and you pair of shoes and eat potatoes and everything flows from that.

M MOINESTER: Right. It feels important to not let it go.

S MOINESTER: Mmm hmm. I think I had very special parents. And I want us all to never forget who we are and where we came from.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTÍNEZ: That's Susan and Margot Moinester remembering Mina and Yehuda Czarnoczapka, who fell in love in a concentration camp in 1945. Their conversation has been archived at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ester Honig

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