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Escape to Manila

From Nazi Tyranny to Japanese Terror


Publication Year: 2003

With the rise of Nazism in the 1930s more than a thousand European Jews sought refuge in the Philippines, joining the small Jewish population of Manila. When the Japanese invaded the islands in 1941, the peaceful existence of the barely settled Jews filled with the kinds of uncertainties and oppression they thought they had left behind. _x000B__x000B_In this book Frank Ephraim, who fled to Manila with his parents, gathers the testimonies of thirty-six refugees, who describe the difficult journey to Manila, the lives they built there upon their arrival, and the events surrounding the Japanese invasion. Combining these accounts with historical and archival records, Manila newspapers, and U.S. government documents, Ephraim constructs a detailed account of this little-known chapter of world history.

Published by: University of Illinois Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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pp. 4-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 10-11

The Jewish Diaspora is one of the most extraordinary events in history.The world’s Jews comprise scarcely sixteen million, yet in my travels I have encountered them in places as diverse as Algeria, China, Ethiopia, India, Iraq,Zimbabwe, bleak towns on the frozen tundras of Siberia, and even in Berber villages in the mountains of Morocco. Though they practice different...

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pp. 12-15

I wish to thank the people whose experiences are woven into this book.They gave their time for interviews and correspondence and provided documents, photos, and other useful material. In appreciation they are: Peter Ambrunn, Eva (Süsskind) Ashner, Alfred Bass, Francis Belmont, Rebecca(Konigsberg) Berman, Ernest J. Burger (Juliusburger), Werner Dean (Deutsch-...

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pp. 16-21

The jet airliner landed smoothly on the runway at Tegel Airport in Berlin. In a flight that began in Washington, D.C., with a change in New York, I had returned to the city of my birth after an absence of fifty-three years. My wife and I went through customs, picked up our luggage, and approached awaiting taxi, where in German I directed the driver to our hotel on the Kufür-...

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1. Destination: The Philippines

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pp. 22-32

Visitors rarely arrive in Manila by ship anymore. Air travel has changed that, which is a little disappointing because passengers in airliners forego the magnificent vista of Manila Bay after navigating the wide northern channel between the island of Corregidor that guards its entrance and the forbidding Bataan Peninsula, with its 4,722-foot-high volcanic Mt. Bataan...

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2. Unexpected Arrivals

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pp. 33-38

Events that would have a major impact on the Jewish community in the Philippines were unfolding in China, particularly in Shanghai, eleven hundred miles north of Manila. The long-standing Sino-Japanese conflict had flared up again on July 7, 1937, when a company of Japanese troops went on a scheduled night maneuver near a railway bridge ten miles west of Peking. South of...

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3. The First Wave of Refugees

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pp. 39-46

The German army marched into Austria on March 12, 1938, to a euphoric welcome, but the Anschluss—annexation—with Germany brought forth an immediate and debilitating antisemitic tide in Vienna and other Austrian cities. What evil had been heaped upon the German Jews over the past five years now befell the Austrian Jews overnight. Nazis forced the Jews to scrub...

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4. Manila Hears about Kristallnacht

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pp. 47-55

The tall, jovial man in the fashionable white suit was pacing the promenade deck of the Empress of Japan, the fastest liner in the Pacific, which had left Vancouver, British Columbia, in mid-October 1938. Alex Frieder and his wife, after an absence of almost three years, were aboard the vessel, which was making its way to Manila after a port call in Hong Kong. Philip, Alex’s older...

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5. Mindanao: A Plan for Jewish Settlement

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pp. 56-63

The radiogram from the State Department requesting the views of the Philippine government regarding how many refugees from Germany could be absorbed in the Islands was sent on December 5, 1938.1 High Commissioner McNutt responded immediately with a cable: “President Quezon has inicated his willingness to set aside virgin lands in Mindanao for larger groups...

