MANILA—“If it were not for the Philippines, none of us would exist.”
These were the words of Lotte Hershfield, as she recalled having a new home in the Philippines after her family fled from the Holocaust in the 1930s.
Hershfield was one of the 1,300 Jews who found an unlikely refuge in the country, through the open-door policy of President Manuel L. Quezon.
Hershfield shares her account of fleeing the Nazi regime and finally arriving in the Philippines in “The Last Manilaners,” an iWant original documentary scheduled to release on January 27, coinciding with International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.
She is one of the last living Manilaners, along with Margot Pints Kestenbaum and Max Weissler, who also both narrate their experiences in the film.
“I think I wouldn’t even know where to begin to express my very thanks for the fact that I lived,” Kestenbaum said.
Referring to the Philippines, Weissler said: “I had my youth there. I grew up there. I learned my language there.”
The Jewish rescue of the Philippines was also the subject of the 2019 film “Quezon’s Game,” which tells the little-known part of the nation’s history from the perspective of the president.
Quezon’s humanitarian gesture was honored in 2009 with the “Open Doors” monument in Israel, located at Rishon LeZion Memorial Park just off Tel Aviv.
Israel also provides visa-free access to Filipino citizens, an arrangement borne of Quezon’s “moral courage,” as termed by the country’s embassy here.