Philippine Rescue of Jews Recognized Anew in Israel

a

From left to right: Yad Vashem historian Dr. David Silberklang is joined by panelists, Philippine Ambassador
Neal Imperial, Danish Ambassador Jesper Vahr and Cyprus Deputy Head of Mission Michalis Firillas.
 

26 April 2015, Tel Aviv, State of Israel - The Philippine humanitarian effort to provide sanctuary to Jewish refugees during the Holocaust gained further recognition at a recent symposium in Jerusalem.

Philippine Ambassador to Israel Neal Imperial was invited to speak on the Jewish rescue in Manila on 14 April 2015 in a symposium entitled "Ensuring History Doesn't Repeat Itself: Commemorating the Holocaust" organized by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Jerusalem, a leading global Jewish advocacy organization. The symposium was part of AJC's activities this year leading up to the Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah),which began in the evening of Wednesday, April 15 and ended in the evening of Thursday, April 16.

The panelists in the symposium -- Ambassador Imperial, Danish Ambassador Jesper Vahr and Cyprus Embassy's Deputy Head of Mission Michalis Firillas -- spoke of their respective country's contribution in assisting the Jews escape persecution in Nazi Germany. Yad Vashem historian and university professor Dr. David Silberklang moderated the panel discussion.

Professor Silberklang highlighted the important role played by Denmark, Cyprus and the Philippines in providing refuge to a large number of Jewish refugees and the need for these stories of compassion and heroism amid the backdrop of extreme inhumanity and genocide to be told at a time of rising anti-Semitism in Europe.

Imperial cited the role of President Manuel Quezon in the rescue of European Jews who found sanctuary in the Philippines in the late 1930s to early 1940s. President Quezon authorized 10,000 visas for Jews escaping Nazi tyranny, but only about 1,300 were able to reach the Philippines due to the Japanese invasion in 1941.

Imperial also shared the little known story of Quezon's proposal for a large permanent Jewish settlement in Mindanao, at a time when most of the Western world had closed their borders to Jewish refugees. "It was a bold humanitarian move during that dark time of international apathy, all the more made important by the fact that the Philippines was at that time still a developing semi-independent country," Imperial stressed.

b

"Manilaner" Max Weissler with his wife Esther and Ambassador Imperial.

 

Mr. Weissler, a Jewish Holocaust survivor in the Philippines, was also invited by the AJC to share his story and his memories of his stay in the Philippines.

The Jews who escaped the Holocaust and eventually found refuge in the Philippines called themselves the "Manilaners." President Quezon lobbied for a permanent Jewish settlement in Mindanao and farmland for the Jews. He even donated seven and a half (7 ½) acres of his personal land in Marikina to be used as a working farm for the Jewish refugees. He inaugurated "Marikina Hall" on 23 April 1940, which served as home to approximately forty Jewish residents.

During the Marikina Hall's dedication, President Quezon 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 panel also featured the Embassy's exhibit on the Philippine rescue of Jews, as well as memorabilia on the Holocaust from the embassies of Denmark and Cyprus.

The panel discussion was capped with the viewing of an excerpt from the film "Rescue in The Philippines: Refuge from the Holocaust," a one-hour documentary featuring the untold story of how President Manuel Quezon, Paul McNutt, then Army Colonel Dwight Eisenhower, and the five (5) Frieder brothers, helped 1,300 Jews escape the Nazis and immigrate to the Philippines.

A day after the AJC event, Ambassador Imperial and Consul Pamela Durian-Bailon represented the Philippines at the State Opening Ceremony of Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day at the Yad Vashem in Jerusalem to express the Filipinos' solidarity with the Jewish people during this dark episode in world history. This year's theme is entitled "The Anguish of Liberation and the Return to Life: Seventy Years Since the End of World War II".--END--

c

The Philippine exhibit of photos and memorabilia on the rescue of Jews in Manila.