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How the Philippines saved more than a thousand Jews from Hitler

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A FILM still from Quezon’s Game featuring David Bianco as Dwight Eisenhower and Raymond Bagatsing as Manuel L. Quezon.

A LESSER-KNOWN historical event that took place during the administration of President Manuel L. Quezon is the topic of the film Quezon’s Game. Directed by Matthew E. Rosen and produced by ABS-CBN’s Star Cinema, it will be released nationwide on May 29.

Quezon’s Game tells the story of Quezon’s role in helping more than a thousand Jews escape the Holocaust by persuading American authorities to issue Philippine visas to the refugees.

“President’s Quezon’s compassion has been compared to Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist who inspired the Oscar Best Picture Schindler’s List (1993),” according to a press release.

It was in the late 1930s that Adolf Hitler systematically massacred six million Jews during the Holocaust. While other world leaders ignored the plight of Jewish refugees, Quezon — despite opposition — created an open-door policy which was meant to welcome more than 10,000 Jews to the country though he had originally planned to welcome thousands more.

The Philippines initially issued 10,000 visas but plans were halted when Japan invaded and occupied the Philippines during the Second World War. In the end, only about 1,200 Jews reached the country’s shores.

The film’s trailer includes this exchange between Vice-President Sergio Osmena, Sr., played by Audie Gemora, and Quezon, played by Raymond Bagatsing:




“Mr. President, why are you doing this? It’s not that we’re belittling the Jews but should the Filipinos be concerned about this?”

“I can’t turn a blind eye, Sergio. … This is the Philippines. We will stand against Hitler.”

Aside from Mr. Bagatsing and Mr. Gemora, the film’s cast includes Rachel Alejandro who plays Aurora Quezon, the President’s wife; David Bianco as Dwight Eisenhower; and Billy Ray Gallion and Tony Ahn as Alex Frieder and Herbert Frieder, two brothers who were instrumental in helping Jews escape to Manila.

Quezon’s Game opens nationwide on May 29. — Zsarlene B. Chua

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