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1942: a year of survival for Philippine Jews at the edge of the Diaspora.


When one views the year 1942 in historical perspective, it was very much a turning point in terms of Allied military victories and a growing worldwide awareness of the Holocaust. The 18 April 1942 Doolittle air raid on Tokyo and four other Japanese cities shattered the myth of Japanese invincibility. Japan suffered major naval reversals in the May and June 1942 battles of the Coral Sea and Midway; the 7 August 1942 United States Marine assault against Japanese positions on Guadalcanal in the British Solomon Islands, a battle that would last six months; and the devastating 17-18 August 1942 attack by U.S. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Evans Fordyce Carlson's 2nd Raider Battalion against the Japanese garrison on Makin Island in the British Gilbert and Ellis Islands.

Information slowly began to emerge about the nature and extent of the Holocaust, which was only formally proclaimed by Hitler's underlings at the January 1942 Wannsee Conference. On 24 August Geneva-based World Jewish Congress leader Gerhart Riegner alerted world Jewish leaders by telegram about the mass murder of Jews. Various Allied governments whose intelligence services were fully aware of Jewish annihilation began to publicise the atrocity. The Polish Government in Exile in London, in particular, circulated radio reports from the Polish underground in Warsaw. Approximately sixty Palestinian Jews who returned to the yishuv from Eastern Europe gave eyewitness testimony to genocide. Despite this publicly-available evidence, 1942 was also the year in which the Vatican issued two equivocal pronouncements about Jews and genocide.

The news of Allied military victories in the Pacific, along with simultaneous advances on the North Africa and Russian fronts, should have been a source of consolation and encouragement to Jews worldwide. But this depended on the extent to which communications got through, the ability of the listener to digest and believe such extraordinary reports, and the individual Jew's preoccupation with the sheer hardships of daily living. Reaching the next day became the exclusive object of his or her activity, not pondering the fate of Allied governments or far-off brethren. The Jews of the Philippines fall into the category of individuals who were simply unaware that 1942 was a turning point in the military history of the war and of the Holocaust. To fully comprehend the lack of awareness of Philippine Jews in 1942, some historical background on events of several preceding years is necessary.

Political and Military Context

On 27 December 1941, Field Marshall of the Philippine Army and United States Army, General Douglas MacArthur, faced overwhelming odds. Nearly three weeks earlier the Imperial Japanese 14th Army, based on Taiwan, launched amphibious assaults against Luzon, the main island in the 8,000-isle Philippine archipelago. At that time the Philippines were a self-governing Commonwealth scheduled to receive full independence from the United States in 1946. Navy pilots of Japan's 11th Imperial Air Fleet, also based on Taiwan, obliterated most of Macarthur's air force on the ground at Clark Field and at the nearby American fighter base in Iba. MacArthur had almost no hope of reinforcements from the American mainland, let alone from the devastated United States naval base at Pearl Harbor or air station on Wake Island.

Macarthur had been building fortifications in the Philippines since his graduation from West Point in 1903. Facing these overwhelming odds, he declared Manila an open city in the faint hope that this gesture would induce the Japanese to protect the city's infrastructure and its civilian population of approximately 700,000. Shortly thereafter, MacArthur, his family, and Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon retreated to the comparative safety of Australia, promising to return at some unspecified date. He handed all civilian authority over to Commonwealth Vice President Jose P. Laurel, instructing him to collaborate with the Japanese up to the critical red line of not swearing allegiance to the Japanese emperor (Morison 1988; Esposito 1959: 113 ff.; Zich 1999: 86-87, 155; Chun 2012).

On 2 January 1942 some 20,000 combat-tested troops of Japanese Lieutenant General Homma Masaharu's 14th Army entered Manila, followed by two regiments of tanks. On 4 January Homma declared martial law in the entire archipelago. By 9 June 1942 all formal United States military resistance had ceased in what was the single largest surrender of troops in American military history. The Japanese would retain control over Manila until driven out by returning American troops in the February-March 1945 Battle of Manila. In that devastating engagement, 10% of the city's civilian population would die, a large number in a rampage by Japanese marines in the city's Red Cross Hospital. Over 1,000,000 Filipinos were killed or wounded in the course of the Japanese occupation. Of the approximately 625,000 Japanese troops sent to the Philippines, 498,000, or 80%, would perish (Simons 1980: 182-83; Ikehata and Jose 1999; Jose 2006; Steinberg 1967; Hartendorp 1967).

