LEWISTON – Katalin Vecsey, a member of the Bates College theater faculty, will read writings by Holocaust survivor Judith Magyar Isaacson Thursday, Feb. 12, at the Lewiston Public Library.

The free event, featuring selections from Isaacson’s book, “Seed of Sarah: Memoirs of a Survivor,” and a soon-to-be published sequel, will begin at 7 p.m. in Callahan Hall.

A native of Hungary, Isaacson moved to Lewiston as the bride of an American soldier after World War II. “Seed of Sarah” recounts her experiences as a young woman interred in the German concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Hessisch Lichtenau. The book has become a best-seller for the University of Illinois Press, since its release in 1990, and subsequent German and Hungarian translations have been in demand in Europe.

Isaacson was born as Jutka Magyar in 1925 in Kaposvár, Hungary. She lived through four years of Nazi occupation. In August of 1944, she and her mother, Rose, her aunt Magda and her grandmothers were deported to Auschwitz, where her grandmothers were separated and sent to the gas chambers. Isaacson, her mother and her aunt were taken to Lichtenau and finally to Tekla, a camp near Leipzig. They were liberated by the U.S. Army in April 1945. Her father, Jenö Magyar, was sent to a labor camp in Hungary and then to two German camps – Buchenwald and then Muhldorf Lager, where he died at age 45 at the end of the war.

Vecsey, who is also from Hungary, met Isaacson after coming to the area in 1995 to join the Bates theater department; the two have become close friends.

Besides an excerpt from “Seed of Sarah,” Vecsey will also read a chapter from Isaacson’s new, still-untitled book in which the author focuses on her life as an American. Here, Isaacson tells of a chance meeting she had with an older gentleman on a train while she was traveling in Hungary in 1977 doing research for “Seed of Sarah.” Upon learning the reason for Isaacson’s visit, he revealed a secret he had never before shared, and the two travelers were no longer strangers.

Isaacson was awarded a bachelor’s degree from Bates College in 1965 at the age of 40 and after having raised three children. She went on to earn a master’s degree from Bowdoin and then accepted a job teaching mathematics at Lewiston High School, becoming head of the math department. She was hired as Dean of Women at Bates College in 1969 and retired in 1977 as Bates’ Dean of Students. She has served on the governing board of Bowdoin College and received its Hargraves Freedom Prize. She has been married to local attorney Irving Isaacson for 63 years and is the proud grandmother of eight grandchildren.

Vecsey received a doctoral degree from the Eötvös Lóránd University in her native city of Budapest. She taught at Bárczi Gusztáv College and at drama conservatory programs in Budapest before accepting her current position at Bates as a lecturer in theater and vocal director for the college’s theater productions. She lives in Lewiston with her husband, John L. Painter, and their son, Kelen.

Isaacson will be present to answer questions and sign copies of her book following the reading. The library is at 200 Lisbon St. For more information, call the library at 513-3050.


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