By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
(© 2018 Journal GlobaLinks)
“Whoever destroys a single life is as guilty as though he had destroyed the entire
world; and whoever rescues a single life earns as much merit as though he had rescued the entire world.”
-- The Talmud, Mishna. Sanhedrin 37a
CHICAGO (JGL) — During the height of the persecution and extermination of Jews by Hitler’s Nazi’s Germany, the United States maintained its
neutrality, hoping to avoid being a target of attack by the Axis Powers of Germany, Italy and Japan.
So, when hundreds of Jewish refugees came wading on the shores of the Philippines before the outbreak of World War II, U.S. Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon (pronounced kay-soon) had a dilemma: should he let the refugees land and break the U.S. neutrality and earn the wrath of Washington or turn them back and let them die in Germany’s concentration camps?
BEFORE THE OUTBREAK of World War II, this headline was a familiar sight in Philippine newspapers. (JGL Photograb from (Documentary film, Rescue in the Philippines)
As a protectorate of the United States at the time, the Philippines under Mr. Quezon was subordinate to the U.S. President, like a Puerto Rico or a U.S. state governor, as far as foreign policy was concerned.
PROTEST VS. HITLER:
WHEN HITLER ordered Kristallnacht, (German: “Crystal Night”), also called Night of Broken Glass or November Pogroms, the night of November 9–10, 1938, German Nazis attacked Jewish people and properties. More than 100 synagogues were burned and more than 10,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps overnight. This prompted Americans to protest the Kristallnacht. But President Quezon was past behind the protest as he opposed the U.S. government's order barring entry of refugees in the Philippine Commonwealth. (JGL Photograb from (Documentary film, Rescue in the Philippines)
Apparently, out of humanitarian consideration and in keeping with the traditional Filipino hospitality, Quezon took matters into his own hands by putting out the welcome mat for about 1,200 Jewish settlers. This placed Quezon in an unpleasant position where he had to face the music while his buddy, then U.S. High Commissioner Paul V. McNutt — now the equivalent of the U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines — had turned a blind about Quezon’s lives-saving initiative.
Barbara Weston Sasser, granddaughter of Alex Frieder, one of the Frieder brothers, who helped Mr. Quezon saved the Jews, suggested that it was wrong to speculate that the “United States limited immigration of refugees from Germany and other areas where Jews lived in the late 1930’s due to a desire not to anger Germany. The USA was in a depression and feared more people would take jobs from those already here. In addition, and just as important was wide spread anti-semitism in the country.”
She added, “As we see clearly in the film (below), the Philippines had yet to establish an immigration policy so Quezon had influence to allow people in the the Philippines. However, they still needed to get American Visas to enter. And under American immigration policy, those entering would not be allowed to be a "public charge", that is, they would have to support themselves. This was the reason the Jewish Refugee Committee needed to raise money to support the refugees until they were able to support themselves.”
LET US LAND, PLEASE!
JEWISH REFUGEES are seen here waiting to be allowed to land in the Philippines before the war. (JGL Photograb from (Documentary film, Rescue in the Philippines)
Fortunately for Quezon, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, lifting the United States’s injunction against neutrality when President Roosevelt declared war with Japan on the “Day of the Infamy.”
ROOSEVELT SHAKES THE HAND OF QUEZON:
U.S. PRESIDENT Roosevelt is shown here shaking the hands of U.S. Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon during a public ceremony in the White House. (JGL Photograb from (Documentary film, Rescue in the Philippines)
Days before Bataan and Corregidor fell, President Roosevelt asked Quezon to escape from the Philippines and come to the United States where Quezon formed his government-in-exile.
MANILA HOTEL CIRCA 1937:
THIS WAS MANILA HOTEL before World War II. Notice an American flag flying above the rooftop in the center and a ship at left. (JGL Photograb from (Documentary film, Rescue in the Philippines)
While in the U.S., Mr. Quezon died during the war in 1944 of tuberculosis in Saranac Lake, New York. Quezon’s death should have extinguished whatever “unpopular, unconventional or risky initiative that was contrary to U.S. official foreign policy” that he might have committed when Mr. Quezon broke the U.S.’s pre-war neutrality by allowing the Jewish refugees to land in the Philippines.
