Judith Magyar Isaacson papers, 1976–1990
Collection Scope and Content
This collection documents Isaacson’s research and writing of Seed of Sarah, her Holocaust memoir. The collection consists of research material, including papers relating to a reunion of former inmates of the Lichtenau concentration camp. Also included are original drafts with editorial comments and revisions, publication documentation, and reviews of the published book. There is also material documenting Isaacson’s public appearances, including reactions and correspondence from New England students and teachers.
Judith Magyar was born in Kaposvar, Hungary in 1925. In 1944, when she was 19, her family was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where her grandmothers and an aunt were killed upon arrival. Judith, her mother, and her aunt were then sent to Hessisch Lichtenau, and were finally liberated by American forces in April 1945. Judith met Irving Isaacson, a captain of the U.S. Army Office of Strategic Services in May of 1945, and they were married shortly after. The couple moved to the United States in 1946, and settled in Lewiston, Maine.
In 1965, Judith earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Bates College and her master’s degree in mathematics from Bowdoin College two years later. She taught math at Lewiston High School for three years and in 1969 was hired to be the Dean of Women, and then the Dean of Students in 1975 at Bates College. As dean, Judith was tireless in her efforts to end college practices that were biased against women and emerged as a public advocate for women’s rights. She also held a position on the Board of Overseers of Bowdoin from 1984 to 1996.
In 1976, after discussing her experiences in the Holocaust with a group of students, Judith was compelled to record the memories. Her memoir, Seed of Sarah: Memoirs of a Survivor, was published by University of Illinois Press in 1990. The book has been translated into several languages and was adapted into an opera and subsequent film. Judith has lectured widely; served on the boards of several institutions, including the Auburn Public Library; received honorary doctorates from many educational institutions; and was the recipient of the University of New England’s Deborah Morton Award and the Hargraves Presentation of Freedom Prize.