Jewish Refugees and the Philippines: A Timeline

If you’ve watched the film, “Quezon’s Game” (or even if you never do), hopefully you will become interested in learning more about the rescue of Jews who found a safe haven in the Philippines.

Frieders with Jewish refugees in Manila; from the Rescue in the Philippines website.

Hopefully the extracts from academic articles and books will help provide a deeper understanding of these events. All errors and shortcomings in attribution are my responsibility alone.

Cast of Characters:

Manuel L. Quezon: “In 1935, Filipinos had elected him as the commonwealth’s first president. At the time, the Philippines were still a colonial possession of the United States. Quezon was an astute politician who used his fluency in English, political acumen, and gift of flattery to win over policymakers in Washington. Most important, Quezon was friendly and socialized with McNutt and the Frieders and visited with them at their homes. As a non-Aryan, he hated the Nazis and sympathized with the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany. He also believed the Jewish refugees would become an asset to the Philippines, especially with their expertise and knowledge of medicine and other professional fields. His endorsement proved significant because the commonwealth’s officials determined who could get off the ships and enter the territory.” According to

Goldstein/Kotlowski: the Philippine president had made good friends with its Jewish-American community in part because Jews, who were familiar with discrimination, made an effort to be friends with Filipinos at a time when other Americans would not.”


Despite the monumental tasks Quezon faced during the ten-year Commonwealth period—overhauling the Philippine economy, “Filipinizing” the government, widespread poverty, and the ever-looming threat of Japanese invasion—Quezon, with High Commissioner McNutt,  proposed a plan to settle 30,000 refugee families on Mindanao, and 40,000-50,000 refugees on Polillo.  Quezon made a ten year loan of the parcel of land he had bought for his only son, Manuel “Nonong” Quezon Jr., to Manila’s Jewish Refugee Committee for the housing of homeless refugees.  This parcel was adjacent to Quezon’s own family home in Marikina, which Quezon used as a Presidential retreat when his tuberculosis and other medical issues required short rests and recuperation.  Marikina Hall, a large group home and farm, was dedicated on April 23, 1940.  One of the inhabitants, Morris Grimm, had been released from Buchenwald concentration camp on the condition he leave Germany.

Paul V. McNutt: “a Roosevelt appointee, had been a professor of law, governor of Indiana (1935-1937), and a prominent figure in the Democratic Party. A decent and humane individual, McNutt learned about the Nazi atrocities from Jacob Weiss, a close Jewish ally in Indiana’s Democratic Party, and from reports he received from Jewish groups. McNutt had long disdained racial hatred and anti-Semitism, and respected Jews, as he said, “for their toughness, resiliency, and success.” He often spoke out and condemned the German government and Hitler, and supported the Zionist goal of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. McNutt realized that any long-term effort to permit large numbers of Jews to enter the Philippines had to be methodical, carefully planned, and in accord with United States immigration statutes.”

The Frieder Brothers

The Frieder Brothers: Alex, Phillip, Herbert, Morris, “who owned a two-for-a nickel cigar business. In 1918, the brothers decided to transfer their cigar manufacturing operation to Manila from New York City, to reduce production costs. The brothers then took two-year turns living in Manila and overseeing their plant. They also became active in Manila’s Jewish community of 150 men, women, and children.” Watch a Frieder home movie of their Brixton Hill, Santa Mesa residence.

Dwight D. Eisenhower: At the time Douglas MacArthur’s chief of staff and No. 2 man in the Military Adviser’s Mission in the Philippines.

In his memoirs, At Ease. he recalled that:

“[By 1937] President Quezon seemed to ask for my advice more and more. He invited me to his office frequently.  This was partly because of the office hours General MacArthur liked to keep.  He never reached his desk until eleven.  After a late lunch hour, he went home again.  This made it difficult for Quezon to get in touch with the General when he wanted him.  Because I was the senior active duty officer, my friendship with the President became closer.

“Our conversations became broader and deeper.They were no longer confined to the defence problem.Taxes, education, honesty in government, and other subjects entered the discussions and he seemed to enjoy them.  Certainly I did.”

1939: at a party, Mamie Eisenhower greets President Quezon as Dwight D. Eisenhower looks on.

As pointed out by Sharon Delmendo: 

As relations between MacArthur and Quezon increasingly grew strained, Quezon developed a close professional and personal relationship with Eisenhower. Quezon gave  Eisenhower an office in Malacañan, and invited Eisenhower to weekend trips aboard the presidential yacht Casiana.

A popular myth holds that Dwight Eisenhower was centrally involved in Jewish refugee rescue in the Philippines, but extant documentation does not support this legend.  Eisenhower kept a voluminous diary of his tenure in the Philippines and published several books after WWII, but never mentioned working on Jewish rescue (other than relating that he turned down a lucrative contract to head Jewish refugee efforts across the Pacific).  Eisenhower is never mentioned in hundreds of US government documents relating to Jewish immigrants to the Philippines.  Eisenhower was entirely consumed by his duties under MacArthur, building up Philippine defense in the face of increasingly certain attack by the Japanese. 


Jewish Refugee Committee in Manila: “In 1937, the Jewish Refugee Committee (JRC) was established. American Jewish organisations – the Joint Distribution Committee and Refugee Economic Corporation – funded the JRC to maximise the number of refugees that could be admitted.”

Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC): est. in 1914, to “provide relief for Jews in Palestine and eastern Europe, was the primary organization for the distribution of funds from the American Jewish community to Jews in Germany.”

Harris: “founded in 1914 to provide relief for Jews in Palestine and Eastern Europe, was the primary organization for the distribution of funds from the American Jewish community to Jews in Germany. It had a virtual monopoly on overseas aid.”

Refugee Economic Corporation: “the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). The JDC had created the Refugee Economic Corp. (REC), which helped resettle Jewish refugees. The REC worked with the Hilfsverein der Juden in Deutschland (Relief Association of German Jews).“ Harris: The REC was founded on November 20, 1934 and specialized in creating Jewish settlements in countries that agreed to absorb Jewish refugees.”

According to Sharon Delmendo:

The REC funded the Mindanao Exploration Commission, a panel of experts charged with evaluating Mindanao’s suitability for European (i.e., Jewish) settlement on Mindanao.

Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden: “This German Jewish organization had been established in 1901 to engage in social welfare and educational activities among needy Jews. After Hitler came to power, the association assisted German Jews trying to emigrate everywhere but Palestine, which was handled by the Jewish Agency.

“The Hilfsverein kept lists of those German Jews who applied to emigrate. The lists included the occupation or profession of each prospective emigrant. The German government allowed the Hilfsverein to exist because it wanted all Jews out of Germany, and the Hilfsverein promoted this goal. After the war broke out, the German government shut it down and assumed its activities.”

Introduction (1917-1924):

Bonnie M. Harris in a 2016 paper provides necessary background on the whole story:

The United States’ Immigration Acts of 1917 and 1924 became the dual directives of immigration policies of the U.S. during the first half of the 20th century. However, only the Immigration Act of 1917, which outlined “qualitative” restrictions on potential immigrants, applied to the Philippines during its eras as a territory and then as a commonwealth nation of the United States. This 1917 Act imposed numerous conditions excluding individuals as acceptable immigrants to the U.S., and by extension, to the Philippines. While the U.S. State Department supposedly could not restrict the numbers of Jewish immigrants coming into the Philippines, it could, and did, demand a process that ensured adequate financial support for the refugees….

 While the opening section of the 1917 Immigration Act details that its provisions “shall be enforced in the Philippine Islands by officers of the general government,” no such directive appears in the text of the U.S. Immigration Act of 1924 that regulated immigration numerically into the United States with the imposition of immigration quotas. This is extremely important when discussing the rescue of refugee Jews in the Philippines… However, no number restrictions on immigration into the Philippines existed in U.S. Immigration Laws…. Thus… restrictive quotas did not apply. But perhaps even more importantly, neither did U.S. State Department nor consular oversight in approving the issuance of visas to refugee aliens immigrating to the Philippines.


This timeline is color-coded. Red dates are related to the Holocaust in general, and world events affecting the Philippines in particular: they provide a running reminder of what was happening to European Jews in general and the approaching global conflict. Blue dates apply to dates when news articles came out, and what those articles said: they will help provide global and local context to what was going on. Dates in black are dates more precisely related to the story of the rescue of European Jews.

The appearance of quotations is a guide as well. Information in italics is information from third-hand sources, such as the media at the time, or from people writing after the fact. They help provide background and updates to the emerging story. Material in ordinary text means it was written at the time, representing the actions and opinions of people involved in the story.


January 30: Adolf Hitler Appointed Chancellor

February 28: Reichstag Fire Decree

March 22: Establishment of Dachau Camp

March 23: Germany passes the Enabling Act, giving Hitler dictatorial powers. 

April 1: Anti-Jewish Boycott

April 7: Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service

April 25: Law Limits Jews in Public Schools

May 10: Book Burning

July 14: Law for the “Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases”

September 17: Central Organization of German Jews Formed 

September 28: Philippine Magazine:

Chancellor Hitler publishes a decree prohibiting discrimination between Jewish and non-Jewish firms in Germany.


In 1933, the Nazis staged a boycott of Jewish-owned business, burned books by Jewish authors and took steps to exclude Jews from the civil service, medical profession and enrollment in universities.

October 4: Editors Law

November 24: Law against “Dangerous Habitual Criminals”

Bonnie Harris: 

Depending when in the time frame of the pre-WWII era in which refugees left, there were two different major routes that provided transport for refugee Jews from various points of departure in Europe to ports in southern and eastern Asia. From the early 1930s to the mid-1940s, the first route, by sea, carried fleeing refugees from ports mostly in Italy on to Alexandria, Egypt and then through the Suez Canal to ports-of-call in Bombay, Singapore, Hong Kong, Manila, Shanghai, and Kobe and Yokohama, Japan. Other vessels that left from seaports in northern Europe, such as Bremen or Hamburg, usually sailed around the Cape of Good Hope, extending the already four week voyage time to east Asia by another six weeks.] Ships could be booked six months in advance and carry as many as one thousand Jewish refugees per voyage. The other major route of transportation to the Far East was the land route across Russia and Siberia via the Trans-Siberian Railway and Chinese Eastern Railroad that had once brought Russian Jews to Asia two decades earlier.

Jewish refugees escaping Nazi persecutions began arriving in Asian ports as early as 1933, following Hitler’s ascent to power. Some refugees en route to the open city of Shanghai jumped ship in Manila, seeking asylum in an American overseas colony rather than an Asian one. The number of refugees seeking asylum in Asian ports corresponded to the waves of increased antisemitic violence in the Third Reich under Nazism…

Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany arrived in the Philippines as early as 1933, but they were few in numbers and their escape almost entirely undocumented. 


Most significantly, the United States Immigration Act of 1924, which established the system of annual quotas, “took no official cognizance of ‘refugees’ and thus made no provision for offering asylum to the victims of religious or political persecution” … And the “Likely to Become a Public Charge” provision of the United States Immigration Act of 1917 prohibited the issuance of visas to anyone who lacked the wherewithal to support themselves….


March 24: Enactment of the Tydings-McDuffie, or Philippine Independence, Act, by the U.S. Congress.


The Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934, also called The Philippine Independence Act, outlined the terms of the Philippine Commonwealth and its ten year transition period into the fully independent Republic of the Philippines, which was predetermined for July 4, 1946. The Tydings-McDuffie Act authorized the Philippine Legislature, now one body called the National Assembly, to draft a constitution for the government of the Commonwealth 

June:  Goldstein/Kotlowski:

The first German Jewish refugees from Hitler may have been Karl Nathan and Heinz Eulau from Offenbach. They arrived in Manila in June 1934 on affidavits of support from Eulau’s cousin Dr. Kurt Eulau, who had lived in the islands since 1924.


Ernst Simke arrived in the Philippines in 1932 to take a job offer from Maxime Hermanos of Levy Hermanos, an import-export business.  Ernst decided to leave Germany because he found it almost impossible to get a job. In 1937, ES had a German passport issued to him by the Germany embassy in Manila (without the “J” for Jude), good for two years.  When it expired in 1939, Simke became a naturalized Filipino citizen.  Ernst married another Manilaner, Dr. Rita Broniatowski, who arrived in the Philippines in 1940.

June 30: Night of the Long Knives

August 2: Death of German President von Hindenburg

August 19: Hitler Abolishes the Office of President

November 20: Refugee Economic  Corporation (REC), with headquarters in New York City, established to create Jewish settlements in countries that agreed to absorb Jewish refugees.



Two years later, the so-called Nuremberg Laws defined Jews as non-Aryans, relegated them to the status of a subject class and prohibited them from marrying Aryans.


On September 15, 1935, the Nazi party publicized two laws during the annual Nuremburg party rally in Nuremburg.  Two laws were decreed: the Reichs Citizenship Law, which stripped Jews of their German citizenship and outlined the “racial” classification of Jews, and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, which criminalized marriage or sexual relations between Aryans and Jews and prohibited Jews from employing German women under the age of 45.  These two laws were the first of many laws and policies which progressively disenfranchised and systematically impoverished Jews in Germany and Nazi-occupied territories.

March 25: Constitution of the Philippines certified as conforming to the Philippine Independence Act by the President of the United States

May 1: Nazi Ban on Jehovah’s Witness Organizations

May 14: The 1935 Constitution of the Philippines is ratified.

(See: Constitution Day, by Teodoro M. Locsin.)


The executive power of the new government centered in an elected Filipino President, as stipulated by Article VII of the Commonwealth Constitution, which was ratified on May 14, 1935. Another important provision of the Tydings-McDuffie Act was the creation of the Office of the U.S. High Commissioner to the Philippines. The U.S. High Commissioner had no direct administrative powers in the Philippines, but was concerned primarily with protecting American interests in the new commonwealth nation. This office superseded that of the American Governor-General. The relationship between these newly invested offices and the U.S. War Department was never really clarified until Philippine Supreme Court Justice George A. Malcolm composed an official statement to the High Commissioners Office on January 9, 1939. His official opinion clarified “the relationship of the office of the High Commissioner to the Philippine Islands and the War Department.”

Malcolm’s treatise explained that three agencies were provided to act as representatives of the President of the United States in the execution of his duties as the supreme commander over the Islands of the Philippines, as provided by the Tydings-McDuffie Act. In the Philippines proper, that representative was the U.S. High Commissioner to the Philippines. At the U.S. Capital, as pertaining to the foreign affairs of the Philippines, that agency was the Office of Philippine Affairs within the Department of State. Certain other affairs of the Philippines continued to be administered by the Secretary of War through the Bureau of Insular Affairs

June 25: Philippine Magazine:

At a meeting presided over by General Emilio Aguinaldo, the National Socialist Party is formally organized, the Sakdal Party, headed by Jose Timog, and other minority groups including the Radical Party, headed by Rep. Alfonso Mendoza, the Laborista Party, headed by Pablo Manlapit, the Pampanga Communists, headed by Abad Santos, the Philippine Fascists, headed by Miguel Cornejo, and the Civil Union, headed by Vicente Sotto, all taking part.

June 28: Revision of Paragraph 175

July 15: Philippine Magazine:

The worst anti-Jewish demonstration in two years is staged in Berlin, inspired by the Swedish anti Semitic cinematograph film, “Petterson and Binder,” at which Jews whistled and booed.

September 15: Nuremberg Race Laws


In spite of Germany’s openly anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws of 1935, the United States still resisted accepting more immigrants than the quotas for Germany allowed, even after over 500,000 German and Austrian Jews were declared stateless enemies by Hitler in 1935.

November 15: Commonwealth of the Philippines inaugurated. Philippines becomes self-governing except that foreign policy would be the responsibility of the United States. Laws passed by the legislature affecting immigration, foreign trade, and the currency system still had to be approved by the President of the United States.

Watch Frieder family home movie of Commonwealth inaugural ceremonies:

Gerald Wheeler:

[Quezon] wrote to [Frank] Murphy [the last governor-general and first high commissioner] and gave his own interpretation of the high commissioner’s powers. He believed that the Tydings-McDuffie Act gave the United States only a limited number of specified powers; in all other areas Commonwealth authority would be plenary. He recognized the American President’s right to act by proclamation in specified matters, once they had been referred to him by the high commissioner. As he saw it, the high commissioner could observe, request information, carry out specified duties, and send recommendations to Washington when he saw something he considered unwise or illegal.6 Very obviously, such an official would stand little chance of interfering meaningfully with the operations of the Commonwealth President. When Secretary [of War, George] Dern came to Manila with a large congressional delegation to participate in the inaugural ceremonies, Murphy made one more attempt to get his instructions modified. Dern was understanding but took no action. 


Beginning in 1935, Filipinos received internal autonomy and the right to elect their own president while the United States remained the sovereign power. Washington was represented in Manila by a “high commissioner” appointed by the U.S. president. The responsibilities of the high commissioner were somewhat nebulous as was the commonwealth set-up itself … Immigration policy was a case in point, for the Immigration Act of 1917, which included the “most likely to become a public charge” proviso, applied to entrants to the Philippines, while the Immigration Act of 1924, with its annual quotas, did not. Immigration to the Philippines was riddled with loopholes because immigration policies were not clearly defined. The Philippines had no immigration laws of its own and there was a history of U.S. officials in the Philippines bypassing immigration laws that applied in the continental United States. Chinese and Japanese immigrants were routinely permitted to settle in the islands, despite local Philippine opposition and at a time when these same immigrants were excluded from the American mainland. Enforcement of all types of law in the Philippines had historically been lax at best and corrupt at worst.

The complex and unresolved issue of immigration was among the problems confronting Manuel Quezon when he became president of the Philippine Commonwealth in 1935.

November 19: Philippine Magazine:

The governments of France and Germany send congratulatory messages to President Quezon through the State Department.



March 4: Diary of Francis Burton Harrison:

Talk in the office with Dr. Schay, a Jewish refugee who escaped from the Nazis; he was the editor of the second largest newspaper in Germany–was sitting with a friend playing chess in a cafe in Berlin, when he heard of the burning of the Reichstag. He telephoned at once to his wife to bring his suitcase to the station, reached Aachen, and walked across the border to Belgium. I asked him; “The Nazis burned the Reichstag, didn’t they?” “Of course,” he replied and added that there was a “will to war” among the Nazis as soon as they could arm; they were then lacking in fortresses, and in heavy artillery; their aviation was now the largest in Europe. They mean to get the Danzig corridor back; Poland was to be “compensated” by annexing the northern part of the Ukraine–war would be made by Germany and Poland on Russia in the Spring of 1937–but things could change before that. Schay means to open a school for Filipinos in Manila.

May 1: Diary of Francis Burton Harrison:

Should have gone this noon to the German Club for their National Day–and was even anxious to do so, though no doubt, some of their older members were among those whom I deported to the United States detention camps during the war–but I could not stomach the thought of drinking Hitler’s health! Believe I should have vomited! 

June 16: President Quezon’s Second State of the Nation Address, concerning policy for Mindanao:

The time has come when we should systematically proceed with and bring about the colonization and economic development of Mindanao. A vast and rich territory with its untapped natural resources is a temptation to enterprising nations that are looking for an outlet for their excess population. While no nation has the right to violate the territorial integrity of another nation, people that lack the energy, ability, or desire to make use of the resources which Divine Providence has placed in their hands, afford an excuse for a more energetic and willful people to deprive them of their lawful heritage. If, therefore, we are resolved to conserve Mindanao for ourselves and our posterity, we must bend all our efforts to occupy and develop it and guard against avarice and greed. Its colonization and development will require no little capital. But every cent spent for this purpose will mean increased national wealth and greater national security. The present income of the government is quite insufficient to even attempt to do more than carry on its present activities. Were there no other reasons for the creation of new sources of revenue, the need of developing Mindanao alone would make it an unavoidable duty for this Assembly, especially those who visited Mindanao recently with me, are conscious, I feel sure, of our grave responsibility to encourage settlement and develop Mindanao. There are provinces in Luzon and the Visayas that are already overpopulated. There are localities in some of those provinces where the people live on large estates without opportunity to earn a livelihood sufficient to meet the necessities of civilized life, much less to own the land wherein they live and which they cultivate. It is inconceivable that such a situation should exist in a country with extensive areas of fertile uncultivated lands. I invite you, therefore, to give this matter preferential consideration.

The so-called Moro problem is a thing of the past. We are giving our Mohammedan brethren the best government they have ever had and we are showing them our devoted interest in their welfare and advancement. In turn they are giving us their full cooperation. Let us reserve for them in their respective localities such land of the public domain as they may need for their well-being. Let us, at the same time, place in the unoccupied lands of that region industrious Filipinos from other provinces of the Archipelago, so that they may live together in perfect harmony and brotherhood.

