Tell me a secret, and I promise I'll tell the world.

Manuel L. Quezon, The Phillipines, and Jews. I had no idea.

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I had no idea of any relationship that we, Filipinos have with the Holocaust and Jews.

To me, it’s something that we think happened a long time ago, somewhere in Europe.  It’s something that we see in movies like Holocaust or Schindler’s List.  Now that I live here in the U.S., I’ve known many Jewish people.  Some are my friends, and some are friends of friends.  I even fell in love with one and a friend of mine is partnered with a Jewish guy.  The memorable Jewish people I’ve met were the survivors of the Holocaust whom I met while I worked in a nursing home as a young student back in the day.

Little did I know that the Philippines played a role in saving over 1200 Jews from the Nazis during World War II.  Manuel L. Quezon, as President of the Philippines, helped usher these Jews into safety as they immigrated to the Philippines.

“Rescue in The Philippines” is a one-hour documentary of the previously untold story of how the five Frieder brothers, Cincinnati businessmen making two-for-a-nickel cigars in pre-WWII Manila, together with Manuel Quezon, the charismatic first president of the Philippines, Paul McNutt, US High Commissioner and former governor of Indiana (preparing for his own presidential campaign) and an ambitious Army Colonel named Dwight Eisenhower -  helped 1,200 Jews escape the Nazis and immigrate to the Philippines.

It all began playing cards and smoking cigars.

No one could have predicted that tropical afternoon and evening card games would lead to an intricate international plan of rescue and settlement. When no other country would take in the masses of fleeing Jews, they alone persevered simply because “it was the right thing to do.”

A real life Casablanca, the story of the rescue is dramatic, elevating and inventive.  At its core lies the integrity and compassion of seven men from completely different backgrounds – military, political, business – Jewish, Protestant and Catholic – with vastly different personal agendas and reasons for being in the Philippines, united only by this place and time and their compassion, conceived of and accomplished the rescue.

Pivotal was the extraordinary support of President Quezon who said, “(T)he 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.”  

Equally extraordinary was Paul McNutt’s diplomatic expertise and political courage convincing the State Department to keep Philippine borders open.  It was the perseverance and courage of the Frieders that created new lives in this strange land for a steady stream of desperate refugees.  For the refugees, it is a story of daring escapes, hardships creating a community of love and faith and, finally, a desperate battle for survival in the middle of one of the most ferocious battles of World War II.

I had the chance to visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam back in 2010 when I attended a global conference for my company.  I was supposed to be in the conference for the whole weekend but when my boss realized that it was my first time in Amsterdam, he excused me so I could tour the city.

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As you walk through the house, there’s an eerie feeling of what it was like during the Nazi occupation.  The persecutions were horrific and being there made me feel how real of an event it was.  It’s not just something that I hear about, it was something real.

I used to frequent Washington, D.C. back in the day and there is also a Holocaust Memorial Museum located at the heart of the capital of the United States.  When you go inside the museum, you are issued a passport of one of the Holocaust victims.  You walk around in silence and you will see actual clothing, bed, shoes of the victims.  One particular display gave me the creeps.  It was an actual oven where they burned bodies of Jews at the time.

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They recreated the looks of homes and surroundings of what it would have been like during the Nazi occupation and by the time the tour is over, you can’t help but think how horrible it was and how could someone do such a terrible thing.

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To realize that the Philippines played a part in saving the lives of 1200 Jews is amazing to me.  I am more proud to be a Filipno because of Pres. Manuel L. Quezon.

WATCH:

A first look at 3 Roads Communications new documentary in association with Frieder Films, “Rescue in the Philippines – Refuge from the Holocaust”. A heartfelt story of the five Frieder brothers who risked it all to help save Holocaust victims. A daring rescue to the Philippines with the help of President Quezon, Dwight D. Eisenhower, High Commissioner Paul McNutt along with many others.

To find out more, visit their website: Rescue in the Philippines

Thanks to my source – Chuvaness.

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