Isaac and his two younger brothers were born and raised in Athens, Greece. The Nehamas were traditional, Sephardic Jews who observed all Jewish holidays. Isaac’s father was an accountant at a Jewish-owned textile firm. Both of Isaac’s parents belong to local Jewish organizations.
Isaac was still in high school when Athens was occupied by the Axis powers in 1941. Because Athens was administered by the Italians, the Jewish population did not initially suffer. Yet, in September of 1943, when German troops began to occupy the area, the situation for the Jewish population took a turn for the worse. Aware of what had already happened to other Jews, Isaac’s father, mother, brother, and maternal grandmother went into hiding. Isaac fled to Thessaly and joined a partisan enclave there. Isaac worked mostly as a telephone operator and a cipher clerk, but did participate in March of 1944 in a sabotage operation against a German convoy.
Upon returning to Athens in November 1944, Isaac learned that only his father had survived in hiding. His mother, brothers, and grandmother had been denounced by an informer and sent to Auschwitz. Only his brother Samuel survived after two concentration camps and a death march. Samuel was reunited with his remaining family in July 1945. Isaac immigrated to the U.S. in 1946 where he studied and obtained his master’s in electrical engineering at the University of Illinois.