At the moment of General Homma's 2 January 1942 entry into Manila the Philippines hosted a Jewish community of about 2,000 individuals. Virtually all lived in Manila. A majority were post-1933 refugees from Hitler. (1) They had already experienced German and Austrian antisemitism and were understandably concerned about the fate of their European brethren. Their major worry, however, on 2 January and for the duration of the year 1942, was whether Germany's relationship with Japan would affect their safe haven.

There were solid grounds for this concern. Although the Manila Jewish community did not have intimate knowledge of the inner workings of German-Japanese relations, they understood the broader parameters and felt the direct effects of that relationship.

As American Japanologist Frank Joseph Shulman has noted, Japan had enjoyed a very positive relationship with world Jewry earlier in the twentieth century, receiving essential financial aid from American Jewish banker Jacob Schiff for its 1904-05 war with Russia. Japan in turn supported the November 1917 Balfour Declaration, which called for a national homeland for Jews in the then-Ottoman territory of Palestine. Japanese firms also traded with Jewish enterprises in Palestine. But Japan's pro-Zionist sentiments began to cool well before World War Two, as Nippon cultivated far larger trade surpluses with the Arab and Islamic world than it could ever hope to enjoy with the yishuv, as the much smaller Jewish community of Palestine and later of Israel was then known (Shulman 1968:1-7, 223; Ephraim 2003; Netzorg ca. 1990; Hutton 1997; Sharett 1964; Kohut 1904; Gleeck ca. 1989; Griese 1954; Eberly 1975:162-63; Kotlowski 2009: 865-896; Jacob 1957:10-11; Hadas 1979; Seruya 1979: 8; Goldstein 2010: 53-67; Goldstein 2009:296-304; Goldstein and Kotlowski 2013).

By the mid-nineteen thirties Japan has begun to significantly strengthen its ties with Nazi Germany. Japan allied with Hitler in the 25 November 1936 Anti-Comintern Pact and the 27 September 1940 Tripartite Alliance. On 20 February 1938, Germany in turn recognised Japanese-dominated Manchukuo and on 1 July 1941, the Japanese-sanctioned puppet regime of Wang Jingwei in China. Prior to the January 1942 Wannsee Conference in which German leaders specified a "Final Solution," that is, genocide, for the "problem" of European Jewry, Germany was happy to see Central and Eastern European Jews dumped in Japanese-dominated regions of Asia. At that point Germany's goal was forced emigration of Jews and strong economic ties both with Japan and with Japanese-occupied regions of China. After the Wannsee Conference, the Nazi government would have preferred the destruction of all Asian as well as European Jewry, but it would have been difficult for the Japanese to implement such a policy, and Hitler knew it.

Japan had negotiated a non-aggression pact with the USSR in April 1941, which remained intact until August 1945. Not willing to imperil that agreement, Japan dared not persecute any of the thousands of Russian Jews and non-Jews in the regions under its control. (2) As a precaution against wartime sabotage in the Philippines, Japan interned and ghettoised stateless individuals and non-Russians from all Western nations at war with the Axis, a process which will be described in detail below. In principle Japan's incarceration policies were similar to those of the United States in its forced incarceration of Japanese on the U.S. West Coast. Japan's incarceration policies cannot be characterized as genocide or antisemitism (Maruyama 2009:22-38; Krebs 2004:113-29; Fox 1968:46-50; Weinberg 1957:149-64).

Germany grumbled but tolerated the incarceration policies of its Asian ally, much in the way it put up with Mussolini's half-hearted attempts to implement antisemitic policies from 22 May 1939 on, when Il Duce formally allied Italy with Germany in the "Pact of Steel." Indeed, prior to January 1942 Japan partook in the rescue of many of Hitler's Jewish victims with no opposition at all from the Nazis. (3) A case in point occurs in 1937 after the Japanese conquer Shanghai, the only place where Jewish refugees from Nazism could stay without a visa. Ultimately, approximately 18,000 Central and Eastern European Jewish refugees from Hitler found asylum there (Kranzler 1988:477-504; Goldstein 2004:79-80; Eber 2012.)