November 7: Philippine Magazine:

Due to the British government’s determination not to suspend Jewish immigration into Palestine pending the findings of the Royal Commission, now on its way from London to Jerusalem, the Arabs are reported to have decided to boycott the Commission.

November 14: Inner Mongolian Army Faction Attacks Chinese Garrison at Hongort


The Tablet:

Although American immigration laws applied to the Philippines, the country had no quota system. A financial guarantee from a resident sufficed to obtain an entry visa. If the Jewish refugee who arrived in the Philippines was able to find employment, he met an important provision of U.S. immigration policy: that he not become a burden on the state. McNutt, the Frieder brothers, and Quezon became the active movers of the plan; Eisenhower played no ongoing role in the rescue but served as the group’s liaison to the U.S. Army…

February 17: Philippine Magazine:

News of the appointment by President Roosevelt of Governor Paul V. McNutt as U.S. High Commissioner in the Philippines is generally well taken in Manila although regret is expressed that the appointment did not go to Acting U.S. High Commissioner J. Weldon Jones. Mr. Jones himself expresses his satisfaction and telegraphs his congratulations.  

March 1: President Roosevelt appoints Paul V. McNutt High Commissioner to the Philippines


Early in 1937, President Roosevelt named McNutt high commissioner to the Philippines to satisfy a political need, that is, to send… a potential rival, as far from the U.S. mainland as possible.


On March 1, 1937, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote McNutt a letter of instructions regarding the office of the High Commissioner.  In this letter, Roosevelt gave McNutt near broad discretionary authority:

“In the nature of things, situations will arise which will call for sound judgment and sympathetic handling on your part.  It is not my intention here to burden you with specific rules for your guidance, for in appointing you to this high office I am confident of your ability to handle the situations which may arise to the best advantage not only of the American people but also of the people of the Philippine Islands.” 

March 1: Time Magazine:

The list of candidates for Harry Woodring’s temporary job as Secretary of War was lopped from the top last week when President Roosevelt appointed Indiana’s Paul Vories McNutt to be U. S. High Commissioner to the Commonwealth of the Philippines. In Washington, the New York News’s Columnists John O’Donnell & Doris Fleeson reported the following exchange between two Indianians who had been grooming their handsome ex-Governor for the White House.

First Hoosier: “Oh. well, there isn’t much difference between an $18,000 job in Manila and a $15,000 job in the Cabinet.”

Second Hoosier: “There’s 11,000 miles difference, so far as 1940 is concerned.”

First official act of big, bronze-skinned Mr. McNutt will be to sit in on discussions of U. S.-Philippine trade relations with President Roosevelt and little, brown-skinned Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon, who last week sped across the land from Los Angeles to keep his White House engagement. Informed of Mr. McNutt’s appointment in Chicago, President Quezon tactfully observed that if President Roosevelt had chosen him he must be the best man for the job. But in Manila, the U. S.-owned-&-edited Bulletin declared: “If politics had not been considered, if special fitness had been the deciding factor, J. Weldon Jones [Commonwealth financial adviser and Acting High Commissioner] would have been appointed.”

Paul McNutt may not know much about Philippine economic problems, but in 45 years he has acquired an impressive experience in law, war and politics. Finishing Harvard Law School in 1916, he became an assistant professor at Indiana University Law School, rose to be the youngest dean it had ever had. Meantime he served as instructor in U. S. camps during the War, rising from captain to major in the Field Artillery. In 1928 he was elected national commander of the American Legion, went on from there to become Governor of Indiana in 1933. Blessed with a distinguishing shock of white hair and bold black eyebrows, a gregarious lover of golf, poker and football, he has made many a friend by his forceful, eloquent, ingratiating personality. He has also made many an enemy by his autocratic disposition, his use of militia in labor disputes. The troops, plus his use of the semi-dictatorial emergency powers he won from the Legislature few weeks after he took office, won him the title of “Hoosier Hitler.” Citizens squirmed under his stiff taxes but otherwise it was generally admitted that he did a businesslike job of running his State. He worked hard to deliver it for Franklin Roosevelt last November.

By no means a political blind alley are the Philippines, as the subsequent careers of onetime Civil Governor William Howard Taft, Governor-General Henry Lewis Stimson and High Commissioner Frank Murphy well demonstrate. Far from relinquishing his Presidential ambitions last week, Paul McNutt let slip to the press that it would probably be only a year or so before he was back on the U. S. scene.

April 27: Philippine Magazine:

U.S. High Commissioner Paul V. McNutt arrives in Manila with his wife and sixteen-year old daughter and others of his party. … He states as to his powers that the law and the instructions he has received from President Roosevelt (which were read in part by President Quezon) are clear and that he will not interfere in local affairs.

May 31: Time Magazine:

President Manuel Quezon of the Philippine Commonwealth, junketing in Europe, has not been in Manila since U. S. High Commissioner Paul Vories McNutt arrived there for duty last month. By last week it was already beginning to appear that the 7.091 Philippine Islands might not be big enough for the peppery mestizo politico and the cotton-topped political Adonis from Indiana.

Manuel Quezon, who was not consulted about Mr. McNutt’s appointment last February (TIME. March 1). and who has made no secret of his irritation with U. S. “interference” in the Commonwealth’s administration, has not discouraged various foreign consular officials at Manila—most of them semi-professional—from clearing diplomatic affairs through his Malancañan Palace. Last fortnight Commissioner McNutt advised these gentlemen that the U. S. was still responsible for the Philippines’ foreign relations, that all communication with the Commonwealth should be routed via his office. Particularly irked was he that The Netherlands vice consul had recently been replaced without notification to the Commissioner’s office.

While the consuls were busy cabling home for instructions, Commissioner McNutt sent another tornado of excitement blowing through the bars at the Army & Navy and Elks Clubs (Manila’s best) by transmitting a second message to the consulates. At future consular dinners let the first toast be drunk to the head of the host’s State. Let the second salute Franklin D. Roosevelt, the third his emissary in the Philippines, Paul V. McNutt. The fourth salute should honor President Quezon. The irregular practice of toasting Senor Quezon before Mr. McNutt would have to stop.

At this demotion toward the merrier but less distinguished end of the toast list, Manuel Quezon maintained a dignified silence. But the Filipino-owned Philippines Herald angrily took up his cause, snorted: ”A diplomatic crisis is brewing. Commonwealth dignitaries may decline to attend consular parties. . . . Used to high-riding the political prairies of Indiana with State troops at his beck, McNutt must feel suffocated in the close quarters the Philippine Independence Act allows him. If he conceives it his duty to enlarge American authority in the Philippines despite growing Filipino autonomy, he is certain to encounter difficulties. If his recent activities are a gauge of his attitude, we expect many lively political interludes.”

Said Assemblyman Francisco Lavides: “Frankly, McNutt is an enigma.”

Said President Quezon diplomatically when questioned by newshawks in Manhattan : “I never refuse a drink, toast or no toast.”

July 7-July 9: Marco Polo Bridge Incident (Battle of Lugou Bridge)


At the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War broke on 7 July 1937, the JRC in Manila received a telegram from the Ashkenazi Jewish community in Shanghai asking for assistance for their refugee Jews. The small Jewish community in Manila immediately raised a sum of $8,000, but before the money could be dispatched, the wealthier Sephardic Jews of Shanghai stepped up and cared for the needs of the refugees Jews on their own. The JRC, under the leadership of Philip Frieder and Morton I. Netzorg in Manila, decided to hold the funds in escrow in case a future need arose. That need came almost immediately.

July 9: New York Times:

President Manuel Quezon of the Philippines left tonight for Paris after having luncheon with Hans G. V. von Mackensen, Foreign Office UnderSecretary, and about fifty representatives of the government and the German Far Eastern trade.

German coverage of Quezon’s visit in 1937.


During a visit to Europe in 1937, Quezon, his wife, and their son were troubled by the sight of a Nazi parade in Berlin.

July 15: Buchenwald Concentration Camp Opens

July 21: The German Consul in Manila submits an intelligence report to Berlin.


The role of Jews and Masons in the Philippines was closely monitored by the German consulate in Manila. In a long report to the German foreign office in Berlin, the new German consul, Gustav Sakowsky, warned that local Jews, Masons, and the Catholic Church were stronger in the Philippines than anywhere else in Asia and that they would love to attack National Socialism just as soon as the American authorities gave the go-ahead. In his effort to inculcate the Nazi philosophy among the Germans in Manila (there were only several dozen Party members in the Philippines among nearly three hundred non-Jewish German adult males), he feared his power was faltering in the face of a growing opposition, much of which engaged in business –and often social contact—with non-German citizens. And there were several liaisons between German businessmen and Filipino women, an affront to Nazi racial laws.

July 25: Fighting Erupts at Langfang Between Chinese and Japanese Troops Despite Recent Truce

August 8: Beijing Falls to Japanese Forces 

Bonnie Harris:

However, the first significant influx of European refugee Jews to arrive in Manila did not come directly from Europe, but rather from the Jewish refugee community in Shanghai. With the renewal of hostilities between the Japanese and Chinese in 1937, which resulted in the occupation of Peking by Japanese forces, the four million inhabitants of Shanghai faced the dangers of war in an occupied territory and various civilian communities sought escape from Shanghai’s battle grounds. Germany’s shift of alliance from China to Japan at this time alarmed German Jews in Shanghai, who feared German pressure on Japan to adopt Nazi discriminatory policies against Shanghai’s German Jewish population. The Manila Jewish community shared that fear and organized the Jewish Refugee Committee of Manila (JRC) with the intention of rescuing German members of the Shanghai Jewish community.  

August 21: President Quezon issued Proclamation No. 173 on August 21, 1937

…enjoining government agencies in the City of Manila, City of Baguio, the Province of Rizal, and the Mountain Province to extend aid to refugees especially Filipino and American nationals in China who fled to the country.

August 24: Manila Tribune:

WHEN MORE REFUGEES ARRIVE–Scenes taken aboard the S.S. “President Hoover” which brought several hundred refugees yesterday morning. At extreme right, top, is shown Lt. Luis Villa Real, aide-de-camp to President Quezon, conversing with Mrs. Victor Czegka, wife of Admiral Byrd’s mechanical engineer during his polar expedition. Admiral Byrd requested President Quezon to “please arrange accommodations” for the refugees.

September 8: President Quezon authorized the admission of ethnic German and German Jews refugees:

Bonnie Harris:

… the German government sent a ship to Shanghai to evacuate all German nationals from the war zone to Manila. In the evacuation, they also took aboard about 30 German Jewish refugee families. The Jewish community in Mania took charge of the refugee Jewish families at the request of the German Consul in the Philippines. This spontaneous rescue of German refugee Jews from Shanghai became the impetus for the devised rescue plans that followed, bringing… 1,300… to a safe haven in the Pacific.

Refugee rescuers in the Philippines operated selection and sponsorship programs unlike any Jewish rescue operations executed anywhere else in the world during these years. The plans involved a collaboration of efforts from political dignitaries and businessmen in the Philippines, relief organizations in both the United States and in Germany, and even government officials in the often antisemitic-leaning U.S. State Department. 

The Tablet:

The Frieders and other Jewish leaders worried that a large influx of refugees would tax the employment market and necessitate extensive welfare services, which their tiny community was unable to provide. They also knew that the long-term success of any resettlement program required the sympathy of the Filipinos. That meant the refugees had to be integrated into the community, secure employment, and avoid becoming public charges. Consequently, they advocated a controlled-entry program.


McNutt proved responsive as well; he asked Leo Gardner, his legal adviser, to find a way to help these refugees. Gardner studied executive orders defining the office of high commissioner and found that McNutt had the power to “waive visa requirements in admitting persons to the Islands” … The high commissioner did so with the encouragement and support of Quezon and Jewish leaders in Manila, notably Philip Frieder and his brothers – Alex, Morris, and Herbert – who were cigar manufacturers from Cincinnati.

September 16: Quezon, to the Secretary of War, Harry Woodring:

I confess frankly that in Washington I made a mistake in my first impression of Commissioner McNutt. The light under which reports from Manila regarding his early acts in the Philippines made him appear, has not only misrepresented him, but has done him an injustice.

Commissioner McNutt is a man—mentally honest, direct, sincere in his dealings with people and courteously outspoken. His sense of justice and fairness is not only evident but impressive. He has tact, vision, human sympathies, high principles and a vast knowledge of public affairs. The President could not have chosen a better man for the difficult and delicate task facing the United States High Commissioner.

September 17: McNutt, to the Secretary of War, Harry Woodring:

I have found President Quezon considerate, fair, frank and cooperative. I am glad to be able to report positively that we will work together in perfect harmony, much to the disgust of those on both sides of the Pacific who sought to promote a fight between us. I have come to like, respect, and admire President Quezon, and feel that it will be possible to solve any problems which might arise in a mutually acceptable manner.

November 8: Antisemitic Exhibition Opens in Munich

December 12: The Office of Philippine Affairs is established in the U.S. State Department.


The Office of Philippine Affairs within the State Department was created on December 12, 1936, for the sole purpose of carrying out the directives of the State Department as pertaining to foreign affairs issues in the Philippines. Whenever situations demanded communication between the Philippines and the State Department concerning immigration, the practice was to transmit the message to the War Department via the Bureau of Insular Affairs, who would then forward the message to the designated agency, whether that was the High Commissioner or the Office of Philippine Affairs. In this manner, the Secretary of State advised the High Commissioner of the Philippines on issues of foreign affairs, and “the views of the Secretary of State [were] accepted as conclusive.” 

December 16: Philippine Magazine:

Acting Secretary of State Robert W. Moore announcing the creation of a new division of Philippine affairs states that neither particular political nor economic problems are responsible for the move, but solely the desire to coordinate the administration of affairs concerning the Islands. Francis B. Sayre, Assistant Secretary of State, declares that “the gradual shifting of Philippine matters from the War Department to the State Department seems inevitable as the date of independence nears” and that the Department has been increasingly involved in Philippine matters by preparations for the economic conference—which will be “a constructive and not a ‘horse-trading’ affair”. J. E. Jacobs with a background of long experience in the Orient and in the Department has been designated head of the division. The action meets with approval in Philippine government circles.

December 31:

From the Second Annual Report of the United States High Commissioner to the Philippine Islands to the President of the United States Covering the Calendar Year 1937:

The situation with regard to immigration into the Philippine Islands was thrown into considerable confusion during the year 1937 by instructions sent out by the United States Department of State, advising United States consular officers that they have no authority to refuse to issue visas for aliens desiring to proceed to the Philippines, except for such aliens whose entry might be considered harmful to the public safety, and pointing out that the question of the admissibility of aliens is one to be determined by the immigration officers of the Philippine Islands upon arrival at Philippine ports. The immigration authorities of the Commonwealth government did not have the experience or training to cope with this situation. Owing to the large numbers of aliens from various disturbed regions of the world who desire to take up residence in the Philippines, the problem is growing more acute. The seriousness of the problem is one which is fully recognized by Commonwealth authorities. It is to be hoped that within the near future such remedial measures of an administrative nature and necessary amendments to existing laws will be undertaken as will enable the Commonwealth government to cope effectively with the situation…



The Immigration Act of 1924, setting up a system of quota control for immigration into the United States, is not applicable to the Philippine Islands. The ruling immigration law of the Philippines is the act of Congress of February 5, 1917, which contains a proviso that the law shall be enforced in the Philippines by officers of the general government thereof until it is superseded by an immigration act passed by the Philippine Legislature and approved by the President of the United States.

On November 14, 1935, just prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth government, the President of the United States issued an Executive order prescribing the documents to be required for aliens coming into the Philippine Islands. The basic provision of these requirements was that all aliens were required to present unexpired passports or official documents showing their origin and identity and valid passport visas issued by American consular officers. The Executive order was a restatement of previous Executive orders, providing necessary changes in nomenclature resulting from the establishment of the Commonwealth.

The problem of Chinese immigration into the Philippines is one of long standing controlled by laws anterior to that of 1917 and it should be understood that the comment here made does not refer to the question of Chinese immigration, but to immigration of aliens of other nationalities. Until recent years the entry of such aliens has not been a difficult problem, inasmuch as the immigration authorities in the Philippines were disposed to admit without question an alien who presented a travel document bearing the visa of an American consul. However, with the beginning of troubles in Spain, China, and other parts of the world the problem of the entry of aliens who might not be easily assimilated became more acute. Commonwealth authorities expressed a desire that American consuls should refuse visas to certain classes of applicants, but the State Department replied that under the act of 1917 consuls were without authority to refuse visas except in certain cases, as, for example, that of an alien whose entry might be contrary to the public safety. The State Department pointed out that the admissibility of an alien was a question to be determined under the act of 1917 by the authorities at the port of entry. This ruling, while undoubtedly in accordance with the law, created a degree of confusion in the Pliihppine administration of immigration laws. The confusion was heightened by the fact that, effective January 1, 1937, the administration of immigration laws was transferred from the Bureau of Customs, under the Department of Finance, to the Department of Labor. The new officials thus placed in charge were not familiar with the situation and had no experience in the enforcement of the laws.

In view of disturbed conditions in certain foreign countries and relatively prosperous conditions in the Philippines, it may be expected that large numbers of aliens will continue to seek entry into the Philippines and that a thorough reorganization of the immigration system and certain amendments to existing laws will be needed to effect an efficient and just administration. The need is recognized by President Quezon and other officials of the Commonwealth and the matter is being given careful study and attention.

In connection with the administration of immigration laws applicable to those from the excluded areas, both the British and the Chinese consulates general in Manila have frequently requested the intervention of the High Commissioner’s office to facilitate entry of their nationals. Sources of information indicate that these nationals are inclined to suspect favoritism. Complaints of long delays and inadequate provision for the detention of immigrants awaiting decision as to their right of entry are frequently received. The number of British Indians and Chinese desiring to enter the Philippines is large and the task of the Commonwealth immigration authorities is not an easy one. As such matters directly affect the foreign relations of the United States, they become a matter of very real concern to the United States High Commissioner. It is to be hoped that steps will be taken in the near future to remedy the present admittedly unsatisfactory conditions

From the Second Annual Report of the President of the Philippines to the President and Congress of the United States Covering the Period January 1 to December 31, 1937:


The administration of existing immigration laws was transferred  from the Bureau of Customs to the Department of Labor, effective  January 1, 1937, pursuant to Commonwealth Act No. 139 and  Executive Order No. 81.

During the year 1937 a greater number of persons arrived in the  Philippines than during the previous year. Excluding the enlisted  men and persons attached to the military and naval forces of the  United States, a total of 44,310 persons arrived in, and 25,331 persons  departed from, the Philippines as compared with 37,021 arrivals and  27,648 departures in 1936.

Of the 6,173 Americans, 2,921 went to the United States and other  insular possessions and 3,252 to foreign countries; of the 3,208 Filipinos, 704 went to the United States and insular possessions and 2,504  to foreign countries; of the 9,516 Cliinese departures, 2 went to the  United States and other insular possessions and 9,514 to foreign countries, of which 1,828 were emigrants and 7,686 nonemigrants ; of the 3,336 Japanese, all went to Japan and other foreign countries, of which 1,935 were emigrants and 1,401 nonemigrants.

One hundred sixteen aliens consisting of 112 Chinese, 1 East Indian, and 3 Russians were deported from the Philippines in 1937 as compared with 272 aliens, consisting of 270 Chinese, 1 East Indian, and 1 Russian in 1936.

Of the 10,620 immigrants for 1937, 5,170 were Chinese, 4,170 were Japanese, and all other nationalities totaled 1,280.

December 31: Philippine Magazine:

A number of democratic and Jewish newspapers in Roumania have been suppressed during the past few days and a decree is issued that no Jews may remain in any newspaper office. Reported that Roumania’s contracts with France and Czechoslovakia for armament supplies have been “temporarily suspended” and that Russia has notified the new government it will abrogate the 1933 non-aggression pact. Stated in Rome that the new situation in Roumania is indicative of the “profound transformation which is taking place in the whole Danube basin.”




