Texas Art & Film's Dr. Donna Copeland's Film Reviews & Features
 
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This is an impressive account of the rescue of Jews from Germany during WWII by the Philippines government and their American allies.  Manuel Quezon, the President of the Philippines at the time, was committed to humanitarian concerns, and supported an open-door immigration policy.  He had already been instrumental in bringing other distressed peoples to his country, and was supportive of any efforts to bring the Jews in the 1930’s.  He was a friend of the Frieder family from Cincinnati in the U.S. (who owned a cigar company that bought Philippino tobacco for their product), as well as General MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower (Chief of Staff for MacArthur at the time), and the U.S. High Commissioner, McNutt.  All of these people supported the cause of helping the Jews in Germany and Austria.
            The Frieder family played a significant role in helping Jews immigrate to the Philippines.  It began with Alex Frieder who started a cigar company that imported its tobacco from the Philippines.  He had five sons, and when they decided to manufacture their own cigars in the Philippines, the five sons and their families took turns living in the Philippines and running the company.  All of them were close to President Quezon, as well as the U.S. military staff there, and felt a moral obligation to Jews oppressed by the Nazis.
            In 1935, when the Philippines was a territory of the U.S., President Franklin Roosevelt appointed Paul McNutt as the High Commissioner, whose responsibility included immigration.  This was very fortunate for the cause, since he was open to Quezon’s immigration policies.  He had to use his wit and diplomacy with the U.S. State Department, which was alternately apathetic or opposed to helping the Jews.
            Picture Quezon, one of the Frieder brothers, Eisenhower, and McNutt at a poker table.  Being such great friends and sympathetic to the Jewish plight, they eventually directed all their winnings to the cause of helping Jews immigrate to the Philippines.  Eisenhower was charged with finding them housing, and the Frieders with placing them in occupations so they would not have to be supported by the state. 
            Unfortunately, when the Japanese entered the war by bombing Pearl Harbor in 1941, they sent bombers to the Philippines as well.  Eisenhower then pulled the American Troops out, and the bombing forced MacArthur and the Quezon family to evacuate, leaving the country to the Japanese, who were very brutal.  Finally, after Germany and Japan were defeated, MacArthur returned and liberated the Philippines, but the Japanese officials had ordered their soldiers to kill and burn everything in their path as they left, so much had to be rebuilt.
            The accounts from the survivors in this documentary illustrate the importance of individuals and governments in counteracting oppression based on misguided notions and needless prejudices.  They are the heroes who should inspire us.                        Grade:  B-


 



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