The biggest question facing Manila Jewry on 2 January 1942 therefore was not the complex past history of Japanese-German relations, but rather whether Japan's fundamental toleration of Jews would endure. The status of Jews in Manila was related to the overall Filipino response to the Japanese takeover, which expressed itself in three specific ways.

Filipino Response to the Japanese Invasion

First, on the main island of Luzon and on the southernmost island of Mindanao, remnants of the American and Filipino armies resorted to guerilla warfare against the Japanese. These units were under the direct command of Macarthur headquarters in Australia. They included in their ranks future Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay. They would remain strictly loyal to the United States for the duration of the war. These combatants saw allegiance to the United States, and not a vague relationship with Japan, as their best hope for postwar independence. This was a calculated risk. Exiled President Quezon, while siding firmly with the Americans, nevertheless expressed scepticism in his comment that "I would rather have a government run like hell by Filipinos than a government run like heaven by Americans." (4)

A second group of guerillas were the Huks, the Tagalog acronym for "The People's Anti-Japanese Army." They were active in central Luzon under the command of Philippine Communist Party leaders Jesus, Jose, and Vincente Lava. Vincente, who had studied chemistry at Columbia University, was ably assisted by his Bronx-born Jewish wife. Ruth Lava, until her recent passing, was the La Passionaria of the Philippines. The Huks were anti-Japanese and anti-American. They were also militant agrarian and labour reformers in central Luzon and arch-foes of the Roman Catholic Church, then the largest landowner in the Philippines (Karnow 1989:444; Eberly 1975:63; Steinberg 1967).

A third Filipino response was outright collaboration. The Japanese, like the Americans before them, sought accommodation with the local and nationalist elites. Although the Philippines were technically under Japanese military rule, a nominally independent but Japanese-dominated "Philippine Executive Commission" was set up on 26 January 1942. It would officially rule the archipelago until 1943, when a Japanese-controlled "Republic of the Philippines" would emerge under President Jose P. Laurel, Vice President Sergio Osmena, and National Assembly speaker Benigno Aquino Sr. That regime, like half a dozen other Japanese puppet regimes in East and Southeast Asia, had its own constabularies: A "Filipino Volunteer Army," or "Makapili," under the anti-American hero-general Artemio Ricarte (1866-1945); and the "League of Patriotic Filipinos" under General Benigno Ramos (1893-1946). Ricarte and Ramos had spent years of exile in Japan. Both groups took their inspiration from the Cebuano chieftain Lapulapu, who, according to legend, slew the Spanish conquistador Ferdinand Magellan shortly after his arrival in the Philippines in 1521. Both Ricarte and Ramos died at the end of or shortly after the war while fighting in Central Luzon.

In November 1943, Philippine "President" Jose Laurel offered his rationale for collaborating with Japan at the Greater East Asia Conference, convened in Tokyo and chaired by Japanese Prime Minister Tojo Hideki. According to Laurel "There is no longer any power that can stop or delay the acquisition by the one billion Orientals of the free and untrammeled right and opportunity to shape their own destiny. God in his infinite wisdom will not abandon Japan and will not abandon the peoples of Greater East Asia" (Simons 1980: 60-61; Zich 1999:155; Steinberg 1967).

Jews Under the Occupation

The Filipino population disagreed over which of these three entities to support. In a classic case of divided loyalty, Benigno Aquino Sr.'s son fought with the Americans on Bataan while he collaborated with the Japanese. As in many parts of the world under Axis control, Philippine Jews in 1942 struggled to survive under a collaborationist regime. The specific legal status of each individual Jew depended on the nature of his or her passport. There were three basic categories of passport, or absence thereof.

First, as already noted, individuals from countries at war with Japan--enemy aliens--were held in detention camps. In Manila the main camp was on the campus of the University of Santo Tomas. Another was set up in Los Banos. These camps held American, Belgian, British, British Commonwealth, Dutch, and Polish passport holders as well as undocumented stateless aliens. About 250 Jews were in these camps (Schwarz 1973; Bensky and Gilson 1994:6; Shapiro 2009:104; Zich 1999:155; Eber 2012:176). While the Japanese in Manila seem to have categorised all Polish Jews as stateless and incarcerated them, in Shanghai the General Council of the Polish Residents' Association rejected this designation and claimed that Poles still "had a country," with its Government-in-Exile in London. The Japanese rejected this claim, arguing that, if true, Poles should be classified as enemy aliens and their property confiscated (Eber 2012:176).