In 1938, Hitler’s regime intensified its policy of economic strangulation by requiring the registration of Jewish-owned property. The Decree for the Elimination of Jews from German Economic Life, also issued in 1938, forbade Jews from owning enterprises engaged in the retail and export businesses. ‘By the end of 1938 the economic position of Germany’s Jews was untenable’, the historian David Wyman… has observed…150,000 Jews left Germany between 1933 and 1937. By the beginning of 1938, the international community had resettled about 100,000 of them in neighbouring European countries as well as in Palestine, the United States, South America and the Union of South Africa  

Sometime in 1938-39: Dwight D. Eisenhower, writing in his memoirs, At Ease:

“The Nazis were in the saddle and riding hard in central Europe. Among other things, they were persecuting the Jews unmercifully and many of the Jewish faith were fleeing Germany, trying to find homes elsewhere in the world…There was a considerable Jewish community in [Manila] and I had good friends among them..

“Out of the Jewish ordeal in Europe, an unusual offer was made to me. Through several friends, I was asked to take a job seeking in China, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and every country where they might be acceptable, a haven for Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. The pay would be $60,000 a year, with expenses. The first five years’ salary would be placed in escrow to be delivered to me if I should be separated from the new job for any cause whatsoever. The offer was, of course, appealing for several reasons. But … I had become so committed to my profession that I declined.”

Sharon Delmendo:

In At Ease, Eisenhower seldom gives specific dates, and that is true of the Jewish refugee contract.  But he told the same story to his personal secretary, Ann Whitman, who recorded in her own diary that Eisenhower dated the offer as 1938 or 1939.


The rescue of these German Jews from Shanghai came to the attention of the Refugee Economic Corporation (REC), headquartered in New York City and an affiliate of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee…

After hearing that German Jews had found safe haven in Manila, Liebman of the REC initiated contact with U.S. High Commissioner McNutt through mutual acquaintances with two brothers, Julius and Jacob Weiss, the former an associate with the REC and the latter an Indiana State Senator and personal friend of McNutt. Senator Weiss wrote McNutt on behalf of the REC, asking if it were possible to allow 100 Jewish German refugee families to settle in the Philippines. McNutt replied that he would talk to Weiss in a few weeks when he, McNutt, returned to the U.S. McNutt arrived in Washington DC on 23 February 1938.

January 7: Philippine Magazine:

France and Poland declared to have reached an agreement for the migration of some Polish Jews to Madagascar. Neighbors of Roumania strengthen their frontier guards against an influx of Jews it is anticipated will follow the establishment of the the fascist Goga government there.

February 19: Philippine Magazine:

High Commissioner McNutt… was tumultuously welcomed in Indianapolis before Indiana Democratic Editorial Association… Earlier, the editorial association endorsed a “McNutt for President” boom, but McNutt declined to disclose whether he would seek presidency. He emphasized he was not called to Washington but planned to discuss number of things with President Roosevelt. “I am not here on political mission and will remain in Philippines as long as I am needed there.”

February 23: McNutt arrives in Washington D.C. on official business.

February 24: McNutt has meeting with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. 

McNutt entering the White House to meet Roosevelt. Library of Congress picture.


[McNutt] remained in the U.S. for two months before returning to the Philippines. After meetings with the President [Roosevelt], the Secretary of State, and a dozen other important government officials, McNutt informed Weiss that “it’s all arranged. The visas will be okayed by me and won’t have to clear through the State Department. When I get back to Manila I’m going to arrange for the proper reception of these refugees.” Upon his return to the Philippines, McNutt “organized the Jewish community in Manila” and sent details of a selection plan in a letter to Weiss.

February 23: Philippine Magazine:

Senator Minton states that the presentation of the McNutt reception as intended to announce a bid for the presidency sprang from the fertile minds of newspaper writers. “Although a good many of us regard him as the logical choice for presidential nomination, our political efforts on his behalf will come later.” High Commissioner McNutt himself states, he is not a candidate for any public office and that he is giving his entire time, energy, and thought to American affairs in the Philippines. He stresses the absolute necessity of amending the economic provisions of the Tydings-McDuffie Act, stating that failure to do so would be “economic murder”. The Philippines should be ready to meet all “internal and external” problems before obtaining complete independence, he says. He pays tribute to the new Philippine government, saying his relations with Filipino officials have been “a real pleasure”—”just as pleasant as back in Indiana”.

March 11-13: Anschluß: German Annexation of Austria

April 2: In response to McNutt’s objection to a proposal by the German Consul in Manila, Gustav Adolf Sakowski, to conduct a plebiscite among Germans and Austrians in Manila to ratify Hitler’s annexation of Austria, the German consul defies him.


…Sakowski staged a shipboard meeting, beyond Philippine waters, during which three hundred Germans and Austrians pledged allegiance to their enlarged Fatherland.

April 18: Time Magazine:

Almost as soon as the McDuffie-Tydings Bill was passed it began to be reconsidered. Last year a joint committee of U. S. and Philippine experts examined the whole question of how independence would affect the islands. Publication of the committee’s findings is due next month, but meanwhile, Japanese doings in China have given Filipinos a new reason to wonder what may become of them without U. S. protection. Last January Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed a plan whereby Philippine trade preferences would be reduced more gradually, ending in 1960 instead of 1946. Last month High Commissioner Paul Vories McNutt broadcast his view that Philippine independence be postponed indefinitely. Since independence has been Philippine President Manuel Luis Quezon’s battle cry all his life, he obviously could not applaud this proposal. He went as far as he could by indicating sympathetic indecision.

April 26: German Jews required to register their property.

April 27: U.S. officials revealed the formation of an international committee to deal with Austrian and German refugees.

April 29: McNutt sends a memorandum to Quezon on Philippine immigration suffering from: regulations and the whole thing [being] handled on a purely hit-or-miss system.


McNutt’s observation of the ineptitude of the Philippine immigration officials to execute laws and procedures effectively was written …during the time when McNutt and the JRC conferred together on procedures for refugee rescue in the Philippines. McNutt’s office advised Quezon that he hire experts on immigration laws and practices in the U.S. to come and restructure immigration laws for the Philippines.

Note: See October 27 and 31, 1938 entries.

May 19: Paul V. McNutt to Weiss:

I am deeply interested in the solution of the problem of caring for political refugees and I am anxious to have any experiment in the Philippine Islands succeed [ . . .] I should be very glad to do anything in my power to assist in handling these matters…

I find that the Commonwealth officials [certainly referring to President Quezon] are quite sympathetic to the idea of receiving those who can be absorbed. With the foregoing in mind I asked a representative committee of Jewish leaders to prepare a list of those who might be absorbed at the present time.

The Tablet:

As a non-Aryan, he [Quezon] hated the Nazis and sympathized with the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany. He also believed the Jewish refugees would become an asset to the Philippines, especially with their expertise and knowledge of medicine and other professional fields.


[Quezon’s] endorsement proved significant, for although the Department of State issued visas to Jews, and the Frieders helped to ease their resettlement, it was the commonwealth officials who determined who disembarked from ships and set foot on Philippine soil. 


 Note:  It wasn’t just the Frieders who helped the Manilaners settle in.  Norbert Propper, who arrived in Manila in May 1939, recalled that Morton Netzorg, the JRC’s Secretary and #2 man, did much of the detail work getting new arrivals assimilated, getting clothes appropriate to the tropical climate, financial arrangements, getting the newly arrived their first housing and jobs—all of which Netzorg did for Propper. 

May 28: Anti-Jewish Laws in Hungary

June 1: Bruno Schachner, assistant secretary of the REC, wrote to the Hilfsverein der Juden in Deutschland (Relief Association for Jews in Germany) in Berlin asking for its help in selecting candidates in a rescue plan for refugee immigration to the Philippines: 


We are informed by the United States High Commissioner for the Philippine Islands, who is turn bases his opinion on information furnished him by leaders of the local Jewish community, that there could be absorbed in the Philippine Islands, within a relatively short time, the following persons:

20 Physicians, among whom should be one eye, ear, nose and throat specialist, one skin specialist, and one or two surgeons.

10 Chemical Engineers

25 Registered Nurses

5 Dentists, who should have their own equipment

2 Ortho-Dentists

4 Oculists

10 Auto Mechanics

5 Cigar and Tobacco Experts

5 Women Dressmakers, stylists

5 Barbers – men and women

5 Accountants

5 Film and Photograph Experts

1 Rabbi, not over forty years of age, conservative, married and able to speak English.

20 Farmers

We are trying to organize the immigration of these people, and we should be indebted to you if you could meanwhile prepare a preliminary list of people meeting the requirements outlined above. As soon as we have completed arrangements, we will proceed with a final selection. Please let us know, meanwhile, whether all the various classes of persons could be found among the people registered with you, and if not, which ones are lacking. In view of the delicacy of the negotiations involved, we expect you to keep this matter entirely confidential, and under no circumstances to give it any publicity whatsoever. In addition, we would appreciate it if you would not approach the United States High Commissioner on your own behalf, in order not to confuse him by a variety of inquiries.

The Tablet:

The Frieders submitted the list of occupations they felt the economy needed and whose practitioners could be absorbed into the Philippine community to McNutt who, as the American High Commissioner, was a key link between the Frieders and the REC. He sent the plan and the list of prospective occupations to the REC. The list contained 14 needed skills and occupations as well as the number of people to be admitted in each category. Most of the occupations were in medicine—doctors, dentists, and nurses. Other categories included chemical engineers, auto mechanics, agricultural experts, cigar and tobacco specialists, men and women barbers, women dressmakers and stylists, accountants, film and photography experts, and even one rabbi, “not over 40 years of age, Conservative, married, and able to speak English.”

The REC and JDC approved the plan and transmitted the list of immigrants to the Hilfsverein. The REC in conjunction with the JDC also advanced funds to support the immigrants. This met with McNutt’s stipulations that the immigrants not become public charges…

June 6: Philippine Magazine:

The famous Jewish psychologist, Sigmund Freud arrives in London, accompanied by American consular officials, having received permission to leave Austria last Saturday; he states he has no plans and merely desires to end the few days left to him in peace and quietness in England—he is 82.

Frank Ephraim:

On June 6, 1938, for example, the passenger liner Scharnhorst of the Norddeutscher Lloyd line brought three German Jewish refugees, bringing the total thus far to about fifty who arrived without the benefit of the McNutt-Frieder program.

June 10: Charles Liebman, president of the REC, writes to McNutt:

[The REC has] taken the liberty of transmitting the list of desirable immigrants to a social-work agency in Germany, which will, in turn, select from among the applicants for emigration those who might be welcome in the Philippine Islands.

June 17: Philippine Magazine:

A new anti-Jew drive in Berlin results in the arrest of over 1000, including men in every profession. Jews are being shoved over the border without passports, money, or clothing. Reportedly the Nazis are demanding a “ransom” of £2,000,000 from Baron Louis de Rothschild, Austrian banker, for his release from prison, the amount fixed being alleged to be the obligations of an Austrian bank of which he was president and which failed in 1933.

June 18: Philippine Magazine:

Jews in Germany are taking refuge in foreign consulates as their shops are looted and wrecked. They find it is difficult to get food because gentiles are afraid to sell to them.

June 24: McNutt to Liebman:

The local Jewish community is comparatively small and few are in a position to support the local fund. The burden actually falls on about five families. Because of the fact that the local group furnished all of the funds to care for the forty refugee families which have arrived during the past few weeks, and will be required to meet the needs of others who come on their own account, I do not feel that the local group should be asked to do more.

July 2: Philippine Magazine:

Fascist officials advise Italian booksellers not to display or promote the sale of books by Jewish authors. The officials admit an anti-Jewish movement exists in Italy.

July 5: Philippine Magazine:

Six Jews are killed in renewed Jewish-Arab riots in Palestine.

July 6:  Evian Conference. Delegates from 32 countries hold first intergovernmental meeting on the political refugee crisis in Evian [France]. The meeting ends after nine days with “little or no relief for the refugees.”


As the Jewish refugee problem grew more acute, the United States, along with nations of Europe and Latin America, met in conference at Evian, France from July 6 to 15, 1938 to decide which countries could accept more Jewish refugees.15 When Eastern European countries implied that they would like to deport their Jewish citizens as well, the manageable refugee numbers from Germany and Austria were suddenly augmented by over 3 million potential refugees from Eastern Europe. This was the kiss of death for any serious resolutions at the Evian Conference in favor of Germany’s Jewish refugees. The Depression had strained economies, and the Western world simply could not, or would not, make room for that many more victims.


Quezon had intended to send Antonio de las Alas to represent the Commonwealth and present the general outlines of his plan to assimilate and naturalize Jews refugees in large numbers, but Quezon needed to reassign de las Alas to other Commonwealth business at the last minute, and so requested the US representative to represent the Commonwealth as well.

July 7: Philippine Magazine: 

In Palestine’s bloodiest riot since the World War, 18 Arabs and 5 Jews are killed in a gun-battle at Haifa; 92 Arabs and 11 Jews are seriously wounded.

July 8: Philippine Magazine:

Erich Maria Remarque, author of “All Quiet on the Western Front”, and 68 other German writers, most of them Jews, have been deprived of their citizenship, it is disclosed.

July 12: Philippine Magazine:

The Indiana state democratic convention endorses McNutt as nominee for the presidency. “With him, our party can proceed with full consciousness that every promise will be kept, each platform declaration respected, and the best interests of the people conserved and advanced”. Differences between Sen. F. Van Nuys and the party leaders in the State, arising from his opposition to the court reorganization bill, have been patched up also, it is reported, in the interest of Indiana party unity.

July 13: U.S. State Department sends radiogram to U.S. High Commissioner Paul V. McNutt in Manila:

Have been informally advised emergency entry into the Philippines of several hundred Jewish refugees from Europe being arranged. Please radio all information available.

July 16: McNutt replies to State Department:

Approximately forty families of Jewish refugees, who came to Philippines on own initiative or because of connections here, have been absorbed. Through cooperation leaders local Jewish community and Commonwealth officials arrangements have been made to take one hundred additional families of approved professions and vocations in three groups at intervals [of] sixty days. If this experiment is successful it may be possible to absorb others. In order to prevent attempted entry of more refugees than can be cared for properly it is considered unwise to give any publicity to the movement.

July 17: Philippine Magazine:

Pope Pius deplores such “exaggerated forms of nationalism” as evidenced in the German Nazi anti-Jewish measures, the Pope’s statement being believed to have been prompted by the recent publication in Italy of an official “credo” which excludes Jews from membership in the “Italian race”.

July 24: Philippine Magazine:

A magazine article by Postmaster-General James A. Farley appears which contains critical and apparently unfriendly references to P. V. McNutt’s alleged anti-Roosevelt activities during the 1932 Democratic National Convention.

July 26: Philippine Magazine:

The Arabs declare a general strike in the Jerusalem area and in several other places in protest against the bombing incident at Haifa. Eddie Cantor, American stage, radio, and movie comedian, states in London that during his 2 weeks’ stay he has collected £100,000 for the transfer of Jewish children to Palestine from Germany, Austria, and Poland.

July 29: Bruno Schachner, Assistant Secretary of the REC to Phillip Frieder: applications from refugees in Germany had already arrived from the Hilfsverein in Berlin. 

The Tablet:

The Hilfsverein kept lists of those German Jews who applied to emigrate. The lists included the occupation or profession of each prospective emigrant..

The REC worked with the Hilfsverein to determine who among those on the list should have the first chance to leave. The Hilfsverein informed the chosen applicants, got their OK, and sent their dossiers, which included photographs, curriculum vitae, educational data, and letters of recommendation to the REC and to the Jewish Refugee Committee in Manila. Alex Frieder and other members of the committee carefully studied the applications and forwarded the names to the Philippine government for approval. Alice Weston, Alex Frieder’s daughter, remembered that “day after day” her father pored over lists of would-be refugees. She claimed it took so much of his time that he neglected his own business.

 August 17: Law on Alteration of Family and Personal Names

August 22: Philippine Magazine:

Italy orders a special census of Jews; school principals have been ordered to eliminate Jewish teachers effective October 1.

August 29: Philippine Magazine:

High Commissioner McNutt confers with German Consul Sakowsky and though no announcement is made it is believed he warned against official interference in the activities of the German Club, Inc., of Manila. A Washington dispatch yesterday said the State Department had instructed the High Commissioner to advise the Consulate in strong terms that it is displeased by the Consul’s action in ordering members of the Club to resign.

McNutt to German Consul Sakowski:

The American government guarantees religious tolerance and freedom from persecution to all persons living under its flag.

August 30: Philippine Magazine:

Washington news dispatch states that the Consul sought the removal of certain Jewish members from the German Club in Manila and that disciplinary action may be taken against him if there are any further attempts at coercion. The Consul in a press statement denies that he had demanded such an ouster and states he coerced nobody.

September 1: Philippine Magazine:

Italian government issues decree ordering all foreign Jews residing in Italy, Libya, and the Dodecanese islands to leave within 6 months, regardless of their religion, exemption being made if one parent is not Jewish; some 10,000 out of a total of 44,000 are affected.

September 2: Philippine Magazine:

The Italian government bans all Jewish teachers and students from the public schools. Some 1500 Jewish professors and 8000 university students are affected.

September 6: U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull receives a telegram from the American Consul in Milan, Italy:

…unless otherwise instructed visas will be granted here under the immigration laws of 1917. Please instruct.

September 6, Philippine Magazine:

Hitler in a proclamation read at Nuremberg glorifies the German Reich, rejoices in its friendship with Italy, denounces Bolshevism and the Jews, declares Germany no longer fears any foreign blockade because of the nation’s economic self-sufficiency, but does not mention the Sudeten problem. The British Ambassador to Germany is reported to have stated to the German Foreign Minister when he expressed doubt that Britain would fight to aid Czecho-slovakia: “Then you are mistaken”.

The Dominican Republic offers the International Refugee Committee to accept a substantial number of German Jewish expatriates; the Union of South Africa has indicated it will not allow an immigration of Jews.

September 7: Cordell Hull replies:

…pending the Department’s further instructions, visas should not repeat not be granted.

September 12: Secretary of State Cordell Hull asks McNutt if Philippines will take 500 Jews from Italy:

Please inform the Commonwealth Government in strict confidence that the Department of State has received a telegram from the American Consul General in Milan, Italy saying that the Jewish Central Refugee Committee for Italy proposes to have five hundred non-Italian Jews of whom one-half are merchants and one-quarter professional persons obtain visas and proceed to the Philippine Islands. It is stated that these applicants will be furnished with transportation and landing money by refugee organizations. Information from other sources indicates the possibility of a movement from Central Europe to the Philippine Islands.The Department of State has telegraphed the Consul General at Milan and certain other officers in Europe that the matter is being taken up with the appropriate authorities of the Philippine Islands and that no action in the cases of the persons in question should be taken pending the receipt of further instructions from the Department. The Department of State brings the foregoing to the attention of the Commonwealth authorities for their information and consideration and for a statement of their desires in the matter. The attention of the Commonwealth authorities should be called to the fact that aside from the question of policy involved in the admission into the Philippine Islands of these and similar groups of persons from Central Europe, there are also involved technical questions of admissibility under section 3 of the Immigration Act of 1917 which excluded among other classes of aliens, persons whose passage is paid for by any corporation, association, society, municipality, or foreign government either directly or indirectly and persons likely to become a public charge.

September 15: McNutt replies to Hull: No.

If and when local situation justifies admission of others, visas should be only given to those selected from lists submitted in advance to Commonwealth officials and committee. With such safeguards, the experiment will be successful and maximum number of refugees will be absorbed.

September 29: Munich Agreement

October 1: JDC memorandum on selection plan:

Through intervention of the United States High Commissioner for the Philippine Islands, the Hon. Paul V. McNutt, the Jewish community of the Philippine Islands found employment possibilities for one hundred persons, divided into various occupational groups. This figure is later to be increased to five hundred if initial efforts are successful.

October 5: German Jews’ Passports Declared Invalid

October 7: Philippine Magazine:

The State Department announces that a note has been sent to Italy recommending that American Jews there be left to pursue their peaceful occupations without molestation, pointing out that Italian nationals in the United States are not hampered by discriminatory laws. The Italian government is reported to be “irritated”.

October 8: State Department to McNutt:

In view of the small sums which it is stated the selected refugees will have in their possession, and in the absence of information that plans have been made for placement of refugees and for their support in the meantime, you may wish to invite the attention of the authorities to the provisions in section 3 of the Immigration Act of 1917 relating to the exclusion of aliens likely to become public charges. This act is applicable to the Philippine Islands and as the Commonwealth authorities are responsible for the enforcement of the Act in the Philippine Islands they will wish in giving tentative consideration to the cases of these refugees to go into the matter of their admissibility or inadmissibility under the provisions of the Act, including those relating to aliens likely to become public charges [. . .] To avoid exclusion under the public charge clause, aliens must establish that they have sufficient means of support or such assurances of continuing support by persons able to support them.

