Here’s a little known fact that you won’t get from Hollywood or a Steven Spielberg flick. Did you know that the Philippines played a role in saving hundreds of Jews from the gas chambers and mass graves of the Holocaust? In 1939, two years before World War II reached the Pacific, the Commonwealth government under President Manuel L. Quezon allotted 10,000 visas and safe haven to Jews fleeing Nazi Europe. Some 1,200 Jews made it to Manila before the city itself fell to Japanese invaders.
70 years later, the first ever monument honoring Quezon and the Filipino nation for this “open door policy” was inaugurated on Israeli soil. The monument—a geometric, seven-meter-high sculpture titled “Open Doors”—was designed by Filipino artist Junyee (Luis Lee Jr.). Junyee won a competition held by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts in February 2007 for the monument project. He won a P300,000 cash prize for his design over seven other entries, including one submitted by a National Artist, according to the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Rendered mainly in steel and set on a base of marble tiles shipped from Romblon, the monument depicts three doors of ascending heights (three, five and seven meters). Viewed from above, Junyee’s work joins together “three triangles”—one representing the triangle of the Philippine flag, and the others signifying the two triangles that form the Star of David in the Israeli flag. Etched on the marble floor are three sets of “footprints” approaching the doors. The prints are said to be those of Weissler, fellow Jewish refugee George Loewenstein, and Doryliz Goffer, a young Filipino-Israeli born in the Philippines and a granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor.
This is something that every Filipino should be proud of, especially for anyone who has ever visited a concentration camp in Germany. In 2006, I had the opportunity to visit Dachau, the very first concentration camp to open in Germany. Like many of my American companions, I was petrified at the images and tour facts during my time on the grounds at Munich. For these reasons, I am very proud to have learned that Philippines played an important role in saving the lives many Jewish refugees.
For more on on the monument please refer to the article from Inquirer.net.
(Salamat, Danielle Polen)