A second category of passport holders was comprised of individuals from neutral countries and from countries formally allied with Japan, including Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Iraq, Italy, Rumania, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, and, where one could prove his or her loyalties, Vichy France. These individuals were not interned. They included, at the highest level, Michael J. O'Doherty, who had been the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila since 1916 and was a citizen of the neutral Republic of Ireland. The exempt category also included German Jews who had been in the archipelago long enough to acquire Filipino passports. The legendary example in this category was Ernest E. Simke, manager of the Estrella del Norte department store on remote Negros Island. When challenged by a Japanese sentry, Simke produced his Filipino passport, prompting the officer to remark "Put chicken in oven, out should come chicken, not fish." Simke and his family were unharmed for the duration of the war. In the early nineteen fifties he re-emerges as the first Consul General in the Philippines from the reborn State of Israel (Simke:1951; Simke 30 April 1955; Simke 20 February 1956; Simke 23 November 1969; Shapiro 2009:104; Ephraim 2003:115).

A final category of foreigners who were exempt from incarceration were Jewish and non-Jewish Russians who held identity papers issued by the Soviet Union. In some cases the Japanese also exempted Russian refugees with identity documents from the Nansen Committee for International Refugees as well as passport holders from the short-lived "Far Eastern Republic," or DVR (Dalnnevostochnaya Respublika), which was based in Chita, Central Siberia, in the early 1920s until it was absorbed by the U.S.S.R. (5) As already noted, the Japanese did not want to imperil their non-aggression pact with the U.S.S.R., which would remain intact until August 1945. The treaty freed hundreds of thousands of Japanese troops from service on Japan's Soviet and Mongolian frontiers. These soldiers were reassigned elsewhere in East and Southeast Asia, notably in the South Pacific. To the best of this author's knowledge there was not one instance in the entire war of the Japanese in East or Southeast Asia touching one hair on the head of these exempt Russians (Hutton 1997:233; Citrin 1993; Shapiro 2009:104; Stephan 1978:320-21).

Both interned and non-interned Philippine Jews fell under the specific jurisdiction of the Japanese 14th Army's Religious Section, headed by Lieutenant Colonel Narusawa Tomosi, whose wife was a practising Roman Catholic. Narusawa's preoccupation was with the archipelago's 12.6 million Roman Catholics, who constituted 80% of the population and was the single largest Christian community in Asia. His primary objective was preserving peace with this important constituency, and certainly not spreading Japanese religious practices. On 12 January 1942, the Religious Section, in conjunction with the Japanese military police, posted 272 public notices forbidding Japanese troops from entering "churches or church-affiliated buildings," including Manila's only synagogue, Temple Emil. On 15 January 1942 the Religious Section released all missionaries who were being held in the Santo Tomas detention center, including many Americans. The synagogue's and other religious schools were allowed to remain open under the rationale that they were places of "religious practice" rather than "schooling."

In 1942 Rosh Hashanah services were held in Manila's synagogue under the watchful eye of Japanese plainclothesmen and two Japanese clergymen, who clumsily tried to follow the liturgy in the prayer books they had been given. This celebration included Jews who had been specially bused in from the Santo Tomas detention center. Max Weissler, today of Hod haSharon, Israel, was in the synagogue at that time and recalled that each of the internees wore red armbands. (6)

How did Jews fare overall under these regulations? For Jews and all other Filipinos, the central feature of life in 1942, as already suggested, was not religious observance or even concern for the fate of their European kinfolk or world events, but rather sheer physical survival from day to day. For many years the Philippines had been a rice-importing nation. Due to the vicissitudes of war, and especially American submarine activity, the islands were hermetically sealed off from their traditional sources of overseas food supply, devastating the nutrition of the people as well as the economy of the entire archipelago. The Japanese imposed stiff food rationing as the war progressed. Some wealthier Jews developed short-term coping mechanisms.