October 12: Philippine Magazine:

Italy forbids the further issuance of shop, cafe?, and restaurant licenses to Jews.

October 14: Philippine Magazine:

Under government pressure to avoid antagonizing the Nazis, Czechoslovakian Jewish, communistic, and masonic bodies disband and various newspapers cease publication.

October 25: McNutt to State Department:

All refugees now in [the] Islands have been placed satisfactorily. Responsible local committee has undertaken placement and support meantime of all others selected.

First Selection List authorizes visas for—


…over one hundred Germans Jews – men, women and children – along with six refugee Jews from Austria. McNutt augmented this list one month later with another forty-six names from Germany and two from Italy, totaling one hundred families in all.


The committee required each refugee to deposit, in a Manila bank, $1,200, a sum “sufficient” to support them for two years. Having proven that they were unlikely to become a public charge, the State Department then issued a visa from the appropriate consular office. The state Department forbade consular officials from granting visas to any refugee except those accepted by the Jewish Refugee Committee and the commonwealth government.

October 27: Philippine Magazine:

Reported that President Quezon has asked the United States government for an expert on immigration matters to advise him. An investigation of corruption in the Immigration Division of the Bureau of Labor is in progress.

October 31: Philip Frieder to the REC in New York:

Every steamer that is coming here from Europe is bringing refugees without visas to enter the Philippine Islands. We do everything possible so that they can stay here but all this requires money as none of them have any funds whatsoever. Last week one of the Italian steamers brought 150 enroute to Shanghai. Fourteen of these remained. About fifteen did the same thing a few days before. We now have so many here that in a short time it will be impossible for us to take care of them. We are advised that another steamer, due this week, is bringing sixteen. We are placing them as fast as possible, but they cannot be absorbed so quickly. Therefore, we must support them and our small community here cannot do this. For this reason, I telegraphed you last week asking for financial assistance. The Philippines are still open, but it won’t be long if these refugees are not taken care of without government assistance.


…one must remember that only six Jewish families, including [Phillip] Frieder and his brothers Morris and Alex, possessed the means to support refugees, that the cost of sustaining each refugee was fifty cents per day, and that the REC had allocated only $5,000 for the venture by the end of 1938.

October 31: Philippine Magazine:

President [Quezon] suspends 21 officials and employees of the Immigration Division of the Department of Labor and designates Judge Luis P. Torres, Malacañan technical adviser, as acting head.


Quezon executed a probe into the allegations of misconduct in his immigration office and as a result suspended twenty-three officers and employees of the immigration service and prosecuted four. It was during this time of upheaval and restructuring of the immigration policies and offices in the Philippines that the unusual empowerment of immigrant selection by the JRC in Manila for the issuance of visas into the Philippines came into being, a process that took the power of visa selection out of the hands of Philippine Port Authority officers, U.S. State Department officials, and American consular officers abroad and put it squarely into the hands of the JRC and Paul V. McNutt.

Rodrigo C. Lim, writing in the Philippines Free Press, August 19, 1961:

Many prewar newspaper readers will undoubtedly recall the so-called immigration scandal that resulted in the mass suspension and, later, dismissal and transfer of practically all immigration officials and employees. Convinced after a quiet protracted investigation conducted by the Division of Investigation (D-I) of the venalities in the immigration office, Quezon one afternoon ordered the suspension of all personnel, from the chief to the last messenger. The D-I was made to take over the office. The immigration chief then was the nephew of the President’s wife, but that did not save him from being suspended and transferred to another office later.

November 7: German Embassy official Ernst vom Rath is assassinated in Paris by Herschel Grynszpan, a Jewish youth.

Ben Austin, Holocaust educator:

The assassination provided Goebbels, Hitler’s Chief of Propaganda, with the excuse he needed to launch a pogrom against German Jews. Grynszpan’s attack was interpreted by Goebbels as a conspiratorial attack by “International Jewry” against the Reich and, symbolically, against the Führer himself. This pogrom has come to be called Kristallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass.”

November 9: Kristallnacht


The centrally invoked violence left over 267 synagogues destroyed, along with an estimated 7,500 Jewish businesses burned or looted.


The idea to resettle Jews on the island emerged at the end of 1938 following Kristallnacht, or the “Night of Broken Glass”, when Nazi storm troopers attacked Jews and Jewish-owned property. That pogrom aroused sympathy for Jews in the United States and the Philippines and encouraged officials at the State Department to consider placing European Jews in underdeveloped parts of the globe. In this context, McNutt and Quezon discussed resettlement on Mindanao in December 1938.


The Nazis arrested and sent to concentration camps 30,000 Jewish men.  In the aftermath of the progrom, the Nazis levied a 1 billion reichsmarks fine on Jews to compensate for damage done during Kristallnacht—a fact published by the mainstream Philippine newspapers.

November 11: Philippines Herald:

During the past few weeks an increase in Jewish immigration into the Philippines has been manifest. As evidence of the growing number in the country of this persecuted race is the creation of a committee among the old-time Jewish residents here to take care of the new arrivals and help them establish themselves in the business houses.

Another evidence is the enlargement of the Jewish synagogue on Taft avenue…

There are approximately 350 Jews in the Philippines today… Of this number a great majority, approximately 300, are in Manila and environs.

Last month, the first batch of the refugees and victims of persecution in Germany arrived here. According to a report from a prominent members of the Jewish community here, eight were landed at Manila while a great number continued their way to China where they will be welcomed by their brethren.

The Jews who come to the Philippines from central Europe, it was explained, are just a small part of the “thousands that have been scattered like dust and leaves” by the mighty purge of the German government. Most of them have gone to the United States, Palestine, China, and England –wherever they can escape the persecution of the so-called Aryan people…

The Philippine government has not expressed itself or made a definite policy on the Jewish immigration here, but it is believed that good people, characterized by philanthropy, earnestness in work, and religious zeal, will always be welcomed.

The present immigration regulations and for that matter the exclusion laws of the United States do not consider Jews as aliens in the category that the Chinese and Malays are under, and for this reason they are on a status different from other foreigners seeking entry here.

November 12: Exclusion of Jews from German Economic Life

 November 18: McNutt send radiogram urging that U.S. consulates in Europe to expedite processing of visas approved by Philippine authorities.

November 19: Approximately 2,000 people attend an “Indignation Rally” protesting the violence of Kristallnacht is held in Manila, supported by the Archbishop of Manila, Protestant leaders, and civic associations, led by Quintin Paredes, Majority Floor Leader of the National Assembly.

Philippine Magazine:

[Manila:] At a meeting representing numerous civic and religious organizations, presided over by Assem. Quintin Paredes, some 18 speakers attack the persecution of the Jews in Germany.

That evening,  McNutt, during a speech delivered at the Masonic Temple in Manila: 

Within the past few months we have seen the reign of law replaced by sanctification of force, the threat of war adopted as an instrument of national policy, humble men and women denied the freedom to think their own thoughts and to worship God according to their own conscience and the dispersion all over the world of millions of helpless wanderers with no place to lay their heads…

Faith in the law had made the Israelites a people whom forty centuries have not been able to destroy, and forty centuries more will see a virile people.

November 21: Joaquin Elizalde, Philippine Resident Commissioner to the United States, reports to Manila on American public opinion in reaction to Kristallnacht:

There is strong pro-Jewish sentiment all over country in view of recent developments in Europe… prominent officials making public statements.

November 22: McNutt to the Secretary of War:

For the State Department: Local Jewish Refugee Committee and Commonwealth Government Officials have approved a third list of selected refugees. It is requested that instructions be given the appropriate Consular officials authorizing them to issue permanent visas for the Philippines to the following list…

November 25: U.S. Consulate in Singapore asks Washington:

Strict interpretation of the Department’s telegram dated November 22, [1938] 7 p.m., indicates that the procedure outlined may be applicable to all persons proceeding to the Philippines Islands. If not is it applicable to non-German refugees, to non-destitute German refugees, or only to German destitute refugees?

November 26: Editorial in the Philippines Free Press.

It is small wonder that the sympathies of the world have been touched, and that other countries are making unprecedented efforts to find new homes for Jews.


in a pair of editorials [the magazine] tempered its condemnation of Kristallnacht with a sober notation of the dangers of liberalized immigration to the Philippines. The newspaper also conceded the universality of mankind’s capacity for hatred, violence, and murder. With memories still fresh of Chinese immigrants who had been materially successful in the Philippines and of the Japanese who had designs of their own on the islands, the prospect of further immigration troubled many ethnic Filipinos.

November 28: Memorandum of a conversation held in New York between Joseph Hyman, director of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and Morris Frieder, brother of Phillip Frieder of Manila. The memo summarizes what has happened, to date, starting in 1937:

The German government sent a boat to Shanghai to remove all German nationals from the war zone. In so doing they also took aboard about 30 German Jewish families. All of these German nationals, including the refugees, were deposited in Manila and the German government signed an agreement with the [Philippine] government to the effect that these people removed from the war zone would not become public charges. At that time the German Consul in the Philippines suggested to Mr. Philip Frieder that it would be well for the Jewish community to take charge of the German Jewish refugees. This suggestion was adopted and the refugees were placed in various Jewish homes and eventually jobs were found for all of them…

Approximately 350 refugees have arrived in Manila independently. Most of these are totally without funds and are constituting a serious problem for the Jewish community there. There are, all told, about 60 Jewish families in Manila, (the American Jewish Yearbook lists the Jewish population of the Philippines as 500) of whom Mr. Frieder says there are only about 6 Jewish families who are in a position to contribute. It costs about .50 cents a day to maintain each of the 350 refugees there…

Mr. Frieder stressed the fact that the Philippines might easily become an important resettlement center for German Jewish refugees if it were handled right.

November 28: McNutt, in response to a decision by U.S. Consul in Singapore, to grant visas to 22 Manila-bound refugees who were, however, “destitute”:

…visas [must] be given only to those on approved lists… or efforts to place deserving refugees in the Philippines will fail.


The instigator behind the consul’s action may have been Frieder, for he had persuaded U.S. officials in Singapore to issue a visa to Ernest Burger, a distiller and winemaker who Frieder later found employment for with the Philippine distributor of Seven-Up.

November 30: Department of State issues “Visa Instruction” regarding “German Refugees Proceeding to the Philippine Islands” for transmission to all American Consulates and Embassies.

George Messersmith, Assistant Secretary of State, to McNutt:

The names of the refugees contained in telegrams no. 811 of October 25, and no. 883 of November 22, 1938 from the High Commissioner have been transmitted by mail to the consular officers in the respective districts of the aliens’ residences. The consular officers have been requested to inform the Department regarding the action taken in the cases of the refugees referred to and upon receipt of the reports the War Department will be informed. The procedure of having the names of the refugees for whom the Philippine authorities have granted authorization for entry into the Philippine Island communicated through the War Department to the Department of State for transmission to the appropriate consular officers is considered to be satisfactory…

[Consular officers in Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Netherlands, East Indies, India, Egypt, and Shanghai have been notified] …that visas should not be issued to German refugees proceeding to the Philippine Islands without notice of authorization for entry into the Islands having been received from the Philippine authorities through the Department of State.

The Tablet:

Seeing that the refugees were unlikely to become a public burden, McNutt endorsed visas for the German Jews who had the desired occupations and passed the screening process and background check. He relayed this request to the State Department’s visa division, which sent instructions to the appropriate U.S. consular officers to issue the visas. The State Department forbade consular officials from granting visas to any refugee except those accepted by Manila’s Jewish Refugee Committee.


By November 30, 1938, approximately 30,000 Jews had been arrested and sent to concentration camps.

December 1: The Jewish Refugee Committee approaches President Quezon regarding a larger resettlement plan in the Philippines. From a December 8, 1938 letter of Herbert Frieder to Bruno Schachner:

[Quezon] heartily approved our plan of resettling as many of the refugees as we cared to in Mindanao. He was willing to give them all the land that they wanted, build roads for them, and do everything in his power so that they could reestablish themselves. He intimated that Mindanao is big enough to support as many people as Luzon has, but he would be happy if we could settle a million refugees in Mindanao.

…[This would be] a bigger project than Palestine. The land is more fertile than Palestine, there are more minerals, timber – as a matter of fact, it is the richest land in the Philippines – virgin soil. This is such an enormous proposition that one can hardly visualize the potentialities of same.

December 2: McNutt met with Quezon and the two worked out the refugee Mindanao settlement plan. The same day, McNutt sent a radiogram to US Secretary of State Cordell Hull heartily endorsing the Mindanao resettlement and urging Secretary Hull to support the project, which will become known as the Mindanao Plan:

President Quezon has indicated willingness to set aside virgin lands in Mindanao for larger groups of Jewish refugees who wish to engage in agricultural enterprises of related activities in the development of community life in underdeveloped and practically uninhabited areas. Soil and climate conditions in Mindanao favorable to development of agricultural industries supplemental to Philippine agricultural economy. Philippine National Economic Council about to improve Mindanao colonization plan for Filipinos. It is believed that this program would be materially aided by colonization plan for Jewish refugees through development by organization directing refugee colonization of sources of supply, medical, and hospital and other services near areas. Local Jewish Committee, in cooperation with Refugee Economic Corporation of New York, will submit plan for colonizing refugees in Mindanao for approval of Commonwealth officials. The situation is now such that the larger program for the colonization of refugees in Mindanao can be successfully inaugurated if a message of approval is received from you. President Quezon is anxious that nothing be done which is not in accord with the policies of the United States. I urge your 257 consideration of the suggestion and strongly recommend its approval if the proposal is in accord with established policies. McNutt.

December 5: In Washington:

  1. Internal draft, State Department, representing opposite view of inquiry that was sent:

…the mere suggestion of such a large number as 2,000 families in one year, and 30,000 families as an ultimate objective – almost one-fourth of all the Jews in Germany – might arouse hopes which later could not be fulfilled, and might deter the other powers, which could better absorb these refugees than the Philippines, from taking as large a quota as they otherwise would agree to take.

  1. Undersecretary Sumner Wells’ response upon being shown draft: Do not send:

Mr. Welles read only the draft of the letter to [McNutt], which contained the moderate program which we [Sayre and Jacobs] had in mind. Mr. Welles said that this draft was not satisfactory to him and that he felt that something more positive would have to be done.

  1. Actual State Department inquiry finally sent to McNutt in Manila:

At the next meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee on Political Refugees, which is expected to be held in London in the near future, a further intensive effort will be made by the powers to find a solution of the German refuge problem. [. . .] It is believed that the question of how many such refugees the Commonwealth authorities believe could be absorbed annually in the Philippine Islands may arise. If, therefore, the Commonwealth authorities feel that they would care to participate in this effort, the Department of State would appreciate receiving at an early date an estimate of how many such refugees could, within the restrictions imposed by existing immigration laws applicable to the Philippine Islands, be absorbed annually over a period of years. The Department would also appreciate being informed as to the approximate number of German refugees who have come to the Philippines since January 1 of this year and have remained there.

December 5: In Manila:

Philippine Magazine:

In the first press conference for some months, President Quezon states… he would favor admitting selected refugees from Europe who could be accommodated here, preferably scientists and medical men who would be an asset to the country. He says he wants the Philippines to be as hospitable as a country as the Filipinos individually. He also points out that the Filipinos can not afford to entertain anti-foreign ideas both because this not right and because it is dangerous. The Filipinos can not afford to provoke anybody, for the country is not strong enough to defend itself against all comers for any length of time and safety must lie in just and fair dealing with all.

Manila Bulletin (quoting President Quezon):

“My attitude towards the German Jews is that of cooperation” [but while we refuse] “to close our doors to oppressed people” [we also reject] “the influx of large numbers of people… which will create problems.” [What he wants is for Jewish refugees] “to obstruct Japanese penetration” [of Mindanao].

December 6: Acting Secretary of State Sumner Wells to McNutt in Manila:

there is no objection on policy grounds to the Commonwealth authorities giving considerations to the matter of colonizing in Mindanao refugees from Germany or elsewhere in Europe… [however you are cautioned to avoid situations] which would result if a large number of refugees were hurriedly settled in Mindanao and the colonization plan were found to be unworkable… [Be aware of current legislation as] it may not be possible [. . .] to permit a large group of immigrants, which the plan would necessarily envisage, to enter under the conditions peculiar to their situation.

December 16: McNutt telephones Washington on Mindanao Plan:

…that President Quezon and the Commonwealth authorities are prepared to admit during 1939 some 2,000 families of Jewish refugees into the Philippines for colonization on the Island of Mindanao, and about 5,000 families annually until a total of 30,000 families has been reached.

December 17: Office of Philippine Affairs, U.S. State Department, internally expresses misgivings on Mindanao plan: 

[We] had in mind that [. . .] a reasonable number, say one or, at the most, two thousand persons, might be absorbed in the Philippines over a period of years. It [Office of Philippine Affairs] did not, however, have in mind that such a large number as 2,000 families in one year, or 30,000 over a period of about five or six years could be absorbed.

McNutt tells Washington President Quezon intends to send a Philippine representative to IGC meeting; in a few days he will send–

a tentative plan covering number of refugees to be absorbed and conditions to be imposed.

December 21: State Department follows-up details of Quezon plan. 

December 22: McNutt replies no plan details yet as Quezon has been taken ill.

December 23: President Quezon to U.S. State Department via McNutt:

…the Commonwealth Government is happy to be able to cooperate [. . .] in an effort to find a solution of the German refugee problem, which this Government realizes must be approached from broad Humanitarian grounds…

[As for] refugee settlement in Mindanao and other sparsely populated areas of the Philippines:

  1. that a responsible committee representing refugees or acting on their behalf shall submit a satisfactory plan to finance such settlement,
  2. that the settlers will agree to engage in subsistence farming and not to grow money crops that now enjoy protection in the American market,
  3. that they shall take out naturalization papers as early as possible thereby expressing their intention to become Filipino citizens,
  4. that until they become Filipino citizens they shall reside in the land reserved for them,
  5. that the number of refugees to be admitted as settlers shall be fixed for the time being by this Government acting upon the recommendation of the committee in charge of the settlement in course of preparation, having in view the committee’s ability to take care of the settlers, provided that the total number shall not exceed 10,000 persons, and
  6. that the plan contemplated and its execution shall be subject to the immigration laws now in force or which may hereafter be passed by the National Assembly.

December 27: J.C. Hyman, Executive Director of the JDC to Col. Julius Ochs Adler of the New York Times:

Dear Colonel Adler: Dr Jonah Wise mentioned to me that you wished some information concerning the settling of a German immigrant in the Philippines. [. . .] immigrants are admitted entirely on a selective individual basis in limited numbers, acceptability being dependent on background and former professional or other activities of the applicant. It virtually lies within the discretion of the High Commissioner to determine who should be admitted and who may not be [. . .] a gentleman by the name of Mr. Frieder, one of the outstanding Jewish leaders, is the chairman, and very largely on his recommendation to the Philippine Immigration Commissioner and Governor McNutt is [application] formally approved.

December 31: From the Third Annual Report of the President of the Philippines to the President and the Congress of the United States Covering the Calendar Year Ended December 31, 1938:

During the year a number of important questions required consideration. Among these were questions relating to immigration, asylum for political refugees, overseas shipping, matters affecting trade relations with the United States, assistance to Filipinos traveling or residing abroad, the repatriation of Filipinos from the United States, and from China and Spain, and the deportation of undesirable aliens from the Philippines.

The most urgent of these questions is that of political refugees seeking asylum in the Philippines from certain areas of Europe, and an increasing number of Chinese who are seeking to escape the unhappy conditions growing out of the Sino-Japanese conflict. In these matters involving the welfare of many thousands of people suffering the misfortunes imposed by political or war conditions in their homelands, the policy of the government of the Commonwealth has always been governed by generous and humane considerations, and the High Commissioner has given us his unstinted cooperation.



January 3: State Department informed Quezon’s representative would not be able to attend IGC meeting later that month; State Department uses this opportunity to submit Quezon’s December 23, 1938 proposal but amended item number 5:

  1. that the number of refugees to be admitted as settlers shall be fixed for the time being by the Commonwealth Government acting upon the recommendation of the committee in charge of the settlement in course of preparation, having in view the committee’s ability to take care of the settlers and the consequences of large-scale settlement upon the national economy of the Philippines.

State Department explains the change on the following grounds:

[to] avoid a commitment to a definite numerical figure which experience might prove to be either too high or too low. The American delegate might, however, confidentially mention the figure of ten thousand for illustrative purposes.

