Comic book launch binds families of the rescuer and rescued

A unique get-together of the Quezon and Hahn families with Israel’s Ambassador to the Philippines Effie Ben Matityau (eight from left) Lorenzana (ninth from left) and the comic book’s creative team.

THIS year marks the 80th anniversary of one of the most extraordinary humanitarian stories on the eve of World War II, which is centered on the Philippines.

It is about the “open-door policy” initiated and installed by then-Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon and the rescue of 1,300 Jewish souls from the Holocaust.

Front cover of the comic book

Over the past years, the story was highlighted in a variety of ways with additional research that shed light on the very unique decision-making process that led to the said policy and, eventually, to the rescue of people in desperate need.

In the heart of the narrative is the moral victory of the Philippines, in contrast to the collapse of many nations on the other side of the spectrum.

Between the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, the world was facing the darkest chapter in human history. More than 100 million people lost their lives to World War II, and the Holocaust of the Jewish people became the symbol of the moral collapse as this genocide was centered on racism, supposed racial supremacy and megalomania.

Quezon actually exemplified a very strong moral conviction and a clear moral compass that was in the heart of his policy decision. He decided to grant 10,000 visas to Jewish refugees escaping the horrors of Nazism in Europe, but had to stand up against strong opposition at home and especially abroad.

However, with the support of then-United States High Commissioner Paul McNutt, leaders of the Jewish community led by the Frieder brothers and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, it became possible for 1,300 out of 10,000 to reach the shores of the Philippines.

The unknown story is that many of those refugees turned the Philippines into their homes and among them, became distinguished Filipinos and families.

The events are the subject of a special comic book that was launched in Manila with the title, “Open Doors, Open Hearts: The story of how Quezon and the Philippines saved 1,300 Jewish souls from the Holocaust”.

It brought together the Quezon family, the savers; and the Hahn family of the Philippines, the saved. Quezon’s daughter  Zenaida “Nini” Quezon-Avanceña met for the first time Leticia Hahn, who married a son of one of the refugees and raised a wonderful family that is making a difference in society.

The event was graced by Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, who, himself, was fascinated by this chapter of Philippine history, which he first learned about when he was military attaché in Washington.

The creative team behind the comic book is made up of Sarge Lacuesta, JV Tanjuatco, Jim Jimenez and Jesus Crisologo.

Quezon even wanted thousands of fleeing Jews to be relocated in Mindanao and start a large-scale commercial venture there by raising cattle. However, the Americans objected to the idea, fearing that the Jews would make the Philippines an eventual springboard to the US.

With a report from Recto Mercene

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