The Leopold and Deutschkron families opened sausage factories, making daily deliveries by bicycle to the Philippine General Hospital as well as to the Philippine Red Cross for onward delivery to detainees in the camps. Other Jews planted victory gardens on any available patch of land. The entire grounds of Jewish community president Morton Netzorg's estate were cultivated for produce for the home's new residents: the elderly, homeless, and others unable to care for themselves (Ephraim 2003:77, 103-06).

By mid-1942 the Jews had to confront stark realities of survival not unlike those faced by their European brethren. Jurgen Goldhagen described his family's daily ordeal preparing meals:

One sat on a wooden block which had a metal scraper nailed on the end of it. Then one took a coconut half and scraped the meat out of it. The shredded coconut would be put into a cloth until the milk came out. The shredded residue was then boiled with brown sugar into an edible confection, while the hard brown shell became the fuel for our small, hibachi-style cooking stove (Ephraim 2003:103-104).

Within the context of hand-to-mouth existence, Jews who had already survived Hitler received occasional tidbits of information from abroad. Officially, their source of information was a Philippine-owned but Japanese-censored Tribune, which was reporting as late as 8 June 1944, after D-Day, that "enemy troops were annihilated after 12 hours of fighting." Jews had other sources to balance such propaganda. They remained in sporadic radio contact with the outside world for the duration of the war. Radio sets were fully operational throughout the year 1942. It was only on 7 January 1943 that Japanese General Tanaka Shizuichi, Homma's replacement as commander in the Philippines, ordered the removal of short wave international capability from all civilian radio sets. A.V. Hartendorp, a non-Jew, recorded that even in the Santo Tomas detention facility, two hidden radio sets remained in operation for the entire war.

Until the fall of the Manila Bay fortress of Corregidor on 6 May 1942, Jews heard daily broadcasts from that island's "Voice of Freedom." (7) After that, German refugee Frank Ephraim writes in his memoir that

... every night Franz Eulau and many other members of the Jewish community switched on their small short wave radios listening to the barely audible broadcast from San Francisco. The vigorous voice that filtered through the ether was that of William Winter broadcasting "San Francisco Calling" from radio KEGI, located in the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill in San Francisco. The broadcasts were the only link to the outside world, and they provided news suppressed by Japanese propaganda media (Ephraim 2003: 106-07).

"Voice of Freedom" and KEGI spread the news of the 18 April 1942 Doolittle air raid on Tokyo and four other Japanese cities, shattering the myth of Japanese invincibility. Static-filled broadcasts from San Francisco reported Japanese naval reversals. It is unclear whether any radio broadcasts included information on the Holocaust in general or on the specific, wrenching developments concerning the fate of European Jewry in 1942. (8)

Aftermath of the Year 1942

While these occasional, unverified reports may have ignited some hope for rescue at some unspecified date, there were also lingering, and, as it turned out, well-founded doubts about future Japanese policies. Although Jews who had already escaped Hitler had no way of predicting future antisemitic activity in Southeast Asia, they were supremely conscious of the general parameters under which such policies could take hold. During the years 1943-44 several blatantly antisemitic incidents did occur in the Philippines. On 25 January 1943 a Japanese military broadcast singled out only "Jews and Chinese" for hoarding goods, exploiting Filipino women, and espionage. The broadcast threatened that culprits would be "dealt with most drastically." The collaborationist Tribune of 26 January 1943 carried the boldfaced headline "JEWS GIVEN STERN WARNING: Chinese Profiteers also Warned by Administration." Manila communal Rabbi Joseph Schwarz vigorously protested to the Japanese military's Bureau of External Affairs about these accusations which specifically targeted Jews and Chinese rather than criminals of all nationalities. The Japanese then temporarily backed off from such specifically antisemitic threats (Ephraim 2003:107-08).

