CONNECTICUT — Born on August 19 in 1878 in Baler, Tayabas, Quezon, Manuel Luis Quezon grew up to become the second president of the Philippines after Emilio Aguinaldo – the first president of the revolutionary government.
In 2015, the Wallenberg medal was posthumously bestowed upon President Quezon and the people of the Philippines for opening the country to the victims of the Holocaust.
The Wallenberg medal is given to outstanding humanitarians who reflect the heroism of Raoul Wallenberg – a Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews in Budapest during World War II.
Among those who fled Nazi Germany and found home in the Philippines is Lotte Hershfield, a Holocaust survivor who is now living in West Hartford.
While millions of Jews died in the Nazi death camps — Oscar Schindler, a member of the Nazi party, risked his own life to save 1,200 Jews.
For his part, Quezon also answered the call to help during these desperate times. Hershfield was among the Jewish refugees who were housed in Marikina Hall – which was built on a piece of land beside Quezon’s family home in Marikina.
“When we dedicated the building, Quezon spoke and he spoke to the fact that he would most welcome to let 10,000 jews come…
But Quezon’s desire to help more Jews did not happen after the war came to the shores of the Philippines, a U.S. territory then, after Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese forces.
Hershfield said she and her fellow refugees would not be alive today if not for President Quezon.
“He had open up that country the only country that was open, an if it hadn’t been for the Philippines, we knew we would end up as ashes in Auswitz or lampshade for some Nazi officer.”
After the war was over, Lotte moved and settled in the U.S., thanks to the help of the U.S. Department of State.
Quezon’s heroism is now immortalized through the movie “Quezon’s Game.”
The producers of Quezon’s Game is also streaming “The Last Manilaners” – an original documentary series on the Jewish refugees in the Philippines who escaped death from Nazi death camps.
Streaming is available using the “I want TV” app.