January 7: State Department asks McNutt, concerning Quezon’s December 23, 1938 message, what did “money crops” mean? McNutt replies:

…’not to grow money crops’ should be clarified as follows: ‘not to grow crops competing with Philippine products now sold in the American market.’ 

January 10: Oskar Hess from Hagen, Germany, writes to President Quezon. Oskar, Pauline, and Margit Hess were murdered in Auschwitz in 1943.  


A letter of January 10, 1939 (see Fig. 2) refers to an article in the Berlin Jewish newspaper Ju?disches Nachrichtenblatt about the Philippine President’s readiness to facilitate the Jewish immigration to his country. The article called “The Planned Emigration: Outlooks” lists several settlement programs: in Australia; in French and British overseas territories such as Kenya, Rhodesia or British Guiana; in the American territory of Alaska; and in the Philippine’s Mindanao province as proposed by President Quezon in December 1938.

January 18: Washington meeting in which Charles Liebman of the REC informed Philip Frieder,  Morris Frieder, and Jacobs and Achilles of the Office of Philippine Affairs that he was considering —

sending a mission of experts to Mindanao composed of: a colonizer, a public health expert, an agronomist, an animal husbandry specialist, and an hydraulic engineer.

January 21: Dr. Isaiah Bowman, then president of John Hopkins University and Director of the US Geographical Society, preliminary report at behest of Theodore Achilles in the Office of Philippine Affairs delivered to George Warren of the President’s Advisory Committee on Political Refugees:

Mindanao seems to offer sufficient possibilities to guarantee a successful future for selected groups of European settlers.

Bowman’s report leads to the President’s Advisory Committee of Political Refugees sending a scientific mission to the Philippines. Called the Mindanao Exploration Commission, it is composed of O. D. Hargis, chairman; Dr. Stanton Youngberg, Dr. Robert L. Pendleton, Dr. Howard F. Smith, and Captain Hugh J. Casey, members.

January 24: From President Quezon’s Fifth State of the Nation Address: 

I also desire to submit to your consideration the enactment of necessary legislation for the settlement of sparsely populated regions of the Philippines, especially in Mindanao. This is important not only for obvious political reasons and as a means to promote economic development, but also to relieve the acute congestion of population existing in certain agrarian areas. The National Economic Council has recommended a carefully prepared plan to carry out this objective. The plan contemplates a ten-year program aiming at the settlement in these vacant areas of about 500,000 people on selected lands adapted to subsistence farming and the production of certain money crops. This project will require an estimated total outlay of P20,000,000 which may be appropriated from the proceeds of the excise taxes. The report and recommendations of the National Economic Council on this matter will be transmitted to the National Assembly within a few days…

[The U.S. State Department] has agreed with our Government that political refugees who desire to come to the Philippines shall not be given visas by American consuls without the previous approval of our Government. We owe it largely to His Excellency, the United States High Commissioner, that the State Department was fully appraised of the situation and that this administrative policy was adopted…

To protect the interests of our people and to repair an injustice done to certain races by existing legislation, we should enact a new immigration law. Under our present immigration law passed by the Congress of the United States, Chinese, Indians, and some other Orientals may not be admitted into the Philippines. Ours is an oriental country, and we are an oriental people. We belong to the same racial stock as some of those excluded by our laws. So long as other foreigners are allowed to immigrate to the Philippines, we should admit, under the same terms and conditions, those coming from oriental countries. To avoid, however, a large influx of immigrants from any one country, we should establish a quota that will be the same for all countries.

January 30: Hitler’s Reichstag Speech

February 14: Philippine Magazine:

Announced at Malacan?an that government has informed the U. S. State Department it is ready to receive political refugees from time to time not to exceed total of 10,000, especially farm technologists, engineers, doctors, etc., for settlement in sparsely settled areas provided a responsible committee representing the refugees will submit satisfactory plan of financing such settlements and the refugees agree to become Philippine citizens.

February 15: President Quezon issues a statement on Jewish Settlement in Mindanao:

Sometime ago, the President created a committee composed of Cabinet members to study the question of political refugees seeking admission to the Philippines and to make recommendations. This Committee had Secretary [Manuel] Roxas of Finance as its Chairman, and Secretary [Rafael] Alunan of the Interior, Secretary [Jose Abad] Santos of Justice, and Secretary [Jorge] Vargas, members. In view of recent publicity given to this matter, the Committee has, by authority of the President, prepared the following statement for publication:

Recent occurrences in Europe have forced upon the world the problem of providing an asylum for political refugees. These refugees have been estimated at over 500.000, mostly Jews. Under the leadership of Great Britain and the United States, an Intergovernmental Committee on Political Refugees has been organized in London to formulate plans and to raise the necessary funds for the convenient settlement of these refugees in other countries. Yesterday this Committee appropriated $300,000,000 to defray the expenses of transportation of refugees and to provide them with capital to start with in productive enterprises in countries which should express a willingness to accept them.

The interest shown by many governments in the solution of the refugee problem is predicated upon broad humanitarian grounds. These political refugees, regardless of race or religious belief, allege that they have not been free to think their own thoughts, to express their own feelings, or to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences. Democratic governments, both in Europe and in the Americas, have assured the Intergovernmental Committee of their unstinted cooperation. The Commonwealth Government, upon invitation of the United States, could not turn a deaf ear to the sufferings of these unfortunate people. The Philippine Commonwealth, founded as it is upon justice and righteousness and the preservation of essential human liberties, could not but view with sympathy the opportunity to do its share in meeting the situation.

In line with these sentiments, His Excellency, the President, with the cooperation of the State Department of the United States, authorized the admission of political refugees on a selective basis. Only those whose professional qualifications, particularly in science, could supply needed services in the Philippines, have been admitted. In his inaugural message to the National Assembly, His Excellency, the President, explained fully his action in this matter. He emphasized the fact that the present immigration laws do not inhibit the immigration of such refugees into the Philippines, irrespective of their number or personal qualifications. With the cooperation of the Department of State, however, the President has succeeded in limiting the number of immigrants only to those who would be of advantage to the Commonwealth.

Sometime ago, representations were made to the Philippine Government by authorized spokesmen of these refugees, proposing the settlement of several thousand refugees and their families in Mindanao or other sparsely populated areas in the Philippines. It was indicated that these refugees would be provided with sufficient funds to establish them in farming communities, and that they would be assisted by competent personnel to plan and direct the development of the land that may be assigned to them. It was also intimated that only experienced farmers would go to this settlement, and that they would immediately take the necessary naturalization papers to become Filipino citizens.

The Philippine Government considered this proposition in connection with the project to settle and develop Mindanao. The Government believed that here was an opportunity to cooperate with an international enterprise inspired by a most laudable purpose, and that it could be accomplished in the interest of a national program, without in any way depriving Filipino citizens of the opportunity of enjoying the benefits of that undertaking.

Moreover, the Philippines could gain positive advantages from the execution of this plan. The proposed settlement would provide Filipino settlers in neighboring areas with a practical example of modern farming methods practised in the most advanced farming sections in Europe. Also, these refugees could develop new crops familiar to them and which might be profitably produced here. These settlements would have the advice of competent technical men, agriculturists, land chemists, irrigation experts, and such other technological assistants as are needed in projects of this nature. As this settlement is to be undertaken chiefly on a cooperative basis, Filipino farmers would see a practical application of the principles of cooperative farming and marketing as well as the working of consumers’ cooperatives.

There is, of course, a limit to the number of settlers that can be admitted under this plan. Realizing this fact the Government has advised the Intergovernmental Committee on Political Refugees that it was favorably inclined to a plan for the settlement of selected refugees in Mindanao or other sparsely populated areas of the Philippines, to be determined by the Philippine Government. The number of such settlers is to be fixed from time to time by our Government, having in view the interests of our national economy and subject to the following conditions:

  1. That a responsible committee representing the refugees or acting on their behalf shall submit a satisfactory plan to finance such settlements;
  2. That the settlers shall agree to engage in subsistence farming or such other activities as may be compatible with the best interests of all the Philippines ;
  3. That they shall take out naturalization as early as possible, thereby expressing their intention to become Filipino citizens;
  4. That until they become Filipino citizens they shall reside on the land reserved for them;
  5. That the number of refugees to be admitted as settlers shall be fixed from time to time by the Commonwealth Government acting upon the recommendation of the committee in charge of settlement in course of preparation, having in view the committee’s ability to take care of the settlers and the consequences of large-scale settlement upon the national economy of the Philippines; and
  6. That the plan contemplated and its execution shall be subject to the immigration laws now in force or which may hereafter be passed by the National Assembly.

It is believed that the conditions prescribed by the Government are sufficient to safeguard the interests of the Philippines. Moreover, it is expressly stipulated that the admission of these refugees should be at all times subject to the provisions of the immigration laws now in force or which may hereafter be enacted by the National Assembly.

There is no plan to settle large numbers of immigrants in Mindanao or any other part of the Philippines. It is the policy of the Commonwealth Government to preserve the natural resources of the nation for the Filipinos and their descendants. The areas that may be allotted to the proposed settlement for political refugees wall be insignificant compared with the vast tracts of vacant lands that now exist.

February 16: Statement from President Quezon clarifying Mindanao Plan:

…the policy on the matter declared that those to be admitted not only will be selected for their fitness for agricultural life and for their knowledge of farm technology but that they will be provided with funds in order that they could finance the development of the lands to be assigned them. With the knowledge these refugees of modern agriculture gained from experience in various nations of Europe they should prove of distinct help to Philippine farmers because of the example they will set.

February 16: Philippine Magazine:

Government and local Jewish refugee committee reported to have agreed on plan to survey areas in Mindanao for Jewish settlements, the refugees agreeing not to engage in competitive agriculture such as growing sugar, hemp, and coconuts.

February 17: Refugee Economic Corporation of New York sends a telegram to President Quezon:

Your noble attitude toward unfortunate refugees publicly announced in London will have great influence throughout the world. We take this opportunity of expressing our deeply felt appreciation of your humane spirit and generous cooperation.

February 27: Time Magazine:

Many a big name has been attached to many a plan to get the harassed Jews out of Germany. Last week the big name of the man most responsible for the whole terrible business was attached to still another. His country’s economy sagging* from the serious trade losses that followed his pogroms last autumn, Führer Adolf Hitler last week proposed a truce with the Jews. In a meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees, Director George Rublee presented Führer Hitler’s refugee plan:

1) Jews could return to jobs, although not in Aryan enterprises, until a merciful emigration scheme is worked out.

2) Young Jews (said to number 150,000 of Germany’s 550,000 Jews) would be permitted to emigrate at once on condition that they later arranged to send for their parents.

3) No more anti-Jewish legislation against the older Jews would be promulgated in Germany while the emigration plan is operating, barring any “extraordinary event” (i. e., another vom Rath murder).

4) Part of Jewish property in Germany would be pooled into a trust fund from which emigrating Jews would be able to draw for passage, equipment and machinery needed in their new homelands.

To the delegates, the greatest difficulty in carrying out the plan seemed the lack of an offer by Germany to supply the departing Jews with foreign currency. Consensus, however, was that Führer Hitler had promised more than even optimistic Director Rublee had hopes of getting when he first went to Berlin last month. Having submitted Führer Hitler’s plan, Director Rublee resigned, was replaced by League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sir Herbert Emerson.

The resettlement plan hinges upon the finding of homes abroad for the Jews. Last week the Committee heard the most encouraging news since its creation: 1) President Manuel Quezon of the Philippine Commonwealth offered to take 1,000 refugees annually, plus an unstated number of doctors, engineers and technicians; 2) a delegate of the Dominican Republic announced that his Government could admit 100,000 refugees, provided they had funds; 3) Australia offered to admit 15,000; 4) Paraguay a “limited number,” while The Netherlands and British Governments announced investigations examining resettlement possibilities in their colonies.

*The Reich’s foreign trade dropped 12½% last month.

April 3: By this time, word has spread in Europe about the Philippines being willing to accept refugees. Martin Foerder from Breslau, Germany, writes to President Quezon. Martin, Margot, Henny, and Lilly Foerder did not make it to the Philippines and were murdered in 1941 in the Kaunas Ninth Fort. 

Martin Foerder

Breslau 13

Ortsstr. 6         Breslau, April 3, 1939

Mr Manuel L. Quezon


The Philippines

As I have learned, there is a possibility that some immigrants can still ?nd accommodation in your country. Because of that, I let myself the polite inquiry whether I can be given the possibility to immigrate to your country with my family.

I am 48 years old, married. My wife is 40 years old and my two daughters are 16 and 14. I am a trained shoemaker and I am also good at laying tiles. My wife is an excellent housewife and has also worked with cosmetics in her free time. My oldest daughter is also fully trained in housework. Actually, we are willing to do any work that is o?ered to us.

I have to leave Germany with my family as soon as possible. Please, therefore, let me know the conditions under which the entry may be granted. Please not do make me wait too long for an answer because I would like to know my departure date as soon as possible. I hope that you will assist us in this case.

Waiting for your favourable response

Sincerely yours,

Martin Foerder

I am at your disposal and can send you testimonies about my wife and me 

April 6: Alex Frieder reports to Liebman that President Quezon suggests another location for refugee settlements:

 …the whole island of Polillo which is due east of Manila. [It] has an area of four hundred square miles, inhabited by only seven thousand Filipinos… he would take great pride in seeing Polillo inhabited by our refugees and if we accepted, he would authorize the appropriation of a sufficient sum of money for the National Treasury for an adequate road system through the island. [Quezon said Polillo residents had asked him to] divert the settlement of refugees from Mindanao to Polillo as they felt they [Jews] could be immensely beneficial to their progress… [We thus have] wonderful prospects of settling both Mindanao and Polillo, which enlarges the quantity of refugees who can be settled.

April 11: Two years before his death (“Tauber, b. 1884, from Vienna, who was deported to Theresienstadt in 1942 and perished in Auschwitz in 1944”), a Viennese Jew, Siegmund (Sigmund) Tauber, writes to President Quezon:

Siegmund Tauber                                                  Vienna 11th April 1939

Wien, XX.,

Webergasse Nr. 19

To the President Mr Manuel Quezon,


Philippine Island

Dear Sir,

Undersigned, a Viennese Jew begs for himself and his family (consisting of 10 persons) for permission of entering the Philippine Island.

We are 4 men and 6 women in the age of 12–55 years, 3 of us were partaking of the Great War . We are all healthy and busy .

In Vienna we were cutters and sewers of body linen for ladies and gentlemen; yet we know to do the agricultural work too, because we had once a small farm and were breeding fowls .

I suppose, that the fate of the German Jews is not unknown to you, Excellence, (we must emigrate) and so I am convinced that you will fulfill my request.

We have no money in the foreign country , but we shall take with us so many agricultural implements as we are allowed by the office of our country. We ask for the deliverance of duty for the things and for our removal goods too.

If your generosity should go still farther and you would allow a greater number of Viennese Jewish families to immigrate and to found settlement of their own to find a new home, I should take pains to put together a society of healthy and industrious families.

Thanking you in advance

I remain yours,

Sigmund Tauber

Enclosed the dates of my family

April 15: Mindanao Exploration Commission secretary Stanton Youngberg informs Bowman of their scheduled “inspection trip to the Island of Polillo.”

April 28, 1939. Emilio Aguinaldo, to a reporter of the Manila Bulletin:

Jews are dangerous people to have around in large numbers. By natural abilities, by their temperament, and by their training in business, they have succeeded in predominating and absorbing the people of places they settled. They are by nature ambitious and selfishly materialistic and are not anxious to help the country in which they live. [. . .] If the Germans, strong, well organized, and well trained as they are in all fields of human activities, find themselves unable to cope with the Jews to such an extent as to cause Hitler to expel them from Germany, how can we Filipinos expect to compete with the Jews? If cultured highly industrialized, strongly organized Germany could not stand the Jews, how can we expect primitive Mindanao to do so?

May 11: Philippine Magazine:

High Commissioner McNutt and family leave Manila after a spectacular send-off by Commonwealth government and City of Manila and United States and Philippine Armies.


Since McNutt wanted to succeed [Franklin D. Roosevelt] as president, he had no intention of staying for an extended period in the Philippines. His campaign for the White House began to organize early in 1939, nearly two years before the election…

Richard Moe:

 In fact, during the second half of 1939 right up until the Democratic convention in July 1940 he [President Roosevelt] said nothing publicly on the matter. Whenever a reporter tried to question him on his intentions, Roosevelt told him to put on a dunce cap and stand in the corner or he found another way to laugh off or ignore the question. Journalists and cartoonists began depicting him as a “sphinx” who wouldn’t reveal his secrets. 

May 13: St. Louis Sets Sail

Quezon, writing to the American publisher, Roy Howard:

I can truthfully say that, in my opinion, he [McNutt] has been one of the best representatives of the United States in the Philippines… My association with him, both official and personal, has been in every way satisfactory. We have never had the slightest unpleasant experience and we have always been able to find a common ground for a compromise when we did not agree entirely. Poker, of course, has been helpful in making a personal association very enjoyable.

See: In like a lion, out like a lamb, Philippines Free Press, May 13, 1939

May 14: After visit to Polillo, Mindanao Exploration Commission concludes,

Polillo Island offers no possibility for the settlement of European refugees.

June: Kotlowski:

In June 1939 the Jewish Refugee Committee had applications on file for 2,500 Jewish refugee families and had forwarded, to the Department of State, lists of 313 people approved for visas. 

June 2: Philippine Magazine:

German liner St. Louis is refused permission to land 917 German Jewish refugees at Havana because Hamburg-Amerika steamship company had previously been warned refugees would not be permitted to land, and ship now cruising about looking for other place to land them.

The U.S. refuses to admit the refugees, who are forced to return to Europe.

June 4: Los Angeles Times publishes AP story from Washington DC: 

[The] settlement of tens of thousands of German Jewish refugees in the Philippines [is meant] to offset the influence of Japanese there [who already own] more than 50 per cent of the arable land, [and] 70 per cent of the abaca production. [Plus] more than 50 per cent of the lumber, copra, hemp, and fish exports, [and] 95 cent of Davao’s exports to the United States… [Since the Japanese consider Mindanao] as a vast and potential field for immigration and settlement [the advantage of Jewish settlement would be] to compete on equal terms with the Japanese and not be utilized by them.

June 9: Philippine Magazine:

German ship St. Louis still cruising in American waters. Jewish-American Committee in Washington has informed Cuban government it will put up cash guarantees for the refugees if it will admit them.

June 10: A. M. Warren, Chief of the the Visa Division to Mr. Stephen Skodak of Lorain, Ohio:

I have your letter of June 2, 1939 requesting to be advised of the procedure to be followed by two chemical engineers, subjects of Hungary, in affecting their immigration into the Philippine Islands. The Philippine authorities have requested that advance authorization for entry into the Islands be obtained from the Philippine authorities at Manila before visas may be issued. It is understood that the names of persons desiring to proceed to the Islands may be submitted to the Philippine authorities by the Jewish Refugee Committee, Post Office Box 2233, Manila, Philippine Islands.

June 19: Sigmund Tauber in Vienna sends another letter to President Quezon:

Vienna, June 19, 1939

To the President Mr. Manuel Quezon


Philippine Island

Dear Sir,

At the 15 of April a. c. I took the liberty to send you personally a petition begging you for a card of permission to enter the Philippines and to remain there with my family. I am convinced you have already decided in favour, but the discharge could not yet come to my hands in consequence of the formalities of your offices .

Sir! You certainly know perfectly well the sad situation of the German, the Vienna Jews. I appeal once more at your heart and your humanity to accelerate the permission (for me and my family) to enter your dominions.

I and my family are accustomed to work . We are well known in producing of finest Vienna body linen for ladies and gentlemen. I am sure, I can employ many native people.

Repeating once more my prayer to hasten the settlement to allow us to come.

I am, dear Sir,

Your obedient servant

Zsigmond Tauber7

Vienna XX.

Webergasse 19.




June 23: Philip Frieder to the JDC:

[JRC was] receiving hundreds of applications for visas from people who undoubtedly would be desirable persons for settlement in the Philippines, but it was unable to approve any of them in view of its present financial circumstances.

