The Philippines welcomed 1,200 Jewish refugees during World War II
If there is one thing that the Jews would want to erase in their memories, it would be the Holocaust.
During the 40s, Germany’s Führer Adolf Hitler ordered Jews to be killed in German-occupied territories to achieve an ultimate Aryan race. The carnage resulted in almost six million deaths, but in a recent study, researchers at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, USA revealed that the numbers may have reached 20 million.
Either way, they wiped out an entire generation of Jews.
But alongside the horror they experienced, stories of heroism and inspiration arose, such as that of rich businessman Oskar Schindler (of the movie Schindler’s List). Meanwhile, it is a little known fact that the Philippines played a role in saving Jewish lives.
One thousand two hundred Jews came to the Philippines from 1937 to 1941, thanks to then-President Manuel Quezon, who devised a strategy to bring 10,000 Jewish refugees in the islands, together with a group of Americans. The first batch of refugees were highly-skilled professionals who did not need much public assistance.
The Jews sought safety in our tropical islands, but they were not expecting that the Philippines would be occupied by the Japanese in 1941. From CNN:
Starting in 1941, the Japanese occupied the Philippines. In some respects, the Jewish refugees were treated considerably better than Filipinos. What ironically protected the Jews was their German passports with the swastikas — they were viewed as allies.
“It occurred to me later, that’s what kept us from being interred,” said Ursula Miodowski, who was 7 years old at the time.
Despite the difficult conditions of war, the Jews preferred the Philippines’ wartime state over being interment at a concentration camp, Miodowski noted.
As an act of gratitude, the refugees’ descendants honored the country by erecting a monument at the Holocaust Memorial Park in Israel in 2009.
After Typhoon Yolanda’s devastation in 2013, the American Jewish Distribution Committee brought in relief workers, headed by Danny Pins, a son of a Jewish refugee.
“For me it was like coming full circle and I couldn’t help but think of what it must have been like when my grandparents and mother arrived 76 years ago,” he told CNN. “My going to the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan was very special. I was repaying a debt to the country that saved my family.”