CHANCES are you know who Jim Paredes of the Apo Hiking Society fame is. You probably also know Paulynn Paredes-Sicam, columnist for the Today newspaper; Jesse Paredes, columnist for the Times; and Ducky Paredes, columnist for the Malaya. All of them are well-known (and deservedly so) for their patriotism, professionalism and integrity. However, only a dwindling number of Filipinos still recall their ancestor, Quintin Paredes (1884-1973). He was a lawyer and a remarkable sort of man; a politician of principles-whether as member of the Cabinet, assemblyman, Philippine Resident Commissioner to Washington, or senator. In his day, he was the most famous son of Abra. Today, the majority of Filipinos may not know who he was, but his descendants continue to demonstrate the kind of independence of mind he was known for.
Quintin Paredes comes to mind because of a book I recently read-“Escape to Manila,” by Frank Ephraim. The book points out an inspiring example of Filipinos speaking out against Jewish persecution.
On Nov. 9, 1938, the Nazis unleashed what came to be known as Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, in response to the assassination of the third secretary of the German Embassy in Paris by a Jewish student. As the Simon Weisenthal Center describes the event, “Reinhard Heydrich (the head of the Reich Main Security Office which oversaw the Gestapo, police and SD operations) sent a secret telegram at 1:20 a.m., November 10, 1938 to ‘all headquarters and stations of the State Police; all districts and sub-districts of the SD.’ He gave instructions for the immediate coordination of police and political activities in inciting the riots throughout Germany and Austria. ‘The demonstrations are not to be prevented by the police,’ he ordered, rather, the police are ‘only to supervise the observance of the guidelines.’
“The result of this policy was the first violent pogrom (riot) on Western European soil in hundreds of years. 36 Jews were killed (some authorities have this figure as high as 91); 30,000 more were deported to concentration camps; 267 synagogues were burned and over 7,000 Jewish shops, businesses and homes were vandalized and ransacked.
“Immediately after Kristallnacht, a fine of one billion marks was levied, not upon the criminals, but upon the victims, the Jewish community of Germany. Along with the fine came a decision, taken in a conference of Nazi leaders on November 12, 1938, to ‘Aryanize the German economy, to get the Jew out….’ Nazi policy had now moved into the overt destruction of all Jewish life in the Third Reich.”
Worldwide, people reacted with horror and outrage to Kristallnacht, causing Hitler to order the suspension of such obvious acts of aggression against the Jews. Among the people inspired to protest against the Nazi actions was Quintin Paredes, then an assemblyman and majority floor leader, who led a public protest against the Nazi persecutions. Together with other civic leaders and with the support of a rather large crowd, he delivered speeches to the extent that the German consulate in Manila was quite irritated.
A decade before, in the 1920s, Filipino businessmen and politicians rallied around Tan Malaka, an Indonesian communist whom the Dutch colonial authorities wanted the American colonial authorities to expel from the Philippines. And decades later, of course, Filipinos from all walks of life rallied and petitioned in defense of Vietnamese refugees, as well as Burmese and Malaysian dissidents. We have a long and rather touching history of rallying in defense of oppressed peoples.
Filipinos like Quintin Paredes would later put deeds into their denunciation of Nazi persecution by welcoming Jewish refugees to the Philippines at a time when other nations had slammed their doors shut to Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria. Indeed, it became Philippine government policy-after the lobbying efforts of two Jewish brothers, the Frieders, who had commercial interests in Manila; and sympathetic American officials who didn’t agree with the refusal of the United States to accept Jewish refugees-to allow the immigration of Jews into the country. The Philippines was prepared to accept 10,000 Jews a year for a certain number of years. As things turned out, with World War II about to break out in Europe, only 1,200 Jews made it to Manila.
It is the story of those Jewish refugees that Ephraim set out to tell in “Escape to Manila.” It is a heartwarming story, in many respects, because of the way Filipinos, Americans, Jews and others, set out to give refuge to the Jews fleeing from the persecution in Europe. It is a story few people know about; but now that the story has been published, it is one we, Filipinos, should be familiar with. At a time when we always seem at a loss when it comes to things to be proud of in our past, this is as good an example as any.
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“Escape to Manila” was published by the University of Illinois Press in 2003, and launched at the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. It’s not in the bookstores here yet, but you can order it from Powerbooks or A Different Bookstore. More information on the book can be found at http://www.press.uillinois.edu/f03/ephraim.html.