June 28: “Manuel Quezon,” in John Gunther’s Inside Asia:

 In Germany he saw Schacht, but not Hitler… About Hitler [Quezon remarked]: “That’s not my idea of a leader.” …

Quezon and Paul V. McNutt, the present high commissioner, are not intimate friends, but relations between the governments are quite correct. Quezon hoped that another man would be appointed and that in any case he should be consulted on the appointment; McNutt’s name was rushed through before Quezon got to Washington, and for several days he sulked, refusing to call on McNutt until Roy Howard smoothed the matter over. Quezon says that nowadays he likes to see McNutt in order to get away from the local politicians. He records that his friendship with him was cemented by a poker game, in which both were winners – Quezon, however, by a bigger margin.

Quezon and MacNutt, from the website of Rescue in the Philippines.

June 30:   

From the Third Annual Report of the United States High Commissioner to the Philippine Islands to the President and Congress of the United States Covering the Calendar Year 1938 and the First Six Months of 1939:

Immigration Service. — The ruling immigration law of the Philippines is the act of Congress of February 5, 1917, which contains a provision that the law shall be enforced in the Philippines by officers of the general government thereof until it is superseded by an immigration act passed by the Philippine Legislature and approved by the President of the United States.

During the years numerous complaints against procedures in the enforcement of the immigration laws were made to this office. In many cases these complaints would not have occurred had the local government been in a position to issue regulations adapted to conditions. Enforcement had not been improved by the transfer of the immigration service from the Philippine Bureau of Customs to the Philippine Department of Labor. The situation called for investigation and reorganization which it appeared could only be advanced by bringing to the Philippines immigration experts from the United States. The subject was placed in conference with President Quezon. As a result, President Quezon requested that 2 men, 1 from the Department of Labor and the other from the Department of State, be detailed to the Commonwealth for the purpose of recommending steps for the reorganization of the service and drafting a general immigration bill. At the same time President Quezon ordered an investigation of the immigration service which resulted in the suspension of 23 officers and employees and the prosecution of 4.

Mr. Irving P. Wixon, Deputy Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization, Department of Labor, and Mr. George L. Brandt, Foreign Service officer, State Department, arrived in Manila on December 12, 1938. In addition to valuable and acceptable recommendations for the reorganization of the service, these men in consultation with appropriate officers of the Commonwealth government drafted a general immigration bill designed to supersede the United States Immigration Act of 1917. The draft of the proposed bill was given to President Quezon. As of June 30, 1939, final action had not been taken…

Colonization in Mindanao by Jewish refugees. — In connection with the colonization of Mindanao which is being undertaken by the Commonwealth, some of the prominent Jewish residents of the Philippines approached President Quezon with a recommendation that a limited number of worthy and adaptable Jewish refugees be admitted to take part in the colonization. President Quezon, after a number of conferences with me, attended by Mr. Philip Frieder and others, extended an invitation for 10,000 refugees, to be selected by the organization in the United States having charge of the relief of Jewish refugees under the auspices of the President’s Advisory Committee on Political Refugees. These refugees are to be selected for their aptitude for agriculture, to take part in the colonization of Mindanao or any other suitable part of the Philippines.

The Commonwealth, among other conditions, stipulates that the refugees shall take out naturalization papers as early as possible, and that until they become Filipino citizens, they shall reside in the land reserved for them. Also, that the execution of the plan shall be subject to the immigration laws now in force, or which may hereafter be passed by the National Assembly.

A scientific mission, under the auspices of the President’s Advisory Committee on Political Refugees arrived during the first half of April 1939, to study the possibilities of refugee colonization in Mindanao and any other places in the Islands that may be suitable. I conferred with the mission on different occasions, and have endeavored to facilitate and expedite their studies. The mission completed its investigation of the Island of Polillo in the early part of May, immediately after which they proceeded to the Island of Mindanao in the hope of completing that survey by the end of June.

From the Fourth Annual Report of the President of the Philippines to the President and the Congress of the United States Covering the Period January 1 to June 30, 1939:


A stricter policy of restriction has been followed with a view to preventing the admission of aliens who are not entitled to enter and stay in the Philippines. This strict policy has contributed largely to the decrease of alien immigration into the Philippines, with new landing certificates of residence being issued to only 475 Chinese immigrants, as compared with 3,525 in 1938 and 2,024 in 1937.

Measures have also been initiated by the Commonwealth Government for the purpose of reorganizing the immigration office and amending the present immigration laws. On December 12, 1938,two immigration experts arrived from the United States to advise the Government on immigration matters. They have since made recommendations and suggestions toward the reorganization of the immigration division of the Department of Labor and the enactment of new immigration laws that will be practical and suitable in regulating the admission and exclusion of aliens.

Excluding enlisted men and persons attached to the military and naval forces of the United States, a total of 10,482 persons arrived in, and 12,076 persons departed from, the Philippines. Among the arrivals were 1,756 immigrants, consisting of 393 Chinese, 779 Japanese, 182 Jews, and 397 belonging to other nationalities; while non-immigrants numbered 4,366, consisting of 2,831 Chinese, 1,540 Japanese, and 214 subjects of other countries; departing non-emigrants totaled 3,623, of whom 1,962 were Chinese, 408 Japanese, and 1,253 of other nationalities.

During the 6-month period under review 175 aliens were deported from the Philippines, namely, 143 Chinese, 17 East Indians, 2 Japanese, 9 Russians, 1 Korean, 2 Czechoslovakians, and 1 Hebrew (German).

See also: Philippine Visas-for-Jews from the Perspective of the Unanswered Letters of 1939 to President Quezon by Ber Kotlerman:

More than twenty letters of European Jews to the President of the Philippines Manuel Quezon, sent to apply for entry visas for over four dozen people, were recently found in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department of the National Library of the Philippines in Manila. The letters written in English, German, and Spanish are dated Spring-Summer 1939, when escape from Europe was still possible. Though several hundreds of Jewish refugees came to Manila via various ways during 1937–1941, the letters in question remained unanswered. All of them provide the exact time of the short-lived Mindanao plan, which proposed to establish an agricultural colony of European Jews in the Philippines, but got stuck in the very beginning. The databases of the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington reveal the tragedy, which many Jews anticipated: all of the Philippine visa seekers, except for one person, found their death in various concentration camps, ghettos, and labour battalions.

July 1: Jurisdiction over the Philippines transferred to the U.S. Department of the Interior from the U.S. War Department.


Within just a few months of Malcolm’s official opinion, the functions of the Bureau of Insular Affairs were transferred to the Department of the Interior on July 1, 1939, and combined with those of the Division of Territories and Island Possessions. It was nearly 40 years after the cessation of hostilities between United States forces and revolutionaries of the Spanish-American War that the Philippines were no longer under any jurisdiction of the U.S. War Department.

July 2: Philippine Magazine:

Commission of American experts, after 6-week survey of sparsely populated areas as possible sites for Jewish colonization, returns to Manila and issues statement expressing thanks for help received from government agencies and declaring it was greatly impressed by magnificent scenery, immense virgin forests, “fertile soils, and splendid climate of Mindanao, and foresees a great future for it. Of outstanding importance is government’s road program . . .” In accordance with its instructions, commission must forward findings and recommendations to principals in United States who may release them for publication.

July 7: Confidential information in the Mindanao Exploration Commission report:

Frequent opposition has been expressed toward this settlement in the press and still more often to members of your commission in private, and no doubt more often still by influential people to various members of the President’s cabinet and quite frankly to the President himself. At least we can infer the latter from the statement that Mr. Jorge Vargas, the President’s secretary, made to Dr. Youngberg. The general sentiments expressed have been to the effect that the Philippines should be reserved for the Filipinos.

On this date, the Nacionalista Party convention approves proposing three amendments to the Constitution: changing presidential term from 6 years to 4, but allowing re-election; restoration of senate; creation of Commission on Elections.

July 11: Jewish Telegraphic Agency:

Paul V. McNutt, retiring U.S. High Commissioner for the Philippines, told a Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent here that 500 Jewish refugees have found a new home in the Islands and that plans for settlement of thousands more on the Island of Mindanao were progressing.

Commissioner McNutt, who on his departure from Manila was presented with a parchment by the Jewish Refugee Committee expressing its gratitude for his efforts in behalf of the refugees, was enthusiastic on the prospects of Mindanao. He said the island, whose colonization possibilities are being examined by an American experts’ commission sent by the Roosevelt Advisory Committee on Refugees, was “definitely the most fertile part of the Philippines.”

“So far,” he declared, “the Islands have taken in 500 Jewish refugees, and every one of them, through the cooperation of the fine Jewish Community of the Philippines, is at work at self-supporting jobs. As soon as room is made for more, the list of applicants is scanned for the necessary qualifications and without any visa difficulty they are speedily brought to Manila.”

Referring to Mindanao, he said the work there would have to be “from the very bottom, but the Island boasts plateaus equal in fertility and natural wealth to any other section of the world. It has vast untouched mineral wealth and definitely has the finest climate of the Philippine Islands.”

Commissioner McNutt revealed that he had convinced President Manuel Quezon that a change should be made in the Island’s laws to allow free entry of refugees without the formality of visas and passports. He also gained from President Quezon permission for refugee physicians to practice in the Philippines without examination. The president’s personal physician, he disclosed, is a refugee.

July 17: Philippine Magazine:

Columnist Walter Winchell quotes anonymous friend of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as stating President had told him positively he would run for third term and Paul V. McNutt is his choice for Vice-President. Norman Thomas, Socialist Party leader, warns Roosevelt that McNutt’s appointment as Social Security Commissioner may jeopardize whole machinery of security legislation, asserting that as Governor of Indiana he used the State’s pension legislation “entirely in interest of himself and his party”…

Army and Navy Journal mentions Maj.-Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Maj.-Gen. Malin Craig for post of High Commissioner.

July 24: President Quezon, letter to Herbert Frieder:

[Concerning our] humanitarian work…every effort will be made to accommodate a number of Jewish refugees, not exceeding 10,000 over a period of ten years, under the condition that they shall settle in such portions of Mindanao as may be agreed upon between this Government and your good selves.

August 3: Philippine Magazine: 

Fascists in former Czechoslovakia propose death penalty for marriage of “Aryan” Czecks to Jews.

August 5:

Philippine Magazine:

President Quezon states in press conference… he has offered International Jewish Refugee Committee large tract of land between Bukidnon, Cotabato, and Davao, but told committee of experts here they could not have certain site in Lanao, desirable because of its altitude of 1200 feet, as Lanao is small province and he wants to reserve this site for Moros of the region and will not even permit Christian Filipinos to settle there.

Note: Francis Burton Harrison (writing in his diary on March 12, 1943):

When Quezon, before the war, granted permission to 10,000 Jews to settle in the Philippines at the rate of 1,000 a year, the Jewish Committee picked out, as the best farming land–Lanao! Quezon says he refused this, since they wouldn’t be alive at the end of a year. Quezon tells me that Lanao has as many rich and wonderful Moro farms as has Jolo nowadays.

Contemporary Jewish Record, New York (Vol. 2, Iss. 5):

Pres. Manuel L. Quezon, of Philippine Islands, declares only Cotabato Province of Mindanao Island is suitable for refugee settlement… 

August 18: Morris Frieder recounts what his brother Alex reported to him, about Quezon’s response when he was told of growing anti-Semitism in the Philippines:

He assured us that big or little, he raised hell with every one of those persons and made them ashamed of themselves for being a victim of propaganda intended to further victimize an already persecuted people; He immediately told us in unequivocal terms that we could have all the land we needed, not only for the 10,000 persons, but for 30 or 50,000 and that he would personally see to it that thousands of hectares more of private leased lands would be surrendered to us by transfer [. . .] He again repeated that he could see in this development a distinct benefit to the country as well as a haven for the refugees [. . .] and he asked me not to be depressed by any subversive rumors.

August 19:

Gerald Wheeler:

As a birthday present for Quezon, the National Assembly on August 19, 1939 voted to change the presidential term from one of six years without immediate reelection to a four-year term with one immediate reelection allowed. Quezon strongly desired the change, and his Nacionalista Party desired it even more strongly. The first election under the amendments (and the existing law) would come in November 1941, at the close of Quezon’s initial six-year term, and if reelected he could serve until 1943, a total of eight years. The vice president would then take over for the remaining two years, until the elections of 1945. It was assumed that Quezon would run again in 1945 and thus be president in July 1946 when the Philippines became a fully sovereign republic. There were two other amendments that were less important. The National Assembly and the unicameral form of government would be replaced by a House of Representatives and a Senate. The Senators would be elected at large. Quezon fully supported this amendment, particularly the provision for electing senators at large. Finally there would be legislated a Commission on Elections to take care of this matter.

August 26: President Quezon, in his capacity as acting Secretary of Public Instruction (today known as Education) authorizes “certain Jews” to take board exams in medicine. Executive Secretary Jorge B. Vargas replies on the President’s behalf to an objection from the head of the Philippine Medical Association:

This decision was motivated by what His Excellency considered broad humanitarian grounds. Realizing, however, that the legality of his action is a matter upon which honest differences of opinion may be entertained, His Excellency would welcome any step to bring the question before the courts…

Ber Kotlerman:

Later, a judge turned down the German Jewish doctors’ request for medical practice.

September 1: German Invasion of Poland

September 3: Dwight D. Eisenhower diary:

This evening we have been listening to broadcasts of Chamberlain’s speech stating that Great Britain was at war with Germany .…  Hitler’s record with the Jews, his rape of Austria, of the Czechs, the Slovaks and now the Poles is as black as that of any barbarian of the Dark Ages….

This crisis has made me more than ever anxious to get home.

I want to be back with my own army to watch and be a part of our own development and preparations; also to keep in closer touch with the daily record of the war as it is made. We’re too far away in Manila… 

September 15: National Assembly adopts a resolution proposing amendments to the Constitution.

McNutt to Secretary of State Cordell Hull:

…commonwealth officials and local committee [the JRC] think it unwise to attempt absorption additional refugees at this time [. . .] visas should be given only to those selected from lists submitted in advance to Commonwealth officials and committee. Commonwealth officials concur in opinion that, with such safeguards, experiment will be successful and maximum number of refugees can be absorbed. 

September 18: Philippine Magazine:

President Quezon sends message to Assembly… asking authority to reorganize the immigration division of the Department of Labor.

September 30: McNutt, to State Department:

Initial request and placement of refugee families in the Philippines came from the Refugee Economic Corporation [. . .] and was submitted to Commonwealth officials and to a Committee of Representatives Jewish Citizens headed by P.S. Frieder. [. . .] All concerned agreed to absorb 100 families of approved records in designated professions and vocations in three groups at intervals of sixty days [. . .] Selections based on these records now being made by Commonwealth authorities and committee. Suggest that when lists are complete, they be forwarded to Department of State in order that appropriate consular officers be authorized to give visas. Commonwealth officials request that visas be given only to them on approved lists.

October 9: As detailed by Harris: An interesting story revealing how internal opposition to the Philippine plan manifested itself. Conversation was between Joseph E. Jacobs and Robert Pell.  Jacobs:

  • In 1938, he’d been instructed by Undersecretary Sumner Wells to ask Philippine government how many refugees they could take.
  • Reply from Philippines was 1,000 persons, which Wells found “inadequate.”
  • Wells said President Franklin D. Roosevelt had asked him “to inform President Quezon of the interest of the President and to express the hope that a better offer could be made than that of 1,000 persons.”
  • When Wells urged Quezon, via the Philippine Resident Commissioner in Washington, to increase the number of refugees to be accepted, only then did Quezon increase the number to 50,000.
  • Wells then called Jacobs into a meeting with Francis B. Sayre which became heated:

Mr. Sayre took a very strong line against the settlement project. Mr. Welles argued back heatedly and there was no definite conclusion. Mr. Jacobs then remarked that in his opinion the settlement of a large number of refugees in the Philippines could not be justified on social, economic, or political grounds. The major question of policy was whether the United States wished to remain in or leave the Philippines. Jacobs said that he believed that the United States should get out, hook, line and sinker. The settlement of these people, (italics added) who would be financed by a New York group, would mean a further call on the United States to stay in the Islands.

Harris, in her paper points out:

This was a total misstatement of the chain of events. Quezon’s offer to admit 2,000 refugee  families in 1939, and then 5,000 families annually until 30,000 or more families had been reached was deliberately squelched back in December 1938 by [Joseph E.] Jacobs and [Francis B.] Sayre. Jacobs neglected to tell Pell that it was he, Jacobs, who had suggested a far more moderate number of even 500 refugees total over many years, to which Welles then responded that it was not enough.


Sayre’s opposition proved most significant, for he was the official who replaced McNutt as high commissioner.

October 12: Jewish Telegraphic Agency:

A favorable report on prospects for settlement of refugees from Central Europe in the Philippines has been turned in by an experts’ commission sent to the islands by President Roosevelt’s Advisory Committee on Refugees, it was learned today.

The report, which was completed several days ago, will be considered by the President’s committee, which is headed by James G. MacDonald, at a meeting in New York on Friday and will be transmitted to officers of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees when they meet at the White House on Oct. 16 and 17 on President Roosevelt’s invitation.

Manuel Quezon, president of the Philippine Commonwealth, indicated before the commission sailed from Manila last March that his Government was agreeable to accepting refugee immigration if the commission found the Commonwealth would support them. At the time, he mentioned a figure of 10,000 as the number he believed the islands could accommodate.

The experts’ commission included O.D. Hargis, chairman, agricultural expert of the Goodyear Rubber Company, who conducted experiments on the island of Mindanao; Dr. Stanton Youngberg, director of the Philippine Bureau of Agriculture; Dr. Robert L. Pendleton, for many years advisor to the Government of Siam; Captain Hugh Casey, of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and Dr. Howard F. Smith.

October 21: Philippine Magazine:

High Commissioner Sayre arrives in Manila. In impromptu speech of welcome, President Quezon praises him for his keen mind and humanitarian heart, and for his part in securing needed help for this country from United States, and expresses hope “he may be the man to turn over to first President of Philippine Republic the authority and sovereignty of the United States over these Islands

See: Sayre arrives, Philippines Free Press, October 28, 1939

December 12, 1939: President Quezon, speech at farewell luncheon for Dwight D. Eisenhower:

Among all of Ike’s outstanding qualities… the quality I regard most highly is this:  whenever I asked Ike for an opinion I got an answer…  It may not have been what I wanted to hear, it may have displeased me, but it was always a straightforward and honest answer.

Farewell luncheon for Eisenhower. Quezon awarded the Distinguished Service Star to Eisenhower and asked Eisenhower’s wife, Mamie, to pin it on her husband. A biography of Eisenhower said it became her favorite photo of her husband. (Photo from the Eisenhower Presidential Library)

December 28: Philippine Magazine:

Dr. Stanton Youngberg arrives in Manila to supervise Jewish colonization project; reported from private sources that cattle ranch of late Dean C. Worcester in Bukindon will form nucleus of colony site.




January 18: U.S. State Department drafts a response to Sayre to suggest to the President Quezon a new immigration law may be needed by the Philippines if it wants to pursue the Mindanao Plan.

In her forthcoming book, “When the Time of Need Came”:  Manuel Quezon and the Philippine Holocaust Refuge, Filipino-American scholar Sharon Delmendo examines this and other aspects of the US government/Philippine Commonwealth negotiations over Jewish refuge in the Philippines.  The US sent immigration officials to the Philippines, ostensibly to “assist” the Commonwealth “revising” its immigration policy.  Imposing national quotas for immigration to the Philippines would impose limits on potential Jewish refugees (as did the 1924 US Immigration Act).  However, President Quezon fought for and won for Executive power which allowed the President to set aside quotas for humanitarian reasons, an Executive power which continues today and has supplied asylum for thousands of refugees over the decades. 


The first draft of the act featured a quota permitting no more than one thousand immigrants from each nation to enter the Philippines annually. Under the guise of such uniformity, it sought to restrict the influx of Chinese and Japanese immigrants, who exceeded the one thousand figure each year. The quotas did not contradict the Mindanao Plan, which permitted one thousand Jews, presumably from one nation –Germany—to enter the islands annually. The law also gave the Philippine president wide latitude to admit nonquota immigrants, such as those with needed skills or those seeking refuge for political reasons. 

January 22: From President Quezon’s Sixth State of the Nation Address:

I recommend the enactment of immigration laws that will place limitations upon foreign immigration thus protecting Filipino labor from alien competition. We should, however, do away with the existing discrimination against Orientals, it being unjust and unfair to close our door to races which are akin to ours.

In the same speech, Quezon formally endorses the holding of a plebiscite to approve three amendments to the Philippine Constitution. 

January 29: President Quezon meets personally with Judge Clyde DeWitt, senior partner of the DeWitt, Perkins and Ponce Enrile Law Firm, to inquire about legal complications regarding making land grants for Jewish refugee settlement in Mindanao.  Quezon also offered legal arguments in favor of granting land in Mindanao to Jewish refugees.

