The Story

“Rescue in The Philippines” is a one-hour documentary of the previously untold story of how the five Frieder brothers, Cincinnati businessmen making two-for-a-nickel cigars in pre-WWII Manila, together with Manuel Quezon, the charismatic first president of the Philippines, Paul McNutt, US High Commissioner and former governor of Indiana (preparing for his own presidential campaign) and an ambitious Army Colonel named Dwight Eisenhower –  helped 1,300 Jews escape the Nazis and immigrate to the Philippines.

It all began playing cards and smoking cigars.

No one could have predicted that tropical afternoon and evening card games would lead to an intricate international plan of rescue and settlement. When no other country would take in the masses of fleeing Jews, they alone persevered simply because “it was the right thing to do.”

A real life Casablanca, the story of the rescue is dramatic, elevating and inventive.  At its core lies the integrity and compassion of seven men from completely different backgrounds – military, political, business – Jewish, Protestant and Catholic – with vastly different personal agendas and reasons for being in the Philippines, united only by this place and time and their compassion, conceived of and accomplished the rescue.

Pivotal was the extraordinary support of President Quezon who said, “(T)he people of the Philippines will have in the future every reason to be glad that when the time of need came, their country was willing to extend a hand of welcome.”  

Equally extraordinary was Paul McNutt’s diplomatic expertise and political courage convincing the State Department to keep Philippine borders open.  It was the perseverance and courage of the Frieders that created new lives in this strange land for a steady stream of desperate refugees.  For the refugees, it is a story of daring escapes, hardships creating a community of love and faith and, finally, a desperate battle for survival in the middle of one of the most ferocious battles of World War II.

Most of all, this is a story of how good can come out of evil.

How unspeakable evil, prejudice, intolerance – and the threat of domination and loss of liberty – elicits the determination to defeat it.

How the American values of freedom and liberty for everyone – of protecting the weak and rescuing the persecuted – found a perfect complement in a young president fighting for his country’s freedom and independence with his own respect for every human life.

This is also the story of how a young nation – at considerable political risk – takes its seat at the table of nations by demonstrating moral courage equal to – at this time far superior to – larger, wealthier, stronger nations.

And this is the story of how one freedom loving fledgling democracy bonded with the world’s other freedom loving fledgling democracy – Israel.  On November 29, 1947, the Philippines cast the deciding U.N. vote in favor of Israeli statehood.  Today the Open Door monument stands in Israel commemorating the courage and bravery of the Philippines in their rescue of 1300 Jews.