The Man Who Saved Thousands of Jews before World War II

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3 years ago

Life in the late 1930s to 40s was not too good since it was a time of war. A war that devastated a lot of lives from the little children to the elderly, men & women who answered the call to defend & protect our way of life, but the devastating loss was the extermination of the Jews.

One man managed to saved thousands and opened our borders for those who escaped persecution at the hands of Nazi Germany. This is to commemorate his achievement & legacy for Holocaust Remembrance Day in the State of Israel.

The Persecution of Jews in Europe

In 1933, Germany was taken over by Adolf Hitler, leader of the National Socialist German Workers' Party then transformed the country into a dictatorship. It quickly became a totalitarian state under Adolf's rule where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government.

Before the war started, on November 9 to 10, 1938, a night full of rampage where Jewish homes, hospitals, schools, businesses, and synagogues were ransacked in most German & Austrian cities. It was called Kristallnacht, also known as "The Night of Broken Glass". Jews were beaten to death, and most of them were sent to concentration camps.

It was not just smashing down & burn every Jewish home, establishments, or synagogue turned into a pile of rubble & ash, it also became a protest when Ernst vom Rath was assassinated in Paris, France by a Polish Jew, Herschel Grynszpan, by giving justice to the persecuted jews. A year later after Kristallnacht, Germany invaded Poland in September 1939.

As the Germans set up ghettos to segregate and confine Jews into small sections of towns and cities furthering their exploitation, an industrialist and member of the Nazi Party risked his life and managed to save thousands of Jews employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories in Poland. I'll tell his story soon so stay tuned.

If this industrialist saved thousands, and the Jews tried to escape persecution at the hands of the fascist Reich as neighboring counties around Europe closed their borders, but one man from the far east opened its borders for those who want to seek refuge and peace, away from violence and racism.

Manuel L. Quezon - The Open Door Policy

Manuel L. Quezon, a former revolutionary during the Filipino Revolution, and Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo's former aide-de-camp. Then became a statesman & politician, served as the 2nd President of the Philippines.

Originally, his plan was to save more than a thousand Jews and have them settled in the island of Mindanao, but the plan was thwarted by the U.S. government, as Manuel faces anti-Semitism in the U.S. State Department. Only if the American government didn't interfere with Manuel's plan, then he could have saved more Jewish people.

Thus, he still pushed his plan with the support of the U.S. High Commissioner Paul McNutt in 1934. By declaring Proclamation No. 173 on August 21, 1937. He called on all of our fellow people to welcome Jewish refugees and instructed the government to assist them.

Not until when the Japanese made a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii followed by a full scale invasion around South-East Asia, Manuel and the rest of his cabinet members were forced into exile in the U.S., but laid to rest in 1944. A total of 1,300 Jews were saved.

Manuel's Legacy

The Open Doors memorial in Rishon Lezion, Israel

For Manuel, he took action despite facing criticism from the Americans, and his fellow people. He did what he had to do, the right way. He believed in the sanctity of human life. In the city of Rishon Lezion, Israel lies the "Open Doors" memorial designed by Luis Lee Jr. to honor the late President and us Filipinos who saved thousands of Jews from the Nazis.

His life was immortalized in a film directed by Matthew Rosen called Quezon's Game starring Raymond Bagatsing as the titular character based on the stories of the leader of our nation, and his plan to rescue Jews before the war started.

A documentary series called The Last Manilaners, a spin-off from the movie which tells firsthand stories of the people saved by the Commonwealth Republic as they describe their experiences from prosecution at the hands of the Fascist Reich to their refuge and new life in the Philippines.

It was a time of violence, destruction, and genocide at that time. As a Filipino, this is something I should be proud of. My country saved thousands of Jews, just wanting to get away from the dark world of the Nazis. The Jews are very grateful that they were saved by a brilliant & brave leader. 

This story was not even mentioned in our history books when I was studying then, or even you who's reading this right now. His story will be shared with future generations, and his legacy will live on.

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This is such a heartwarming tribute for the refugees and also to the man behind saving thousands of refugees, Pres. Manuel L. Quezon ❤

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