February 17: Alex Frieder to Robert Pilpel, reports four rented community houses in operation; in addition:

the fifth one in the course of building [. . .] which is situated on a conveniently located farm owned by President Quezon. [It] will house forty to fifty persons [who] will work on the farm and so provide themselves with fruits, vegetables, poultry, etc., so that their living costs will be reduced.

February 18: Item in Manila Bulletin:

The high level quotas in the immigration bill now before the assembly’s labor and immigration committee, bringing up pictures of a “flood of aliens,” is understood to have aroused opposition within the committee. Informal discussion of the present draft of the bill disclosed alarm at such a quota of 1,000 annually for nationalities affected by the measure. Some committeemen argued that it would nullify the nationalization program, add to the unemployment situation and, after five or ten years, flood the country with more foreigners than could be absorbed. [. . .] Several committeemen were reported yesterday in favor of either abolishing the quota system altogether or placing the quota at, say, 100 or 200 for each nation whose nationals would be subject to immigration rules. Another provision they propose is that if any quota is established, the immigration commissioner should be given ample power to suspend it if in his opinion further admission of the nationals of a particular country would endanger domestic security or create a problem, social or otherwise.

February 23: Dr. Stanton Youngberg, secretary of the Mindanao Exploration Committee (engaged by the REC to be the general manager of the Mindanao Resettlement Project) informed Liebman that the Philippine National Assembly drafting the Immigration Act opposed the proposed annual quota of 1,000 Jewish refugees per year. But, Youngberg points out, 

[Quezon has] acted impulsively and without sufficiently consulting other members of the government or leaders of the national assembly. [His entire cabinet is opposed to it.]


When Youngberg inquired of an “old Filipino friend,” who had been a member of the Philippine Senate, if the opposition stemmed from anti-Jewish sentiments in the Assembly, the retired Senator told him “that there is and that it is deep, quite extensive, silent but powerful.” According to this Senator, the opposition in the Assembly believed that Quezon had acted impulsively when he offered Mindanao lands for a massive Jewish resettlement plan because he had not sufficiently consulted with the leaders of the National Assembly.

March 9: Alex Frieder, President of the Jewish Refugee Committee in Manila, writes to President Quezon on various agreements concerning Mindanao Jewish agricultural colonization.

Francis B. Sayre, who succeeded Paul McNutt as US High Commission, opposed allowing large numbers of Jewish refugees to enter the Philippines, and therefore opposed Quezon’s Mindanao Plan. 


Sayre, skeptical of the venture from the outset, was loath to “create any nasty minority situation” in the islands, referring to the challenge of assimilating European Jews… Jewish refugees, he claimed, “tended to congregate in Manila” and compete with Filipinos economically.

March 24: Watch the Jewish refugees in Manila celebrate Purim at Mariquina Hall, the land donated by President Quezon for use by the refugees:

April: Editorial in Philippine Magazine, Vol. XXXVII, No. 4, April, 1940:

Anti Semitism in the Philippines

A well known Manila weekly magazine is currently publishing what appears to be a series of articles which serves to introduce the spirit of anti­Semitism in its crudest form into the Philippines. The articles are being published without explanation, and the uninformed can only speculate as to their origin and their general aim. Their content and form of presentation, however, can leave no doubt as to their foreign origin, and their falsety and malice as to their reprehensible character. The material in these articles is taken chiefly from an ill-reputed book, “ The International Jew”, and has been refuted ten thousand times. A clumsy effort to give the articles a local touch is made by referring, among other things, to the mortal dangers that would arise for the people of this country if the project of settling some thousands of Jewish refugees in Mindanao were carried out. In connection with these dangers, the articles cite a document —“ The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” — in which the alleged plans of the Jews to dominate the world are described. This document was long ago proved to be a falsification, the sources and authorship of which are known. The main source was a satire which a Paris attorney, Maurice Joly, published in 1864, accusing the French Emperor Napoleon III of aspiring to world domination through various crafty and ruthless measures. The Secret Service of old Russia later caused a booklet to be printed in which the words “the Jews” were substituted for “Napoleon” in order to deflect popular hatred of the Czarist regime to the Jews and prevent a threatened revolution. The spuriousness of the “ Protocols” has been confirmed in numerous court decisions in various countries, but reference to the document still makes good propaganda in a country like the Philippines where the subject is entirely new.

April 1: J. Weldon Jones, writing to High Commissioner Sayre:

[Quezon has] cooled off [on the Mindanao Plan]… [Quezon now thinks the Mindanao plan is] impractical… [and] a harbinger of troubles in the future…Some of Quezon’s advisers suggested that he let the scheme bog down, practice delay and obstructions… He is following this advice to a certain extent. His decision to secure legislative action on the venture was a part of this program.

Arturo Rotor:

(Manuel) Quezon had his own way of gauging public opinion, of taking a poll survey. He would say something preposterous or do the completely unexpected to find out what the people thought of a political leader, or to measure their opposition to religious instruction in schools. If the act aroused a bigger rumpus than he had calculated, he would institute an appropriate measure. Thus to the uninformed, Quezon often appeared inconsistent, mercurial, unreliable, a man whose word could not be trusted. No greater mistake can be made. When Quezon had studied a problem and made up his mind, no earthly force could stop him. 

April 12: Philippine Magazine:

Assembly passes administration immigration bill on second reading after reducing quota of 1000 for each nation to 500.

April 15: U.S. High Commissioner Francis B. Sayre writing to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt:

[The revised law is an attempt] to limit immigration so as to prevent the creation of racial difficulties [that might arise] if unlimited numbers of immigrants should pour into the country at too rapid a rate to allow the immigrants to be digested.

April 22: Philippine Magazine:

High Commissioner Sayre states in Shanghai… As to Philippine immigration bill, he states United States policy is not to interfere in Philippine domestic concerns.


Sayre supported the change and urged Quezon to go along with it.

April 23: Inauguration of Mariquina Hall, housing forty refugee families in a farming co-op on a three-hectare farm provided by President Quezon in his own land in Marikina.  

From President Quezon’s remarks at the event: 

What a blessing to the Filipinos it should be if we learn from these few refugees who come to these Islands how to make even the rocky land of Mariquina produce enough quantities to support 40 persons. What a magnificent lesson we can get from that! That would simply mean that the Filipinos have no reason to fear; that if 40 people can raise enough to support them on four hectares, we with a population of 200 million people will be well off , if we can learn to do just that. So I think the Filipinos are going to realize that in allowing these few refugees to come to these islands, we are not only performing a humanitarian act, but we are, in the end, going to profit from this humane act as is always the case. [. . .] It is my hope, and indeed my expectation, that the people of the Philippines will have in the future every reason to be glad that when the time of need came, their country was glad to extend to a persecuted people, a hand of welcome.

April 23, Philippine Magazine:

At dedication of small farm home built to house number of Jewish refugees on 3-hectare site in Marikina donated by him, President Quezon states that on query from State Department, Commonwealth government agreed to permit settlement here of as many as 10,000 Jewish refugees but over a period of “many years”; he states that if country can stand more than 200,000 Chinese, from 20,000 to 25,000 Japanese, and many thousands of Spaniards, Englishmen, Italians, and others, he sees “not slightest ground for concern” over admitting these refugees; fear of some that Jews will be merchants and monopolize commerce is offset by their plan to become farmers; reason why Jews have not been farmers in some countries is that they were forced to live in restricted districts; they have been very successful as farmers in Palestine and elsewhere and may be able to teach Filipinos how to make presently unproductive lands fruitful. “It is my hope and expectation that people of Philippine will have in future every reason to be glad that when time of need came, their country was glad to extend hand of welcome to a persecuted people”.

Watch footage of the event:

La Vanguardia:

Philippines Herald:

THE MARIQUINA HALL, built in a three-hectare farm in Quezon City, is occupied by 40 Jewish refugees who will cultivate the land. The building was dedicated to President Quezon yesterday. The acquisition of the land was made possible through the generosity of President Quezon. Top picture: the President delivering an extemporaneous speech before about 50 Jews. At his right is Alex Frieder, chairman of the Jewish refugee committee. The middle picture shows the crowd that attended the dedication ceremony. Below is the Mariquina Hall. 

Jewish Telegraphic Agency (May 24):

President Manuel Quezon of the Philippine Islands on April [23] dedicated Mariquina Hall, a house for Jewish refugees at Quezon City near Manila, it was announced here today. President Quezon donated the land, on which was situated a building, which the Jewish Refugee Committee enlarged.

In his dedicatory speech to the committee and about 250 refugees, the President made a plea on behalf of refugees and endorsed the proposed Mindanao colonization project. “Your experience in Palestine demonstrates what your race can do to make the most arid soil produce abundantly.” About six months ago the committee had requested 25 copies of the Palestine Economic Corporation report for 1938 for distribution among Philippine officials. 

April 24: German Consul in Manila, Dr. Hans Lautenschlager, reports to Berlin about the inauguration of Mariquina Hall:

The Jew, of American citizenship, Alex Frieder… could not resist… directing insults against the Führer and the German people.

April 30: Refugees attend dinner at Frieder’s home in Brixton Hill, Santa Mesa 

April 30: Philippine Magazine:

Domei reports High Commissioner Sayre as stating United States “had no finger in Philippine immigration bill pie; I think immigration bill is intended to prevent minority race question from arising. . . I personally believe independence will be realized in 1946 if nothing untoward happens.”

May 3: Philippine Magazine: 

Assembly passes immigration bill in third reading by vote of 67 to 1, Assem. T. Oppus being only voter against bill; Floor Leader Q. Paredes states he voted previously for quota of 1000 but that as bill contains provision authorizing President of Philippines to raise quota of any nation on justifiable grounds, he votes “yes” on amended bill. Secretary to the President, Jorge Vargas states bill would permit President only to admit, as non-immigrants, aliens not otherwise provided for in the act and for temporary period only; and also, for temporary period only; and also, for humanitarian reasons, religious and political refugees when this is not contrary to public interest.

Note: the statement of Paredes, who had led the big Manila rally against anti-Semitism in 1938, and who was Majority Floor Leader responsible for getting the law passed according to what the leadership wanted, reveals Quezon’s priority: to retain the “loophole” allowing the president to waive immigration limits for humanitarian purposes. This provision remains the basis for all subsequent actions to permit refugees to arrive in the Philippines.

May 4: Editorial Cartoon, Philippines Free Press: 

From the editorial accompanying the cartoon:

The problem is to keep immigration within bounds, to preserve the Philippines for the Filipinos. It’s simply a case of charity begins at home.

May 7: Alex Frieder to JDC giving details on the Mindanao Plan:

I am pleased to report that both the American and Philippine governments have agreed in principle to a resettlement project in Mindanao for 10,000 refugee immigrants. The Refugee Economic Corporation made possible a thorough and exhaustive survey by a highly competent committee of lands desirable for European colonization. The committee determined upon tracts located in the Province of Bukidnon, Mindanao. Negotiations with government entities necessarily involve long delays. This has been the condition which we have gone through. But I am happy to state that at a conference this week, all differences were ironed out and that contracts for all land under option to us and contracts for the utilization of these lands well be terminated within a few days. This project, when in operation, should mark one of the great milestones in the history of the resettlement of our coreligionists, necessitated by the terrible Diaspora of the Twentieth Century…

The work of our committee in selecting immigration [. . .] has been such facilitated by our cordial relations with the Office of the United States High Commissioner, as well as with many branches of the Philippine Government, not only with the Office of the President of the Commonwealth. These look to this committee as the sole source of information and advice, and recommendations for permitting any immigration of any refugee from any part of the world to this country. All such applications arriving in this office of the US High Commissioner or in any of the various branches of the Philippine Government are routed to our committee for service and action…

We are duty bound to give conscientious consideration to all cases alike, thus our “approved lists” have contained names of non-Jews. The harsh laws of the Reich were leveled against Jews on the grounds of race and not religion, hence many professed Catholics and Protestants of Jewish origin have been cast forth and we count a large number of these in our community. In addition to this should be mentioned the numerous cases of intermarriage, so that a really considerable percentage of our immigrants is non Jewish. I feel positive that I speak the complete truth in stating that we have shown absolutely no discrimination when offering assistance, although it must be admitted that most non-Jews after arriving in this country, do not look to us for aid.

May 11: Philippine Magazine:

Malacan?an announces that President Quezon has accepted invitation of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo to address Veterans of Philippine Revolution on 42nd anniversary of Philippine Proclamation of independence on June 12; announcement hailed as indicating reconciliation.

May 20: Auschwitz Camp Established

May 28: Philippine Magazine:

President approves immigration and number of other bills.

June 10:  Italy joins WWII in partnership with Axis allies Germany and Japan.  According to Frank Ephraim, this resulted in “the closure of the Mediterranean shipping route—the main gateway for refugees to the Pacific at the time.”  

June 12: Philippine Magazine:

At 42nd anniversary of proclamation of independence of first Philippine Republic attended for first time in years by President Quezon and celebrated on Luneta instead of at Kawit, Gen E. Aguinaldo, in introducing President, states he is forgetting bitterness of past…

June 18:  A plebiscite approves three constitutional amendments: it cut the term of the president from 6 years to four, but allowed reelection for another 4; it restored the Senate; and it established the Commission on Elections.

June 30:

From the Fourth Annual Report of the United States High Commissioner to the Philippine Islands to the President and Congress of the United States Covering the Fiscal Year July 1, 1939 to June 30, 1940:

Other legislation by the Commonwealth Government included an immigration act which was designed to curtail the large flow of immigrants from neighboring countries by providing that not more than 500 quota immigrants might enter from any one country. This act, which was to become effective on January 1, 1941, was before the President of the United States for approval at the end of the fiscal year under review.

When asked whether it was likely that President Roosevelt would approve the Philippine immigration bill, the High Commissioner said that he could not predict the President’s action. He added, however, that the general policy of the United States Government is not to interfere with measures which the Filipino people, the National Assembly, and the President of the Commonwealth approve…



The immigration law of the Philippines in effect up to the end of the period iuuKm- report was the act of Congress of February 5. 1917, which contains a proviso that the law should be enforced in the Philippines by officers of the Philippine Government until superseded by an immigration act passed by the Philippine Legislature and approved by the President of the Ignited States. For the purpose of assisting in drafting such an act President Quezon arranged in 1938 for the loan to the Commonwealth of two officers of the United States Government, Messrs. Irving P. Wixon, Deputy Commissioner of Immigration and  Naturalization in the Department of Labor, and George L. Brandt, a  Foreign Service officer.

The immigration bill drafted by these two men in accordance with the desires of the Commonwealth Government was introduced as an administration measure in the regular session of the Philippine Assembly of 1940. It passed the second reading in the National Assembly on April 12, with certain alterations. The only significant change was the reduction from 1,000 to 500 of the number of quota immigrants permitted annually to enter the Philippines from any one country. The assemblymen were presumably motivated in making this reduction by apprehension of the political and social consequences of admitting into the Philippines large numbers of aliens, especially Chinese and Japanese.

Publication in the press of reports that Japanese officials and the Tokyo press would regard passage of the bill in its revised form as “an unfriendly act” discriminatory against Japan caused considerable resentment among Filipinos; nor was this resentment lessened by the report that Japan had approached Washington for the purpose of having pressure brought to bear upon the Commonwealth authorities to effect revision. Subsequent reports that the United States Government would not attempt to influence the immigration legislation were favorably received by Filipinos.

The Assembly passed the bill on May 2, with the quota at 500, by a vote of 67 to 1. It was signed by President Quezon and was before the President of the United States for final action at the close of the period covered by this report. [This act was signed by President Roosevelt on August 26, 1940, and became effective on January 1, 1941.]…

In order that the greatest possible care should be- exercised in the admission of aliens into the Philippines, the Commonwealth Government, in July 1939, expressed the desire that — pending the enactment and approval of an immigration law — all alien immigrants coming into the Philippines for the first time, whether for temporary or indefinite stay, excepting tourists or travelers for pleasure or business, transients, and bona fide employees of firms of long standing in the Philippines, should obtain from the Commonwealth authorities prior approval of their application for admission to the Philippines. It was requested that visaing of the travel documents of such applicants should be withheld until their applications had been passed upon by the Commonwealth immigration authorities. This arrangement was made the subject of an instruction by the Department of State to American consular officers, dated August 22, 1939. It is believed that this procedure was beneficial both to the prospective immigrants and to the Commonwealth Government…

The Office of the High Commissioner continued to work in harmony with the authorities of the Philippine Commonwealth Government in the matter of the entry of Jewish refugees. The practice, instituted during the incumbency of High Commissioner McNutt, of requesting the recommendations of the local Jewish Refugee Committee, was continued with satisfactory results. During the fiscal year 1939-40, permission was granted by the Commonwealth Government for the immigration of 211 Jewish refugees, and 257 actually arrived in the Philippines. Since the inception of the arrangement with the local Jewish refugee committee in August 1938, a total of 521 refugees sponsored by that organization have been admitted to the Philippines. Of these, 448 are still resident in the Islands, 29 have reemigrated to the United States, 39 to other countries, and 5 are deceased.

The mission [i.e. the Mindanao Exploration Commission] which arrived in the first half of April 1939, to study the possibilities of refugee colonization in Mindanao and other places in the Islands that may be suitable, concluded its work in July 1939. The majority of the mission returned to the United States in the early part of August and presented the mission’s report to its principal, the Refugee Economic Corporation of New York. The Refugee Economic Corporation has kindly furnished this Office with a copy of this exhaustive report. The mission found that refugee settlement would be possible in certain of the highland regions of Mindanao and that successful colonization could take place provided the project were adequately financed from the start and operated under competent technical supervision.

The local Jewish refugee committee and a representative of the Refugee Economic Corporation of New York held consultations during the year with Commonwealth officials in an effort to reach an agreement in connection with the proposed settlement of 10,000 Jewish refugees on agricultural projects in the Island of Mindanao.

From the Fifth Annual Report of the President of the Philippines to the President and Congress of the United States Covering the Period July 1, 1939 to June 30, 1940:


The enactment of the new immigration law, which was approved recently by the President of the United States, and the creation of  the Bureau of Immigration in place of the Immigration Division of  the Department of Labor, will be most valuable in regulating the admission and exclusion of aliens here.

Excluding enlisted men and persons attached to the military and naval forces of the United States, a total of 22,988 persons arrived in, and 22,358 persons departed from, the Philippines. Among the arrivals were 1,735 immigrants composed of 698 Chinese, 329 Japanese,  202 Jews (German), and 506 belonging to other nationalities. The incoming nonimmigrants numbered 10,910 consisting of 7,919 Chinese, 1,373 Japanese, and 1,618 of other nationalities. Among the departures were 5,607 emigrants of whom 1,863 were Chinese, 3,137 Japanese, 2 Jews (German), and 605 subjects of other countries.

The departing nonemigrants totaled 9,645 of whom 7,276 were Chinese, 690 Japanese, and 1,679 of other nationalities. A total of  729 aliens were deported from the Philippines; namely, 641 Chinese, 25 British Indians, 23 Russians, 15 Japanese, 3 English, 3 Jews (German), and 19 of other nationalities.

The emigration of Filipino laborers to the Territory of Hawaii has ceased to be a problem to the government. This is due to the limitation imposed by the Tydings-McDuffie Act as regards Filipino emigration to Hawaii, and the existence there of a sufficient labor supply to meet the needs of its sugar and pineapple industries. The Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association today has practically stopped recruiting laborers from the Philippines.

During the fiscal period under review, 456 Filipino repatriates returned from the United States.

July 1: President Quezon issues Proclamation No. 570:

Now, therefore, I, Manuel L. Quezon, President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by law, do hereby enjoin all branches, subdivisions, agencies, and instrumentalities of the Commonwealth Government and every inhabitant of the Philippines to cooperate in extending whatever aid may be necessary for the safety and care of these refugees. The owners of hostelries and houses for rent are particularly enjoined not to take undue advantage of the influx of these refugees by charging exorbitant rentals or fees.

July 1: Philippine Magazine:

President Quezon returns to Manila and issues proclamation enjoining all government entities and public to “cooperate in extending whatever aid may be necessary for safety and care of refugees”; hotel and house owners are warned not to charge unduly high rent.

July 18: Franklin D. Roosevelt nominated for an unprecedented third term as President of the United States.


McNutt’s presidential campaign was cut short by President Roosevelt’s decision to seek a third term.