Additional episodes occurred thereafter. On 13 February 1943 German Ambassador to Japan Heinrich Stahmer arrived in Manila in the company of Franz Josef Spann, coordinator of all Nazi Party activity in East Asia. Spahn oversaw approximately fifty members of Manila's Ortsgruppe (local branch) of the Nazi party. Spahn observed that there were no Nazis on the Board of Directors of Manila's German Club, which at one time also included Jews. Spahn forced the election of a Nazi president of the Club by reminding members that "all had relatives back in Germany." In late 1944, "Act No. 45" of the Philippine Assembly called for "the internment of aliens who commit acts inimical to the peace, security, and interest of the Republic of the Philippines." While this act was clearly directed against all black-marketeers, Jews and non-Jews alike, it sparked an antisemitic incident in the Astoria restaurant. A man launched into a diatribe against "Jewish profiteers." Owner Walter Budd asked the man to sit down and shut up; instead, the man continued with a demand that "all Jews be interned as unpatriotic war profiteers." (9)

Because of the broader diplomatic and military context outlined above, the Japanese paid little attention to such outcries for preemptive mass punishment and/or incarceration. The Japanese did imprison in the dungeons of Fort Santiago Jews who were accused of specific subversive offences. These included Ernst Juliusburger, who was caught in 1944 with an illegal radio transmitter. In another 1944 incident, ritual slaughterer (shochet) Israel Konigsberg, an outright participant in anti-Japanese resistance, was arrested, sentenced to death, and only spared when a sympathetic Japanese officer recognized "Father Konigsberg," who occasionally substituted for Manila's rabbi. Viennese refugee Fred Kaunitz was sent to Fort Santiago where he was tortured for weeks. The Japanese did not get any information from him about his activity or that of his sister Hanna Kaunitz, who worked with a Philippine guerilla group called "the Blue Eagle." He was finally released, weak and sick. Shortly after the liberation of Manila Hanna Kaunitz married Atlanta, Georgia doctor Alfred A. Weinstein, one of the American Prisoners of War she had secretly aided in the Cabantuan POW camp (Weinstein 1952:7, 96-97, 243-44, 301, 304; Ephraim 2003:20, 34, 119-25, 175; Philipps and Goldsmith 1947:181-82).


In 1942 there was no way of anticipating antisemitic acts which were still into the future. Nor was it at all clear to Manila Jewry, despite occasional optimistic radio broadcasts, that 1942 had in fact been a military turning point in the war. And there was no concrete information at all about the "Final Solution." Philippine Jews who had already fled Hitler remained wary on all accounts. 1942 was a year of physical struggle, exhaustion, and consternation, not optimism. Frank Ephraim summed it up in his memoir: "The nerve-racking part was wondering how long it would take the first American soldier to arrive and speculating if anyone would survive to see it" (Ephraim 2003: 125). (10)

Apart from the seventy-nine Jewish deaths recorded on a special memorial stone in the Manila Jewish cemetery, most Filipino Jews managed to survive the fierce February-March 1945 Battle of Manila. They were ultimately liberated by American and loyal Filipino troops. The aforementioned Simkes, who had taken out Filipino citizenship before the war, remained in the archipelago and were of assistance when the newly-independent State of Israel established diplomatic relations. As noted above, Ernest E. Simke became the first Israeli Consul in the archipelago. Many German Jewish refugees, including Cantor Josef Cysner and Frank Ephraim, emigrated to the United States, where Ephraim's memoir remains arguably the most comprehensive account of Jewish life under the Japanese occupation.

In March 2013 the United States' Public Broadcasting System aired a documentary about Filipino Jewish life entitled "Rescue in the Philippines: Refuge from the Holocaust." Barbara Sasser, a granddaughter of Filipino-American cigar maker Alex Frieder, was a consultant to the film's producers. It contains interviews with Philippine expatriates in many countries, including Peter Ambrunn, Eva Susskind Asher, Harry Brauer, Lotte Hershfeld, Yashar Hirshaut, Siegfried Holzer, Guenther Leopold, George Loewenstein, Brigitta Welisch Wack, and Alice Freider Weston.

As of 2014 retired maritime engineer Max Weissler, formerly of Berlin and Manila, is the unofficial madrich [leader] and eminence grise of the expatriate Filipino/Jewish community in Israel. That group of survivors, in cooperation with the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv, have erected an impressive matzevah, or commemorative stone tablet, in the downtown square of Rishon Lezion, one of Israel's first and largest cities. That monument, perhaps more than anything else, is enduring testament to the gratitude of Jewish refugees from Hitler who managed to survive at the edge of the Diaspora.


