25 April 2013, Jerusalem, Israel - In the presence of at least fifty members of the Jewish War Veterans Jerusalem Post 180, Guest of Honor Ambassador Generoso D.G. Calonge presented the Philippines' bid to recognize President Manuel Luis Quezon's benevolent gesture of accepting the Jews in the country more than seventy years ago. The presentation received a very warm welcome and as a response to the call, Commander Avraham Kriss proposed a petition seeking Yad Vashem's recognition. The motion was subsequently and unanimously supported and voted in favor of the proposal by the members during their session.
"It is the right thing to do," Ambassador Calonge quoting President Quezon during his speech. "What President Quezon did was indeed the right thing to do. He was well aware that doors have been shut for the Jews out of fear or other reasons," the Ambassador said. "It is my hope, and indeed my expectation, that the People of the Philippines will have, in the future, every reason to be glad that when the time of need came, their country was willing to extend a hand of welcome," the Ambassador again quoting President Quezon.
Ambassador Calonge stressed that the Philippines only seeks a simple recognition of President Quezon's benevolent and magnanimous act to save Jews during their darkest hour. "Such recognition would ensure that this story would not be forgotten and that the world will find inspiration and reason to stand by humanity again the moment evil lurks once more," the Ambassador contends.
"Max Weissler's testimony and Frank Ephraim's chronicles make the whole story factual and indisputable. Yad Vashem has yet to convince itself that President Quezon is righteous among nations, or that his contribution to Jewish rescue is even worthy of mention in the Holocaust Memorial Museum," the Ambassador exclaimed.
Although the government of the State of Israel has been vocal in recognizing and appreciating this important piece of history, a simple recognition from Yad Vashem, which the Philippines has long been seeking, remains elusive. Since the arrival of Ambassador Generoso D.G. Calonge in 2011, one of the very first acts he did after his Presentation of Credentials was to call on the top officials of Yad Vashem to discuss means on how to achieve the recognition.
It will be recalled that the Philippines has been seeking Israel's Holocaust Memorial's (Yad Vashem) recognition of the magnanimous act of President Manuel Luis Quezon manifested in his act of espousing an "Open Door Policy" towards Jews escaping the tyranny of Nazi Europe in the 1930s. Quezon's policy earmarked 10,000 visas for the Jews which facilitated their unrestricted entry into the Philippines during the time when the world was in turmoil and in the brink of total war.
Around 1,300 Jews were able to make it to the Philippines, settled and started a new life in a small community in Marikina where a piece of land was donated to them by President Quezon. The late Frank Ephraim, who authored the book "Escape to Manila," and Mr. Max Weissler, were part of the 1,300 Jews who settled in the Philippines. Many more would have had followed suit had not been for the Japanese invasion. Frank Ephraim dubbed the movement of the Jews from Europe to the Philippines as one "From Nazi Tyranny to Japanese Terror." The Japanese invasion was a difficult ordeal for those Jews who have found safe haven in the Philippines as they knew that their lives were again in danger since Nazi Germany and the Japanese expansionist regimes allied themselves and have sown terror in pursuit of their objectives.
"Saving a thousand Jews seventy years ago ensured the survival of many generations of Jews today and beyond. I leave you with this story whose ending has yet to be written and retold in its entirety. The burden of making sure it is never forgotten long before we are all gone and likewise forgotten rests squarely on our shoulders today," the Ambassador narrated.
"I invite all of you to take the next step with me and Max in this journey. I know that we all know the way to Yad Vashem," Ambassador Calonge concluded. —END—