August 13: Filipino officials derail sale of lands for refugee purposes in Mindanao.


An August 13, 1940 letter from Kenneth Day, co-owner of the ranches on Mindanao, to his friend Richard Ely in the Bureau of Philippine Affairs, attested to the problems arising in the acquisition of his properties. Day related how just after the papers had been signed and he was about to be paid, lawyers halted the transaction until “the question of transferring Philippine lands to foreign owners” could be settled. Important and powerful members of the National Development Company (NDC), the government corporation that served as “landlord” over large tracts of leased lands, “were not kindly disposed towards the project.” They managed to stall the transaction for the acquisition of the Day and Worcester Ranches by the REC for many months, until Quezon finally stepped in after his reelection [in November, 1941], with enough new political clout to demand the NDC finalize the contracts. But as the saying goes, it was too little too late.


The National Development [Company]… had never viewed the Jewish refugee settlement project with favor. They were able to stall almost at will, because Quezon’s eyes were on Japan… Philippine presidential elections were scheduled for a year hence –they were an important “distraction” for Quezon, who was determined to deal with what appeared to be serious opposition.

August 26: Commonwealth Act No. 613, “An Act to Control and Regulate the Immigration of Aliens into the Philippines” is approved. Quezon’s proposal for a quota of 1,000 was reduced to 500 but the President of the Philippines would be granted authority to make an exception for “humanitarian” purposes:

Sec. 47. Notwithstanding the provisions of the Act, the President is hereby authorized –

(b) For humanitarian reasons, and when not opposed to the public interest, to admit aliens who are refugees for religious, political, or racial reasons, in such classes of cases and under such conditions as he may prescribe.

September 3: Philippine Magazine:

President Quezon proclaims Immigration Act; will become effective Jan. 1, 1941.

September 4: Philippine Magazine:

President orders Immigration Bureau placed directly under his own office.

November 5: Franklin D. Roosevelt wins an unprecedented third term as President of the United States.

November 8: a memorandum points to the importance of the humanitarian exception clause in the Philippine Immigration Act:

The Commonwealth enacted a quota immigration bill which limits immigration to 500 persons per country annually. However, it empowers the President to permit extra-quota immigration for so-called social and humanitarian reasons [. . .] The bill has been approved by the President of the United States and becomes effective January 1, 1941. The Frieder Brothers are satisfied that the refugees will be permitted to come in as extra-quota immigrants, they [Frieders] having been instrumental in securing the inclusion of the provision in the law.

November 15: Warsaw Ghetto Sealed



January 1: Philippine Magazine:

New Immigration Law, restricting immigrants from each foreign country to 500 a year, goes into effect.

January 6: Philippine Magazine:

Reported that condition of President Quezon, whose illness became more serious, is now fair, but that he will require 3 months of absolute rest,

March 3: Krakow Ghetto Established

April 3: Philippine Magazine:

President Quezon appoints Serafin P. Hilado Commissioner of Immigration; was sent to United States last year to study immigration questions.

May: Ber Kotlerman: 

The last recorded escape to Manila was that of the Kaunas born Abraham and Gusta Lipetz and their three sons, who reached the Philippines in early May 1941 via Belgium, France, Algeria, Morocco, Portugal, the US and the Panama Canal. This fantastic journey became possible without any connection to the rescue plans of the Philippine government, but just because Abraham Lipetz had a brother in Manila who sent him an affidavit, and another brother in New York City who helped the family to acquire the US transit visa.

June 18: Diary of Ramon A. Alcaraz:

News we got in Manila today states that Washington (DC) orders all German Consulates in USA be closed.

June 22: Operation Barbarossa

Ber Kotlerman:

Germany invaded the Soviet Union, closing all the ways to escape Europe-in-war. After the invasion all real hopes for rescue of substantial numbers of European Jews from the hands of the Nazis collapsed. 

July 24: Ber Kotlerman:

Quezon wrote in a letter to the Jewish community leaders about the “humanitarian work” to settle Jewish refugees in Mindanao that “every effort will be made to accommodate a number of Jewish refugees, not exceeding 10,000 over the period of ten years…”  

August 24: “Euthanasia” Killings halted. 

September: Ber Kotlerman:

Morton Netzorg, secretary of the Jewish Refugee Committee of the Manila Jewish community, estimated the number of the Jewish immigrants in the Philippines in September 1941 to be about 900, but only 736 were registered: 494 from Germany, 140 from Austria, 59 from other countries and 43 held the Nansen League of Nations passports.

The Tablet:

The refugees who came to Manila had a difficult time adjusting. They did not know the language; the heat and humidity were overpowering; and the mosquitoes were gigantic. Many lived in crowded community housing, which led to tensions and fights. But the young Jews saw the Philippines as a new adventure. Children climbed mango trees, swam in the bay, and learned Filipino songs.

October 15: Deportations of German, Austrian, and Czech Jews; Operation Reinhard

November 10: Update on the “Status of the Philippine Project”:

Negotiations with the Philippine government have been going on for a long period due to the fact that the new immigration bill was pending in the Philippine legislature. With the passage of the bill, negotiations were resumed as to details, and recently President Quezon instructed the officials of the Immigration Department to follow through on the contract, and at the present time the various details are being discussed. It is expected that in a comparatively short time all outstanding questions will be resolved. However, the increasing gravity in the Far Eastern situation has naturally raised certain questions as to whether it would be desirable to undertake the settlement project at this time.

November 15: Quezon elected to a second term. After his re-election, he intervenes to reverse the August, 1940 blockage by officials of the National Development Company, of the sale of ranches in Mindanao for refugee purposes.

November 24: Theresienstadt Camp-Ghetto Established

December 8: Japan attacks the Philippines. Killing Operations Begin at Chelmno.

December 9-24, 1941: President Quezon and family stay in Marikina, adjacent to Marikina Hall in the same property. 

December 24: Commonwealth War Cabinet withdraws to Corregidor as Manila is declared an Open City two days later.

December 30: President Quezon is inaugurated for a second term in Corregidor




January 2: Japanese occupy Manila. Meron Medzini:

When the 14th Army of Japan, commanded by Lieutenant-General Homma Masaharu (1887-1946), occupied Manila on January 2, 1942, martial law was proclaimed and enemy aliens were required to register. Their future depended heavily on the passports in their possession. Enemy aliens whose countries were now at war with Japan, including the United States, Britain, Holland, and the British Commonwealth of Nations, were interned in two detention camps: one on the campus of Santo Tomas University and the other in Los Bagnos near Manila. Among the detainees were 250 Jews. Others not arrested were 1,300 German Jewish refugees (even though they lost their nationality in late 1941) and Jews who held passports belonging to Germany’s allies, such as Austria, Italy, Vichy France, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, and Iraq. The third group of Jews living in the Philippines consisted of Russian Jews who held a variety of passports issued in the 1920’s by the Committee for International Refugees (the so-called Nansen passports) or by the Far Eastern Republic that existed briefly in Siberia and later by the Soviet Union.

Ber Kottlerman:

In the beginning of 1942, a demand to send all the Jews to Mindanao, where they should work as farmers, appeared in the local press, arguing that the Jews were admitted to the Philippines under this condition. Following this, some community leaders, such as Morton Netzorg and Stanton Youngberg, were investigated by the Japanese regarding the Mindanao question. It was probably the last mention of Mindanao in the Jewish context. Meanwhile, about one hundred of the Jews who owned the citizenship of the countries-in-war with Japan (USA, UK, Poland, etc., but, ironically, not those who held the German citizenship) were sent to internment camps, such as Santo Tomas Internment Camp on the grounds of Santo Tomas Catholic University in Manila. About six dozen Manila Jews died during the Japanese occupation or were killed in the street fighting, but the majority survived until the American liberation in February–March 1945.

January 16: Deportations from Lodz to Chelmno

January 20: Wannsee Conference 

March 1: Auschwitz-Birkenau Camp Established 

April 9: Fall of Bataan, the largest military surrender in US history.  General Edward P. King surrendered around 78,000 (approximately 66,000 Filipinos and 12,000 Americans) USAFFE (United States Armed Forces in the Far East) to the Japanese.  This surrender led to the infamous Bataan Death March.

May 2: Philippine Commonwealth Government-in-Exile established in Washington, D.C. 

May 8: Fall of Corregidor.

July 14: Diary of Francis Burton Harrison provides additional context to mass suspension of Bureau of Immigration (see October 31, 1938):

[Quezon] Spoke of his troubles caused by the corruption by the Chinese in the Philippines. When a delegation from Chiang Kai-shek visited him he told them he sympathized with their desire of independence and hoped they would throw the Japanese out, but he did wish they would help him to curb Chinese corruption in the Philippines. The last Consul General they had in Manila was one of the “new young men” and he helped Quezon to clean up the immigration mess; and to put in jail the violators of that act. Quezon reorganized the Bureau of Immigration.

July 15: Deportation of Dutch Jews 

July 23: Gassing Operations Begin at Treblinka

August 24: Diary of Francis Burton Harrison:

[Quezon] was very much aroused because of the proposed showing of an old film depicting the Philippine Constabulary in process of being cut to pieces by Moros until rescued by an American Army officer. Protested to J. Davies who is head of one of these propaganda organizations. Davies said he would at once look into it. But Quezon sat down and wrote a hot letter to the film director. Quezon denounced this attempt to show the Filipinos as cowards, (after this war in the Philippines) and added that he understood the director is a man “of Jewish race,” and that he, Quezon, considered this a poor return for his having opened the shores of the Philippines to the Jewish refugees, and for having himself given several acres of his own land to the Jews to help them to make a living. The movie director replied saying that he had withdrawn the film. 

October 26: Roundups of Norwegian Jews

December 17: Allied Nations Issue Statement on Mass Murder




January 26: News item in Manila Tribune: “Jews Given Stern Warning.” Meron Medzini:

In 1943 a number of antisemitic articles appeared in the local press, and some antisemitic broadcasts were aired on the local radio station. Still, the Japanese authorities did not go out of their way to discriminate against the Jews, mainly because the local Jewish leadership was able to persuade them not to. While the Japanese authorities did threaten the Jews to discourage them from engaging in black market activities, no steps were taken to molest Jews as a people or to curtail the existence of the communal institutions. While some people lost their homes and businesses and a number were abused, beaten, or on occasion imprisoned, the main physical harm suffered by the Jews as a group was illness and starvation.

February 18: President Quezon issues press statement in Washington in response to a statement from the Japanese Occupation authorities in Manila saying they had issued a “stern warning” to Jews in the Philippines and would investigate them for “profiteering” and “attempted espionage.”

Manuel Quezon signing a document brought to him by Col. Romulo. (Photo by Ed Clark/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

In his statement today, replying to the Japanese anti-Jewish allegations, President Quezon said: “Translated from the crude tongue of Nazi-Japanese propaganda, these words are a tribute, unintended, to be sure, to the Jewish citizens and residents of the Philippines. They testify to the fact that the Jews are standing loyally and firmly at the side of the other groups in the Philippine population, risking their lives and their goods in opposition to the Japanese invaders. I am proud of this evidence of the rightness of the Philippine principle of religious freedom. It proves that all the religions in my beloved country are helping each other and fighting together in the cause of freedom.

“The people of the Philippines have never been guilty of the barbarous and divisive error of religious bigotry. Ever since the commonwealth was established, the majority of the Filipinos, who are Catholics, have lived peacefully and in friendship with their non-Catholic neighbors – whether Protestant, or Jewish, or Mohammedan, or Pagan. The small number of Jews in the Philippines is a respected section of our population. After Hitler introduced official persecution into Germany, we offered our hospitality to a number of refugees, who came to the Philippines and quickly adjusted themselves to our way of life. These people were quiet, energetic and productive. They have become a welcome and loyal part of the Filipino population.

“Now the Japanese are aping Nazi Germany by manufacturing their own anti-Jewish propaganda and persecution. I am convinced that Tokyo has announced this policy as a cheap way of pleasing the fanatical Nazis who are its allies, and as a trick to destroy the unity of Philippine resistance. The Nazi propaganda machine is undoubtedly exploiting this story to justify its brutal philosophy among those of its own citizens who are beginning to doubt.

“There is a sharp contrast between the principle of equality as practiced by the Filipino people, on the one hand, and the principle of prejudice and discrimination practiced by the Nazis and Japanese, on the other. This contrast marks one more sector in the moral conflict underlying this war. We shall be victorious in this as in every other sector. I look forward to the day when all the peoples of the earth are again able to work together peacefully and fruitfully to build a better world.”

March 13: Liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto

April-May: April–May 1943, Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

October 14: Sobibor Uprising




February: Japanese military authorities announce increase in Jewish restrictions.

May 15: Deportation of Hungarian Jews; Deportation from Theresienstadt

June 4: Liberation of Rome.

June 6: D-Day 

July 20: Attempt to Assassinate Hitler

July 23: Liberation of Lublin-Majdanek

August 1: Manuel L. Quezon dies in Saranac Lake, New York. Warsaw Polish Uprising.

August 2: Liquidation of “Gypsy Family Camp” at Auschwitz-Birkenau

August 9: Destruction of the Lodz Ghetto

August 19-25: Liberation of Paris.

October 7: Prisoner Revolt at Auschwitz-Birkenau

October 20: Leyte Landing.

November 23: Liberation of Natzweiler-Struthof

November 25: Himmler Orders Demolition of Auschwitz Gas Chambers and Crematoria

December 11: Last Gassing at Hartheim




January 17: Death March from Auschwitz

January 27: Soviet Forces Liberate Auschwitz

February-March: Battle of Manila

Meron Medzini:

The main attack on Jewish property occurred during the fighting between invading American forces led by General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) and the Japanese army at the end of 1944 and early 1945. In the battle for the liberation of Manila in February 1945, Japanese soldiers committed atrocities in which some 100,000 civilians were killed, among them seventy Jews. Some of the victims were murdered by Japanese soldiers in a massacre committed in the Red Cross hospital in Manila. But this massacre was carried out against all foreigners, not just on Jews. The local synagogue that was used as an ammunition depot by the Japanese was destroyed during the fighting. The majority of the Jews in the Philippines survived the war and reported that during the occupation they rarely encountered antisemitic expressions on the part of either the Japanese occupying forces or the local Philippine community.

The war took a toll on the community, and the majority of its members did not have the financial means and emotional stamina to remain and rebuild their community the way the Jews of Singapore, Hong Kong, and even Shanghai did. The majority opted to move to the United States, Australia, or (after 1948) to Israel, and a few even went back to Germany. By late 1948, fewer than 300 Jews remained in the Philippines.

In November 1947 the newly independent Philippines voted in the United Nations General Assembly for the partition of Palestine and the creation of a Jewish state there. It was the only Asian country to do so, and the vote was the result of American pressure and the feeling of some Philippine leaders that the Jews deserved their own state. The Philippines was among the first Asian nations to recognize Israel and establish diplomatic relations with it.


During the Battle of Manila in February and March 1945, 79 individuals, or approximately ten percent of the Jewish community, were wartime casualties, a rate similar to that of Manila’s overall population. The Japanese arrested, tortured and murdered several Jews at Fort Santiago, alleging that they collaborated with anti-Japanese resistance. Some, such as ritual slaughterer Israel Konigsberg, were indeed active participants in the anti-Japanese resistance. Several Jewish refugees were butchered in cold blood by Japanese marines during a rampage in the Manila Red Cross Hospital on February 10, 1945.

April 11: US Forces Liberate Buchenwald

April 15: Liberation of Bergen-Belsen

April 20: Evacuation of Prisoners from Sachsenhausen

April 23: US Forces Liberate Flossenbürg

April 30: Liberation of Ravensbrück; Hitler Commits Suicide 

May 5: Liberation of Mauthausen

May 7: V-E Day: Germany surrenders.

September 2: V-J Day: Japan Surrenders.




June 17: McNutt, serving for the second time as U.S. High Commissioner, writes to President Roxas asking that Jewish refugee doctors, refused licenses before the war, be given medical licenses.



Meron Medzini:

The Philippino delegate, General Carlos Romulo, was very active in the special Assembly in April and May. He was impressed with the quiet dignity and moderation of both the Jewish Agency and Higher Arab Committee representatives. He stated that although the Philippines were far away from Palestine it would not be neutral on this issue if neutrality meant indifference. He also mentioned the possibility of an eventual ultimate independence for Palestine. While being quite active in the discussion on the terms of reference for UNSCOP, he made no commitments on core issues. As the time drew near to the crucial vote, it was clear that Romulo was going to oppose partition. In early November Eban reported that the Arabs promised the Philippines their support for a seat on the Trusteeship Committee if they opposed partition. On November 24, the Zionist delegates noted there was a problem with the Philippines and pressure would have to be exerted by Washington. Two American Supreme Court Justices, Frankfurter and Murphy, wrote to the Philippine Ambassador in Washington Joaquin Elizalde to press President Rojas to support partition. They also cabled Rojas, whom they knew personally, saying that his country will lose millions of American friends if they continued their policy of opposing partition. However, on November 26, Romulo announced that it would oppose partition; by then there were fifteen states who opposed partition.  

The legal adviser of the Philippine Embassy in Washington, Oscar Cokes, told Eilat that Elizalde was furious with Romulo who failed to coordinate his Palestine policy with the Embassy fearing adverse reaction by American public opinion. Elizalde cabled Rojas warning that if Manila did not support partition it would arouse much criticism in America; he asked how a country that was occupied by Japan during the war could not support Holocaust survivors, at the time when Zionist Federations and Zionist Diplomacy in Asia 115 the Philippines were in dire need of American economic aid. The American pressure worked. A day before the final vote, Clark Clifford, Truman’s closest adviser, met with Elizalde. He advised that contact be made with McNutt, the last American High Commissioner in the Philippines. McNutt suggested that contact be made with Julius Edelstein, a close friend of Rojas. He was contacted in London and probably spoke to Rojas. Chaim Weizmann also cabled Rojas, seeking his support. At the last moment Romulo was instructed by Rojas to vote for partition. 


Emigration from the Philippines to Israel and elsewhere reduced the Manila community from an immediate post-war peak of perhaps 2,500, which included the refugees, to 1,000 in 1946, 400 in 1949, 250 in 1968, and to approximately 100 families in 2013.

Some Sources:

Messages of the President Book 3: Manuel L. Quezon (Volume 1): This volume collects President Quezon’s Month in Review, a chronicle of the Presidents’ official affairs, i.e., their principal activities and undertakings.

Sharon Delmendo, “Ike and the Jews: Was Dwight D. Eisenhower involved in Jewish refugee rescue in the Philippines during the Holocaust?”

Sharon Delmendo, When the Time of Need Came”:  Manuel Quezon and the Philippines Holocaust Refuge book-in-progress (forthcoming, De La Salle University Press)

Bonnie Mae Harris, From Zbaszyn to Manila: The Holocaust Odyssey of Joseph Cysner and the Philippine Rescue of Refugee Jews, September, 2009

Bonnie Mae Harris, Jewish Refugee Rescue in the Philippines, 1937-1941, January-December, 2016

Ber Kotlerman, Philippine Visas-for-Jews from the Perspective of the Unanswered Letters of 1939 to President Quezon, 2017

Dean J. Kotlowski, Breaching the Paper Walls: Paul V. McNutt and Jewish Refugees to the Philippines, 1938-1939, 2009

Robert Rockaway and Maya Guez, The Manila Poker Group That Rescued German Jews

Gerald E. Wheeler, Quezon and The High Commissioners, 1981

Between Mumbai and Manila Judaism in Asia since the Founding of the State of Israel (Proceedings of the International Conference, held at the Department of Comparative Religion of the University of Bonn. May 30, to June 1, 2012)

Holocaust Timeline of Events

Additional Readings:

Frank Ephraim, Escape to Manila: From Nazi Tyranny to Japanese Terror, 2003

Bonnie Mae Harris, The Memoirs of Cantor Joseph Cysner. A rare testimonial of the Polenaktion

Dean J. Kotlowski ,Finding Havens to Save Lives: Four Case Studies from the Jewish Refugee Crisis of the 1930s, 2013

Alvin Mars, A Note on the Jewish Refugees in Shanghai

Jocelyn Martin, Manilaner’s Holocaust Meets Manileños’ Colonisation: Cross-Traumatic Affiliations and Postcolonial Considerations in Trauma Studies

Laurice Peñamante, Nine Waves of Refugees in the Philippines

Ria Sunga, The Philippines: A haven for Jewish refugees, 1937 to 1941?

TIMELINE: Philippine laws and policies on refugees

Rescue in the Philippines documentary website.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

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