2 October 2012, Tel Aviv, State of Israel – More than half a century ago, the young Max Weissler, together with his family and more than a thousand European Jews, set foot in the Philippines to seek refuge and to build a new life far from the tyranny of Nazi oppression.
The Jews' journey to the Philippines was made possible through the benevolent and heroic act of President Manuel L. Quezon who believed in a vision of doing what is right. President Quezon espoused a policy of "Open Doors" which facilitated the issuance of 10,000 visas for Jewish refugees who are escaping the scourge of the Holocaust during the Second World War.
Only 1,300 Jews were able to avail themselves of the generosity of the Filipino people which gave these refugees an opportunity to start a new life in the Philippines.
Today, the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv facilitated the first ever meeting between Mr. Manuel Quezon Avanceña, a grandson of President Quezon, and Mr. Max Weissler, one of the few surviving Jewish refugees in the Philippines.
Ambassador Generoso D.G. Calonge was very glad to host their memorable and touching meeting noting that Mr. Weissler has always been thankful for the generosity of the Filipino people which was granted to them in their time of need. "Wherever he may be, official or personal, Max Weissler always recounts vividly his journey to the Philippines and the life his family had when they settled in Manila," the Ambassador said. "He is a living testament to the heroic deed of President Manuel Quezon who did what other nations could not or did not do during the difficult ordeal of the Jews in Europe," the Ambassador added.
Max Weissler candidly narrated almost all "adventures" and fond memories he had in the Philippines. He recalled all Tagalog words and phrases he could still remember to the delight of Mr. Avanceña. His fond memories of the Philippines demonstrated his love and appreciation for the "accommodation" they received and his seemingly never ending gratefulness is manifested in his active participation and campaign to recognize President Quezon's kindness to the Jews.
He was one of the driving forces that paved the way for the erection of the Open Doors Monument in Rishon Lezion which symbolizes Israel's recognition of the Philippines' benevolent act performed more than sixty years ago. Since its completion, the Israeli government has publicly acknowledged the Philippines' role in saving the Jews in the past, in addition to the instrumental vote of the country in the United Nations that led to the eventual creation of the State of Israel.
The story of Mr. Max Weissler, including that of the more than one thousand Jews who travelled to Manila, and the open door policy of the Philippines, would have been forgotten had there been no documentation or journal made by Mr. Frank Ephraim in his book "Escape to Manila."
Earlier in August 2012, the Embassy hosted a special screening of an 18 minute trailer of a documentary film entitled "Rescue in the Philippines." This documentary narrates historical facts of how more than a thousand Jewish refugees from Europe found their way to the Philippines, bringing more light to the story of the magnanimity and the uncontrived humanitarian effort towards the Jews founded on a personal commitment of doing what is right and humane. The full documentary film would be aired nationwide (Israeli television) by 2013. —END—