Drawings by Miriam Isaacs to go along with her memoir about Mengele

Moment Memoir | Shame, Names and the Mengele Tractor Factory

I learned about the Mengele tractor factory in 1981 when I was trying to get from Denmark to Italy by rail. I simply could not avoid Germany, so I decided to book a sleeper car and sleep my way through. It was my very first time there since my parents and I left the Displaced Persons camp when I was a toddler. I woke up and I went out to the corridor to look out the window and see where I was, really hoping to be in Italy. But I could tell I was still in Germany, for in the middle of a bucolic meadow stood a tractor with “MENGELE” printed in large letters. My heart almost stopped. I couldn’t breathe. The conductor stood beside me and smiled. Mengele. I remember the name from my childhood....

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Nancy at the University of Virginia

‘I am So, So, Very, Very Jewish:’ The Time My Heritage Went South

This piece is part of Moment Memoir, expanding the conversation through a monthly exploration of the personal and beyond by some of our finest writers. In my junior year of high school, my principal called me into his office and asked me where I wanted to go to college. I said, “Duke.” He said, “Duke?” I said, “Yup.” He said, “Why Duke?” I told him I heard it was the Yale of the South, and “Yale doesn’t take girls.”  The year was 1958. He said, “What about the University of Virginia? They have a great theater department.” I said, “Yeah, but I don't want to go that far south.”  Dr. Rives leaned over, opened a drawer and pulled out an atlas. “Here,” he said. “Look, here’s North Carolina and here’s Virginia.” He could have said, “You have no...

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