Rescue in the Philippines Unveils Another Story of Holocaust Heroism Yet Untold


It speaks to the vastness of the horrors of the 20th century Holocaust that, as exhaustively documented as that genocide is, there remain stories untold and heroism not fully recognized. It’s likely that none but the most ardent scholars are aware of the role the Philippines played in saving Jewish lives while much of the rest of the world looked the other way. Co-directors Russ Hodge and Cyndi Scott, with narration by Liev Shreiber, provide a brisk, information-dense corrective to that oversight. Rescue in the Philippines, a well-crafted if structurally generic documentary (interview subjects filmed talking to the camera; copious use of archival footage), illustrates how over 1,300 Jews were taken in by the Philippines thanks to the efforts of the country’s politically hard-nosed but empathetic president Manuel Quezon, then-Col. Dwight Eisenhower, and the Frieder brothers, an Ohio–based family who made their fortune through cigars. While the heroism of all involved is clear, what the film most powerfully illustrates is how the vagaries and variables of seemingly unconnected events (Japan’s conquest of China in 1937, a year before Kristallnacht) and unimportant human connections (the poker games President Quezon hosted, with guests including U.S. politicians and the Frieders) can converge in ways that change the course of history. Still, it’s a chilling observation by one survivor that haunts the viewer after final credits roll. “How could anyone have known that [the horror of Nazi Germany] would get to be what it did?” she asks. “And you know what? I think it could happen again anywhere.”

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 29, 2013

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