This article is copyrighted by Jonathan Goldstein 2014 and is used with the author's permission. Portions of this article will appear in the author's book Jewish Identities in East and Southeast Asia, forthcoming in 2014. An earlier version of this article was presented as a paper at a panel on "Knowledge, Comprehension, and Their Impact: Other Aspects" at the conference "The End of 1942: A Turning Point in World War II and in the Comprehension of the Final Solution," Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel, 20 December 2012.

The revision of this article was completed during the author's Plumer Visiting Fellowship at St. Anne's College, Oxford University, in 2013-14. The author wishes to thank his colleagues at St. Anne's, especially Robert Chard, Catherine Hartley, Jonathan Katz, Anne Mullen, Derek Penslar, David Smith, and Sally Speirs, for their collegiality and for the use of their unrivalled research facilities. The author also greatly appreciates research assistance he received from Ferdinand P. Flores, Vice Consul of the Embassy of the Philippines, Tel Aviv; Konrad Kwiet and Suzanne Rutland, University of Sydney, Australia; Isi Leibler, Jerusalem, Israel; Meron Medzini, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Myer Samra, Editor of the Australian Journal of Jewish Studies; Walter Todd, University of West Georgia; and Rabbi Marvin Tokayer of Great Neck, New York. The author especially appreciates the research assistance he has received from Philippine Holocaust survivors in Israel, notably Max Weissler. Final responsibility is, of course, the author's alone.


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Weinberg, G. 1957. "Japanese Recognition of Manchoukuo [sic]," World Affairs Quarterly 28: 149-64.

Weinstein, A. A. 1952. Barbed Wire Surgeon. New York: Macmillan. Papers. Woodruff Library, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.

Weissler, Max. Interview, Jerusalem. 20 December 2012.

Yehezkel-Shaked, E. 2003. Jews, Opium, and the Kimono Jerusalem: Rubin Mass.

Zich, A. 1999. The Rising Sun. Richmond, Virginia: Time Life Education.


(1.) Primary sources on Manila Jewry and its refugee community include many documents in New York's YIVO Institute for Jewish Research [Yidishe Visnshaftlekher Institui]; Jerusalem's Yad Vashem and Central Zionist Archives (CZA); the Cantor Joseph Cysner Collection of the Jewish Historical Society of San Diego, California; and the Alfred Abraham Weinstein Papers in the Woodruff Library of Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. Especially useful are communications to and from the American-Jewish Joint Distribution Committee ("the JOINT"); the Harbin, Manchuria-based DALJEWCIB, the Russian-language acronym for "The Far Eastern Jewish Central Information Bureau;" and from HICEM and HIAS. HICEM is the acronym for the organization founded in 1927 as a merger between three Jewish immigration assistance associations: HIAS, the Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society, founded in New York in 1881 and headquartered there; ICA, the Jewish Colonization Association, based in Paris but registered as a British charitable society; and Emigdirect, based in Berlin. See, for example, letter in Yiddish from Meir Berman, HICEM/DALJEWCIB, Harbin, to Isaac L. Anofsky, HIAS, New York, 8 July 1938, in which Berman urges Manila Jewry to sign affidavits of support for Jews immigrating from Germany and Austria. YIVO archives, New York, HIAS-HICEM, I, MKM, file XV, D-1.

Much mythology has arisen around the number of Jews who actually reached Manila. An absolute limit would be 1,500-2,000, yet in a February 1982 interview with Australian Zionist leader and journalist Isi Leibler, Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos maintained that "the Philippines accepted the absorption of 20,000 Jewish refugees from Nazism," a figure which puzzled Leibler ( Leibler 1982: 8).

(2.) Rabbi Chaim Lipschitz makes the unsourced claim that Japan attempted to build camouflaged "gas chambers" in Shanghai for future use against Jews. He maintains that when Nazi Colonel Josef Meisinger, "the butcher of Warsaw," visited Shanghai in the winter of 1944-45, this official requested that "plans" be prepared for these "chambers." According to Lipschitz, such "plans" were found in the German Embassy in Tokyo after World War Two. There is no corroborating evidence for Lipschitz's statements, nor for those of Yehezkel-Shaked, who mentions a July 1942 visit to Shanghai by Meisinger and S.S. officer Hans Heiman, and "plans" to drown Jews en masse in the Pacific Ocean. Meisinger's 1944-45 visit, in particular, occurred when Japanese military fortunes were nearing their lowest ebb. The Japanese military had far greater priorities than killing Jews. Their primary aims were preserving Japan's critically-important nonaggression treaty with the Soviet Union while waging a full-scale, losing war in East, Southeast, and South Asia. Finally, it is unclear from Lipschitz precisely for whom these potential "death chambers" were intended as the Japanese were also experimenting with chemical weapons to be used against the Chinese. In any case, even according to Lipschitz, the Japanese never activated, or even completed, such "chambers." Nor did they ever seriously contemplate the scheme to drown Jews in the Pacific (Lipschitz 1988:106-07; Yehezkel-Shaked 2003:197-99; Eber 2012:170-73).

