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Kristallnacht photoBy BERNIE BELLAN
An overflow crowd filled the Berney Theatre Monday evening, November 9, to pay tribute to the contributions made by Filipinos prior to and during World War II in saving the lives of over 1300 German and Austrian Jews.


The event, held on the 77th anniversary of Kristallnacht, was organized by Winnipeg’s Jewish Federation under the guidance of Community Relations Director Shelley Faintuch. It was co-chaired by Larry Vickar and Rod Cantiveros. M.C. for the evening was Joel Lazer, Community Relations Chair of the Federation.
Following the dramatic and highly original renditions of three national anthems – Hatikvah, sung by Regina Teplitsky; the Philippine national anthem, sung by Joy Lazo (who was my son Jordan’s singing teacher for many years back when he was a teen); and O Canada, sung by Regina and Joy together, there were remarks from David Kroft, president, of the Jewish Federation and Orli Marcelino, Consul General of the Philippines.
Following a commemorative service for victims of the Holocaust, audience members (including individuals who could not find a place in the Berney Theatre and were given seats instead in the nearby seniors’ lounge) were shown a fascinating film titled “Rescue in the Philippines”. (Although the film is not available free of charge on the internet, various trailers can be viewed and the film is available either for purchase of rent at http://rescueinthephilippines.com/videos-2/.)
The film chronicles the efforts of a rather strange mix of individuals who joined forces to enable the migration of a number of German and Austrian Jews to the Philippines prior to World War II. Foremost among these players were five brothers from Cincinnati, the Frieder brothers, who had made a fortune in the cigar-making business in the Philippines. Joining them in the endeavor was the first-ever president of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon who, as it turned out, had a love for poker playing that put him in common with the Frieders. Other notable figures in what turned out to be a highly controversial project were the U.S. high commissioner in the Philippines, Paul McNutt, and someone who was a colonel stationed in the Philippines prior to the war, Dwight Eisenhower.
The movie, although a documentary, bears a strong resemblance to “Schindler’s List” in its highlighting of a hitherto little-known facet of history that shows, once again, how certain brave individuals defied the odds and did what they could to save Jews.
There were a fair number of members of Winnipeg’s Filipino community in the audience. In a previous issue we noted the Jewish Heritage Centre’s exhibit on the garment industry in Winnipeg, which also highlighted the contributions of certain members of the Jewish community in fostering the initial emigration of Filipinos to Winnipeg beginning in the 1970s.

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