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Judith Isaacson papers

Identifier: MC053

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of family letters written prior to World War II and resuming after the war. Many of these letters are in Hungarian. Extensive communications between Judith, her aunt Magda, and her mother Rose span the years 1946 to 1996.

There are also numerous family documents, including: birth certificates; death certificates; marriage certificates; travel orders; certificates of naturalization; A.E.F. D.P. registration cards; and Ausweiss certificates; and extensive correspondence with the United Restitution Organization (1957-1971).

Also included are materials gathered in her research for the book Seed of Sarah, which was published in 1990. Additional material related to her writing was given to the Maine Women Writers Collection at the University of New England, Westbrook College Campus, with permission of the donor.


  • 1912 - 1996


Access Restrictions

One folder of materials related to Isaacson's work as Dean of Students at Bates College is restricted. Permission for access to the oral history interview with Fred Erdman must be made to former Bates professor Steven Hochstadt.

Use Restrictions

The collection is the physical property of Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library. Bates College holds literary rights only for material created by College personnel working on official behalf of the College, or for material which was given to the College with such rights specifically assigned. For all other material, literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining permission from rights holders for publication or other purposes that exceed fair use.

Historical Note

Judith (Jutka) Magyar Isaacson was born in 1925 in Kaposvar, Hungary. She lived through four years of Nazi occupation. In August, 1944, Judith, her mother Rose, her aunt Magda, and her grandmothers were deported to Auschwitz/Birkenau. Her grandmothers were separated and gassed at Auschwitz. In late August, Judith, Rose, and Magda were taken to Lichtenau. In April 1945 they were taken by train to Tekla--a camp near Leipzig. They were liberated by the U.S. Army in April 1945.

Her father, Jeno, was sent to a labor camp in Hungary--Salank--and then taken to Buchenwald. He died at the end of the war at Muhldorf Lager.

Judith Magyar was engaged to Irving Isaacson in July 1945 and they were married shortly thereafter. She and Irving settled in Lewiston, Maine, Irving's hometown.

Isaacson later attended Bates College, graduating in 1965 with a degree in mathematics and taught math for three years at Lewiston High School. She served as chair of the high school math department.

She received a Master's Degree from Bowdoin College in 1967, and joined Bates as a lecturer in mathematics and computer science the following year. She was hired as Dean of Women at Bates College in 1969. In 1975 she was appointed Dean of Students.

In 1976, Isaacson was invited to speak at Bowdoin College after a showing of Night and Fog, a film on the Holocaust. This proved to be a cathartic experience for her, as the next day she began writing what would become Seed of Sarah: Memoirs of a Survivor, published in 1990 by the University of Illinois Press. She retired from Bates in 1977.

Isaacson received an honorary degree from Bates College in 1994, and the Hargraves Freedom Prize from Bowdoin College in 1996. Seed of Sarah has been translated into several languages including Hungarian and German. Isaacson died in 2015 in Auburn, aged 90.


5.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials





Judith (Jutka) Magyar Isaacson was born in Kaposvar, Hungary in 1925. A member of a Jewish family that was persecuted during World War II, Isaacson survived the Holocaust after spending time at both Auschwitz and Birkenau. She met her husband, Irving Isaacson, shortly after her liberation, and moved to Lewiston, Maine, his hometown. She received a degree in mathematics from Bates College (Class of 1965), and a master's degree from Bowdoin College. From 1969 to 1977 she served as first Dean of Women and then Dean of Students at Bates. The collection consists of her family papers, including letters written prior to and after World War II. Many of the letters are between Judith, her aunt, Magda, and her mother, Rose, and some are in Hungarian and German. There are also numerous family documents and material related to Isaacson's memoir, Seed of Sarah.

Organization and Arrangement

Organized into ten series: I. Family Letters to Francis Magyar; II. Family Letters; III. Letters from Magda; IV. Letters from Rose; V. Materials related to Rose; VI. Letters from Jutka; VII. Family Documents; VIII. Material related to the publication of Seed of Sarah; IX. Research Material; and X. Videorecordings. .

All series are arranged in chronological order.

Acquisition and Custody Information

This collection was given to Bates College in three installments. The first part of the collection was transferred prior to 1997, and consisted of 20 documents, some of which were recovered after the war. The second part of the collection was given to the College in November 1999 and consisted of 34 letters written to Judith's uncle Francis Magyar from family members (1931-1940). Included were translations of the letters done by Katalin Vecsey. An additional 7 cartons of papers was transferred to Bates College in January 2000. Of these, approximately 4 cartons of papers were given to the Maine Women Writers Collection at the University of New England, Westbrook College Campus, with permission of the donor. These three gifts have been processed together as a single collection. Accession No.: xx-48, 99-14, 00-01.

Alternative Formats Available

Transcripts in English of some Hungarian letters are available.

Separated Materials

Additional material related to Isaacson's book Seed of Sarah was given to the Maine Women Writers Collection at the University of New England, Westbrook College Campus, with permission of the donor.

General note

Some of the material is in German and Hungarian, and has not been translated into English.

Processing Information

Processed by Laura Cody, September 2000 - May 2001.

Final arrangement and description by Kurt Kuss, 2002.

Finding aid revised by Pat Webber, 2023.

Guide to the Judith Isaacson papers, 1912-1996
Edited Full Draft
Kurt Kuss
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Description is in: English
Edition statement

Repository Details

Part of the Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library Repository

70 Campus Avenue
Lewiston Maine 04240 United States of America
207-755-5911 (Fax)