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Larry Vickar, Tova Vickar, Rod Cantiveros, Joel Lazer
Photo credit: The Filipino Journal

Photo credit: The Filipino Journal

Community Kristallnacht Commemoration About How Phillipines Rescued 1300 Jews During WWII Draws Record Crowd

by Rhonda Spivak, November 27, 2015

On November 9th, 2015, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg organized a very moving Kristallnacht commemoration which drew a record crowd which not only filled the Berney Theatre, but also the Adult Lounge where the audience watched the proceedings on a screen. The event, which had a wide audience of all ages from both the Jewish and Filipino communities, focused on the  relatively unknown contribution made by the Philippines during the Holocaust in rescuing over 1200 German and Austrian Jews by allowing them to immigrate to the Philippines. The Philippines is unique in its compassionate act to save Jews during this time period when other nations, including Canada, closed their doors to Jewish immigration.


The event organized by Community Relations Director Shelley Faintuch was co-chaired by Larry Vickar, President/CEO of Vickar Autogroup Inc. and Rod Cantiveros, of Winnipeg's Filipino Journal and the Rosalinda Natividad Cantiveros Foundation. Joel Lazer of Lazer Grant, Community Relations Chair of the Federation, was the MC for the evening. Kristallnacht the “Night of Broken Glass”, commemorates the Nazi pogrom throughout Germany and Austria on the night of November 9–10, 1938, during which synagogues were torched, Jews were killed, businesses vandalized and their property destroyed. Over 30,000 Jewish men were sent to Nazi concentration camps on that night.



The commemoration evening featured the fascinating documentary Rescue in the Philippines, which chronicled the humanitarian and noble rescue of these Jews refugees that was a cooperative effort of Manuel Quezon, the first president of the Philippines, American High Commissioner Paul McNutt (who issued U.S. visas to Jews to leave Nazi Germany and Austria in defiance of State Department guidelines), Col. Dwight Eisenhower, the U.S. military commander in the Philippines at the time,  and five Jewish American brothers, the Freiders. The Cincinnati based Frieder brothers ran a highly profitable cigar making business in the Philippines, and were leaders of the small pre-war Manila Jewish community of some 50 families, who were mainly American. Quezon and the Frieders both shared a love of poker, which helped cement their relationship, to the benefit of the  1300 Jews who were ultimately able to escape the Nazi Holocaust and re-build their lives in the Philippines. A handful of Jews, now elderly, who had been rescued, were interviewed for the documentary. (As an aside, in Rishon Lezion, Israel a monument was erected to mark the courageous rescue efforts of the Philippines, and Manuel Quezon's grandson was in attendance at its dedication.)


Prior to the screening of the hour-long film, Jewish Federation of Winnipeg president David Kroft and Orli Marcelino, consul general of the Philippines in Winnipeg gave short opening remarks. Flor Marcelino, Minister of Multiculturalism and Literacy was also in attendance as were numerous other leaders in the Filipino community. As well, memorial candles were lit prior to the screening of the film. 


After the screening of the documentary, this reporter spoke with a number of members of the Filipino community in attendance who said they found the documentary to be "very interesting" and "an unknown chapter in the history of the Philippines." All said they were glad they had been in attendance for this remarkable evening to learn about an episode that none of them had previously known about. One man from the Filipino community asked whether he was able to buy a video of the film, as "I want to show it to my children. I want them to know the story." A number of those in the audience were visibly moved to tears. 


At the event,the national anthems of Israel, the Philippines and Canada were sung by Regina Teplitsky and Joy Lazo. Sigi Wassermann, Holocaust survivor, gave thanks on behalf of the Jewish community to the Filipino community for their courageous rescue of Jews. A plaque of gratitude commemorating the contributions made by Filipinos in rescuing Jews was unveiled by Rod Cantiveros and Larry Vickar, co-chairs of the event. 


To see a full report of this event in the Filipino Journal, click here:

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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