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6. Establishing a Life

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pp. 64-74

High commissioner Mcnutt could not possibly have foreseen the fail-ure of the initiative for a Jewish settlement in Mindanao back in early December 1938 when he responded to the State Department’s request for the number of refugees the Philippines would absorb. His talks with President Quezon were favorable, and the ongoing immigration program was going well, with...

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7. What Does the Future Hold for Us?

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pp. 75-85

There was always a lively crowd at the Boulevard Garden—a combination restaurant and beer garden with a small concrete dance floor surrounded by a string of colored paper lanterns. Its Pasay location on Lourdes Street at the corner of Dewey Boulevard was also convenient for people in this resiential district, something that Heinrich Brauer, the proprietor, had hoped...

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8. Carving Out a Niche

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pp. 86-95

As the Jewish community grew and with it the number of children and young people, the stage of Bachrach Memorial Hall saw one of their first presentations—a Hanukkah play in which the children performed brief acrobatics, dances, and skits, accompanied by Mendelsohn’s incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.1 The community also published a small news-...

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9. War

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pp. 96-123

For Jewish refugees in Manila, the Hawaiian Islands were lush, romantic, and remote tropical islands somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, owned by the United States. There was some bewilderment on that fateful Monday morning when most of them first heard about the Japanese air attack on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor. Although there was little doubt that war had come...

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10. Occupation

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pp. 124-138

Twenty-two-year-old Carole Frenkel was very worried. She was in Iloilo, on Panay Island in the center of the Philippine Archipelago, about three hundred miles southeast of Manila; her husband, Günther, was under Japanese occupation in Manila. Rumors of imminent Japanese landings surged through the anxious population on the island, but at that moment, in the...

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11. Can We Hold Out?

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pp. 139-152

The three hundred Japanese soldiers were pedaling furiously on their bicycles along the Manila Bay frontage road from south of Pasay. An officer was at the head of the column, his samurai sword hanging loosely at his side.When the sweating battalion arrived at the beginning of the paved Dewey Boulevard, still keeping up speed, several bicycle tires popped. A short dis-...

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12. The Final Months of Occupation

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pp. 153-166

Manuel Quezon, exiled president of the Philippines, died on August 1, 1944, at Saranac Lake in upstate New York. Until the very end, the sixty-five-year-old unrelenting fighter for Philippine independence prayed to see his native land again, but that was not to be.1 The Jewish community mourned—who could forget his determined speech welcoming the immigration of Jewish ref-...

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13. The Battle

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pp. 167-192

In a convoy that stretched over more than forty miles of ocean, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, aboard the light cruiser Boise, was finally on his way to liberate Manila. The ships were laden with troops from all over the South Pacific as the vast convoy carried Gen. Walter Krueger’s 6th Army for a landing on Luzon. Altogether, four army divisions made up the invasion force....

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14. Reestablishing the Community

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pp. 193-205

Morton I. Netzorg, former executive secretary of the Jewish Refugee Committee in Manila, was liberated together with three thousand other internees at Santo Tomás Internment Camp on February 3, 1945. Also among the freed American Jews was Samuel Schechter, who had served as president of the Jewish community before the war. Ill, weak, and in no physical or emo-...

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15. Leaving the Philippines

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pp. 206-221

Intended as replacements, one hundred U.S. Army nurses, including the newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant Feibusch, arrived in Manila in February 1946. Ilse Feibusch, who was born in Wuppertal, Germany, left with her family in late 1938 after Kristallnacht and sailed from Bremerhaven to San Francisco. In 1944, since there were no boys in the Feibusch family, she had...


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pp. 222-239


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pp. 240-249

E-ISBN-13: 9780252091117
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252028458

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2003

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Jews -- Philippines -- Manila -- History -- 20th century.
  • Jewish refugees -- Philippines -- Manila -- History -- 20th century.
  • Manila (Philippines) -- Ethnic relations.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Jews -- Philippines.
  • Philippines -- History -- Japanese occupation, 1942-1945.
  • Japan -- Ethnic relations.
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