(3.) The first opportunity to shelter a significant number of Jewish refugees in the Philippines came in August 1937, with full German cooperation. The Nazi government offered all Germans in Shanghai free passage to the Philippines if they wished to escape the Sino-Japanese hostilities that had engulfed that city. At the request of the German Consul General in Manila, U.S. High Commissioner to the Philippines Paul V. McNutt and Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon authorised the admission of these refugees on the condition that they would not become a public burden. In Shanghai about three dozen ethnic Germans plus twenty-eight German Jews took the Nazi government up on its offer. The ethnic Germans and German Jews arrived together in Manila on 8 September 1937 aboard the NorddeutscherLloyd steamship Gneisenau. Manila's ethnic German community took care of its brethren. A hastily-organised Jewish Refugee Committee assumed the formidable task of providing for what was easily the largest Jewish refugee group ever to have landed in the Philippines (Ephraim 2003:21-23; Griese 1954:18, 21-23, 28, 134; Goldstein and Kotlowski 2013).

(4.) On Philippine wartime collaboration and resistance over and beyond what is covered in Ikehata and Jose, see Steinberg 1967. It was within a local, collaborationist context that the status of all foreign residents and Allied prisoners-of-war (POWs) in Southeast Asia became problematic. The harshness of Japanese treatment varied widely, based on the inclinations of the regional commander.

(5.) Epstein and others referred to the Soviet passport holders as "radishes": individuals who were technically Soviet citizens, and therefore Communists, but who were simultaneously free to engage in profiteering, black-marketeering, and other capitalistic enterprises (Interviews with Jack Citrin, whose family held Nansen documents, Berkeley, California, 4 October 2012, and with Israel Epstein, who was stateless, Beijing, September 1990, and Harbin, 2 September 2004; Stephan 1978:320-21).

(6.) Interview with Max Weissler, Jerusalem, Israel, 20 December 2012; also see Takefumi 1999.

(7.) Interview with Max Weissler, Jerusalem, 20 December 2012; see also Ephraim 2003.

(8.) Hartendorp 1967; Interview with Max Weissler, Jerusalem, 20 December 2012; Ephraim 2003; Simons 1980:155; Esposito vol. two 1959:111-41; Morison 1988: 240-41, 264. For an eyewitness account of the Doolittle raid from the perspective of a Jew living in Yokohama, Japan, see Shapiro 2009: 114-15.

(9.) Ephraim 2003: 117-18. For details of wartime activities of the German Club, including their participation in a Japanese victory parade staged in Manila on 18 May 1942 after the fall of the American fortress on Corregidor, see The German Club in Manila 1906-1986 1986:55 ff.

(10.) Despite Allied victories in the Pacific and elsewhere in 1942, a total defeat of Japan was still years away, as was even a decision by the Roosevelt administration as to what tactics could best bring about that result. There were several well-thought-out options to choose from. There were also underlying personality and Army/Navy conflicts for Roosevelt, as Commander-in-Chief, to resolve. On 7 December 1942, Presidential adviser Owen Lattimore reflected White House thinking at that time when he told reporters that a "final, decisive victory over Japan can be won only on land in China." Beating the Japanese Navy will not be sufficient, he said, for Japan's major strength is her army, which is still strong and in China. Never dreaming of atomic warfare, Lattimore asserted that Japan's defeat would have to be accomplished "by land-based aircraft in China," a course of action which was briefly tried but then abandoned as America acquired viable Pacific island air bases and ultimately atomic weapons (Newman 1992:95).
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Author:Goldstein, Jonathan
Publication:The Australian Journal of Jewish Studies
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Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jan 1, 2013
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