However, despite the intervening events, the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines to this day is still very slow in recognizing Mr. Quezon’s decision that saved the lives of hundreds of Jews, saying that Mr. Quezon did not risk his life to save the Jews to get the Good Samaritan recognition he deserved, according to past Midwest Consul General Generoso D.G. Calonge during the showing in 2016 in suburban Skokie, Illinois of the "Rescue in the Philippines: Refuge from the Holocaust” film documentary produced by the Frieder Family who later called Cincinnati, Ohio their home.
U.S. Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon (left) lights a cigarette of former Indiana Governor Paul V. McNutt who was “vanished” to as U.S. High Commissioner after rumors swirled that Mr. McNutt was eyeing a run for President of the U.S. With Col. Dwight Eisenhower, the Chief of Staff of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and the children of Hungarian New York immigrant Philip Friedberg, Messrs. Quezon and McNutt drew up a plan over poker games to rescue more than 10,000 Jews. But when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, only 1,200 Jews made it to the Philippines. (JGL Photograb from (Documentary film, Rescue in the Philippines)
Mr. Calonge said Mr. Quezon deserves to be named "Righteous Among the Nations" by the Israel government. It is an award given by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis. German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who was featured in an eponymous movie, Schindler's List, was also an awardee of "Righteous Among Nations." Schindler also saved 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust.
Ms. Sasser also said, “I support the goal of the article which seems to support for Yad Vashem's ("Righteous Among the Nations'") recognition of Quezon's role in saving Jewish lives. I, too, feel he deserves that honor and am doing what I can to see that through.”
FORMER PH AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL:
PAST MIDWEST PHILIPPINE Consul General Generoso D. G. Calonge paid tribute to U.S. Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon for saving the lives of 1,200 Jews before World War II, saying when SS St Louie loaded with Jewish refugees was steaming towards Florida coast, it was turned away and all the refugees in it were killed when the ship returned to Europe. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)
Like Mr. Calonge, a former Philippine Ambassador to Israel, who is now back in Manila, I disagree with the U.S. Embassy's refusal to recognize Quezon's magnanimity to the Jewish refugees. If the Embassy and the U.S. State Department will review the court transcripts of the motive of the assassin of Sen. Robert Kennedy, they will realize that the 24-year-old Sirhan Bishara Sirhan killed the presidential hopeful because of his hatred of the Senator's support of Israel. Sirhan is a Palestinian with Jordanian citizenship.
Because it calls for politicians, like Quezon and Kennedy, to speak publicly to advance their programs, despite their bodyguards, it is very hard to stop a determined assassin to kill a politician. At least four of the past U.S. presidents who were assassinated were killed in public events.
THE OPEN DOORS Monument is located at the center of the Memorial Garden in the city of Rishon LeZion. It was dedicated in 2007 and marks the assistance the Philippines provided to Jewish refugees during WWII. (Photo courtesy of Rishon LeZion)
I tried to reach out to the U.S. State Department to find out if it is true that the U.S. is still harboring animosity towards Mr. Quezon’s humanitarian actions. But the Philippine Desk had no clue what I was talking about.
Perhaps, when President Duterte travels to Israel next week, he can make a case with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that as a close ally of the United States, Israel can put up a good word to President Trump or Secretary Mike Pompeo to finally recognize the magnanimous gesture of the late President Quezon for saving the lives of hundreds of Jews before the war.
In recognition of gratitude of the Jewish people to Quezon and the Filipino people, Israel had put up a memorial in one of the cities of Israel. Perhaps, President Duterte can even visit this memorial in Israel during his visit and lay wreath on the memorial as a sign of respect to the magnanimous acts of Mr. Quezon and the Filipino people.
After all, the United States extended humanitarian assistance to countries devastated by the WW II by championing the Marshall Plan in Europe. Can’t the U.S. government recognize Quezon’s bleeding-heart gesture?
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