1934 Antwerp, Belgium
May 10: the Battle of Belgium began.
After Belgium was bombed and the Germans advanced on Belgium, Charles’ family decided to leave and made their way to France. The family drove by car to France. First they travelled to Paris and then Bordeaux. Charles was six years old at the time and attended school in Southern France. Charles was the only Jew and was constantly bullied and chased because at this time, Hitler had essentially conquered Western Europe and it looked to the rest of the world like he was the winner. Since Charles was the only Jew in the school at the time, the children wanted to show that they were “good loyal Nazis.”
Charles’ family stayed in Bordeaux. France was divided into two zones: occupied by Germany in one part, and left under French control in the other. Fearful for their lives, they sought to go to unoccupied France. Seeking transport to Marseille, Charles’s father, a diamond dealer, managed to get in contact with a French Army air force unit and attempted to pay a soldier to transport the family. The family was aided by the French officer who refused to take the diamond, stating that taking the family was the right thing to do. They landed in Marseille safely, but were refused service from a local restaurant because they were Jewish refugees and the family focused on trying to leave Europe. Charles’ father had difficulties getting a visa because he was born in Poland and was therefore placed under the Polish quota. The family struggled to find a way to leave together.
December 7: the family received notification that a family friend would sponsor them in their effort to immigrate to the United States, and they were able to travel to New York. They arrived in New York City together on December 7. The family settled in the United States and Charles’ father continued to work as a diamond dealer. Charles’s father attempted to get information about his brother but later found out that his brother had been deported by the Germans and later killed.
Charles’ mother attempted to write to her parents with no response. She later discovered that her parents had been hidden by a former secretary of her brother in the unoccupied section of France. Once the war was over, she was able to communicate with them and everyone was relieved to discover that she was alive.
Post War: Charles and his sister, Lucy, were raised in New York City.
December 22: Charles married Claire Fischer. Claire’s family had also emigrated from Belgium because of the war. Charles studied to become a mathematician and received his PhD at NYU. He eventually went on to become a full professor at Vanderbilt University. Charles and Claire moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in the fall of 1969.
May 23: Charles and Claire Kahane passed away as a result of an automobile accident.