IT is with great pride as a Filipino-American that I devote my column today to celebrate the Filipinos and our native land for being there to protect the Jews during the genocide, the Nazi Holocaust, during World War II, when practically no other nation would. Last Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, the world paid homage to the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.
The devastating effects of this barbaric atrocities, this genocide of 1944 on the health, psyche, and lives of the victims and their surviving family members, and on the whole civilized peoples around the world today, were simply too painful to forget. Our duty as fellow human beings to the future generation is not to forget the holocaust, to remember and remind ourselves of this shameful history of man’s inhumanity to man.
Here is a brief article about a new documentary that puts the spotlight on the Filipinos’ admirable moral triumph and gallantry during the Holocaust, which I suggest everyone to watch.
Reveal how Filipinos protected hem when everyone else wouldn’t
A compelling new documentary shines a light on the Philippines’ biggest moral victory in World War II
By Mario Alvaro Limos
The Holocaust, a genocide committed by Nazi Germany during World War II, saw the murder of six million Jews, which comprise two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe.
This was the darkest period in Jewish history: Every country rejected Jewish refugees and there was literally no safe place for them to take shelter.
Even in Asia, the Jews were not safe. When Germany turned its back on China, the Jewish population in Shanghai became vulnerable, especially when the Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937. Fears grew that the Japanese might follow Nazi Germany’s policy on Jews. And it did.
Then, in 1939, something close to a miracle happened: The Philippines opened its doors to the Jews. Filipinos welcomed the refugees with open arms and, when World War II reached Philippine shores, they protected them.
A new documentary, The Last Manilaners, shines a light on the stories of the last living Jewish survivors who fled to the Philippines and how Filipinos protected them from the Holocaust and World War II. The documentary was released on iWant on Jan. 27, coinciding with the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.
The Last Manilaners is a nod to the last living Jewish refugees who fled to the Philippines to escape the Holocaust. It aims to preserve and propagate the largely untold history of how the Philippines defied every other country and took the Jews in.
The film gathered all the last living Jewish survivors who fled to the Philippines and asked them to tell their story, each survivor narrating how Filipinos protected them and regarded them as family. The survivors are now well into their 80s and 90s, which makes it even more crucial to document their stories.
“If it were not for the Philippines, none of us, none of us, would exist,” says Lotte Hershfield, who is one of the last living Jews who found shelter in the Philippines.
“Our lives were equal to those of the Filipinos under the war, and there was no discrimination,” said another survivor.
The documentary is a follow-up to the internationally acclaimed Quezon’s Game, a film about how President Manuel Quezon butted heads and outmaneuvered political sharks in Washington to save as many Jewish refugees as he can. The Philippines was able to shelter 1,300 Jewish refugees.
After World War II, most of the Jews who fled to the Philippines established new homes in Israel.
To this day, Israel grants visa-free access to all Filipinos, a gesture of gratitude for the Philippines’ opening of its doors to all Jews at a time when the rest of the world rejected them. In 2009, Israel erected the “Open Doors” monument in remembrance of Filipinos’ protection of the Jews during their darkest hours.
The International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, between Nov. 20, 1945 and Oct. 1, 2946, tried 22 major Nazi German officers “on charges of crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity and conspiracy to commit each of these crimes…it was the first time that international tribunal were used as a post-war mechanism for bringing national leaders to justice.”
Death by hanging was imposed on 12 defendants. Ten (Hans Franck, Wilhelm Frick, Julius Streicher, Alfred Rosenberg, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Fritz Sauckel, Alfred Jodl, Wilhelm Keitel, and Arthur Seyss-Inquart) were hanged on Oct. 16, 1946.
Hermann Goring, head of Gestapo and prime minister of Prussia and Hitler’s second in command, committed suicide using a cyanide tablet, before he could get the gallows.
Bormann, who was also convicted (in absentia), is believed to have killed himself on May 2, 1945. Hitler, Goring, and Bormann all committed suicide.
One positive outcome of the genocide, if any could be considered good, was the introduction of the International Tribunal and the most important precedent established by the Nuremberg Trial. The United Nation’s International Court of Justice of today, which has the task of preventing and punishing human rights violations, gained much of its authority from the Nuremberg Trial. This has also served as “the foundation for the Declaration of Human Rights and other agreements about conduct during war” and the punishment of war crimes.
For political reasons and greed or personal aggrandizement, some public officials and segments of society have tried to change history. The murders of opponents and graft and corruption during the Marcos despotic tyrannical rule (1972 to 1981) in the Philippines, is an example. His family and some sympathizers are denying and attempting to erase historical facts, the abuses and atrocities of the conjugal dictatorship, to hide the ugly truth from the younger generation of today and of the future. Decent people of justice will now allow this to happen.
During the Nuremberg trial, Goring, Bormann, and their co-conspirators tried to justify their actions and change historical facts, actually by manipulating the truth, to save their lives. But the truth triumphed and justice prevailed. The global community today has the obligation to protect and preserve genuine history and justice in the world. We must never forget what really happened, not only for our individual mental health and inner peace, but for the moral health of every nation in the world and all peoples on earth.
Only by remembering and learning from the past can we prevent repeating the same mistakes in the future as it also guides our actions and protects the present.
Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, cardiac surgeon emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, is an international medical lecturer, author, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian foundation in the United States. Websites: philipSchua.com and FUN8888.com Email: [email protected]