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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Israel town honors PHL for helping Jews during World War II


An Israel town recently honored the Philippines for opening its doors to European Jews escaping from the Holocaust during World War II, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

According to a news release of the DFA on Wednesday, the town of Rishon LeZion recognized the Philippine government’s assistance to the Jewish people during their darkest hour.

The honor rites were held at the Holocaust Memorial Park during the third anniversary of the inauguration of the Open Doors Monument on June 21, the DFA said.

"When it seems that nobody in the world cares, the Philippines opened its doors to welcome people like us. Although I am not one of those who were lucky to benefit from the kindness of the Philippine Government, I could relate and feel the warm welcome accorded to us by the Filipino people," Asher Cohen of the municipality's foreign relations department said at the ceremony.
 
Cohen, one of the survivors of the Holocaust from Romania, highlighted the kind gesture of the Philippines, under the regime of Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon, when it offered a safe haven to Jews escaping oppression from Nazi Europe.
 
During the ceremony, Ambassador to Israel Generoso Calonge handed Holocaust survivor Max Weissler a memorabilia-letter from the daughter of President Quezon, Maria Zenaida Quezon-AvanceƱa.
 
Weissler was among the 1,200 Jews who benefited from the "open door' policy of Quezon, and recounted his family’s ordeal in fellow refugee Frank Ephraim’s book "Escape to Manila from Nazi Tyranny and Japanese Terror."
 
The other Filipino attendees during the ceremony were visual artist Luis Yee, who designed the Open Doors Monument in 2007; embassy officers and staff, and other members of the Filipino community.

The "Manilaners," the Jewish people who lived in the Philippines in the 1930s to 1940s, were also present at the event, as well as some Holocaust survivors.
 
Calonge said the Filipino delegates were deeply honored to attend the third anniversary celebration of the Open Doors Monument.
 
“We will never forget those days of darkness when a race was elevated to be superior to another, when a people who served their countries of residence were rejected as members of that polity and when the vital contributions of that people to the societies where they lived were ignored," he said.
 
Calonge also said their generation's duty "is not to forget that the Philippines, the Pearl of the Orient Seas, responded.  It saved precious lives and gave all it can."
 
He heralded the Manilaners who were present in the ceremony. - with Gian Geronimo, VVP, GMA News

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