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Escape to Manila

Escape to Manila: From Nazi Tyranny to Japanese Terror

Frank Ephraim
Foreword by Stanley Karnow
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Escape to Manila
    Book Description:

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

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09111-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    Stanley Karnow

    The jewish diaspora is one of the most extraordinary events in history. The world’s Jews comprise scarcely sixteen million, yet in my travels I have encountered them in places as diverse as Algeria, China, Ethiopia, India, Iraq, Zimbabwe, bleak towns on the frozen tundras of Siberia, and even in Berber villages in the mountains of Morocco. Though they practice different customs, speak different languages, eat different foods, and look different from one another, they share a common faith and a stubborn belief in their uniqueness—the characteristics that account for their resilience and perseverance despite millennia of adversity. Thus it...

    (pp. xi-1)
  5. [Map]
    (pp. 2-2)
    (pp. 3-8)

    The jet airliner landed smoothly on the runway at Tegel Airport in Berlin. In a flight that began in Washington, D.C., with a change in New York, I had returned to the city of my birth after an absence of fifty-three years. My wife and I went through customs, picked up our luggage, and approached a waiting taxi, where in German I directed the driver to our hotel on the Kufürstendam. On the way to the city the driver spoke to us in German, assuming we were his countrymen, and for a moment I felt as if little had changed...

  7. 1 Destination: The Philippines
    (pp. 9-19)

    Visitors rarely arrive in Manila by ship anymore. Air travel has changed that, which is a little disappointing because passengers in airliners forego the magnificent vista of Manila Bay after navigating the wide northern channel between the island of Corregidor that guards its entrance and the forbidding Bataan Peninsula, with its 4,722-foot-high volcanic Mt. Bataan starkly visible on the port side of the ship. Both Corregidor and Bataan are historic sites now, but in early 1942 they were the scenes of bloody fighting that ended with a valiant last stand by Filipino and American forces, followed by their surrender to...

  8. 2 Unexpected Arrivals
    (pp. 20-25)

    Events that would have a major impact on the Jewish community in the Philippines were unfolding in China, particularly in Shanghai, eleven hundred miles north of Manila. The long-standing Sino-Japanese conflict had flared up again on July 7, 1937, when a company of Japanese troops went on a scheduled night maneuver near a railway bridge ten miles west of Peking. South of the railroad crossing stood the Lu Gou Qiao, better known as the Marco Polo Bridge, in honor of the Venetian traveler who crossed it in the thirteenth century. The Japanese maneuver was looked upon with considerable trepidation by...

  9. 3 The First Wave of Refugees
    (pp. 26-33)

    The german army marched into Austria on March 12, 1938, to a euphoric welcome, but the Anschluss—annexation—with Germany brought forth an immediate and debilitating antisemitic tide in Vienna and other Austrian cities. What evil had been heaped upon the German Jews over the past five years now befell the Austrian Jews overnight. Nazis forced the Jews to scrub Vienna’s cobblestones with toothbrushes while the amused populace looked on, and a few weeks later, dozens of Jewish leaders and academics were arrested and sent to the Dachau concentration camp near Munich. Universities and the civil service dismissed Jews, and...

  10. 4 Manila Hears about Kristallnacht
    (pp. 34-42)

    The tall, jovial man in the fashionable white suit was pacing the promenade deck of the Empress of Japan, the fastest liner in the Pacific, which had left Vancouver, British Columbia, in mid-October 1938. Alex Frieder and his wife, after an absence of almost three years, were aboard the vessel, which was making its way to Manila after a port call in Hong Kong. Philip, Alex’s older brother, had been managing the family business, the Helena Cigar Factory, but more recently he had led the Jewish Refugee Committee in its most visible role—directing the selective immigration of mainly German...

  11. 5 Mindanao: A Plan for Jewish Settlement
    (pp. 43-50)

    The radiogram from the State Department requesting the views of the Philippine government regarding how many refugees from Germany could be absorbed in the Islands was sent on December 5, 1938.¹ High Commissioner McNutt responded immediately with a cable: “President Quezon has indicated his willingness to set aside virgin lands in Mindanao for larger groups of Jewish refugees who wish to engage in agricultural enterprises or related activities in the development of community life in undeveloped and practically uninhabited areas.”² Mindanao, with its spectrum of cultures and religions—Catholics, Muslims, and non-Christian tribes—was the second largest, and southernmost, island...

  12. 6 Establishing a Life
    (pp. 51-61)

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

    During this time, Rabbi Joseph Schwarz officiated at his first wedding in Manila when on December 6, 1938, Edith Lange married her long-time fiancé Dr. Max Pick. Both had been aboard...

  13. 7 What Does the Future Hold for Us?
    (pp. 62-72)

    There was always a lively crowd at the Boulevard Garden—a combination restaurant and beer garden with a small concrete dance floor surrounded by a string of colored paper lanterns. Its Pasay location on Lourdes Street at the corner of Dewey Boulevard was also convenient for people in this residential district, something that Heinrich Brauer, the proprietor, had hoped for. Arriving in Manila with his wife and son in April 1939, he knew how to run such an establishment, since he had owned several of them in Breslau but had been forced to relinquish them to the Nazis.

    The Pasay...

  14. 8 Carving Out a Niche
    (pp. 73-82)

    As the jewish community grew and with it the number of children and young people, the stage of Bachrach Memorial Hall saw one of their first presentations—a Hanukkah play in which the children performed brief acrobatics, dances, and skits, accompanied by Mendelsohn’s incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.¹ The community also published a small newspaper called the Star, twice a month, that, as it sold for ten centavos, the refugees shared free copies, because most of them could not afford the price. The paper carried community announcements—Sunday school schedules, children’s parties at Bachrach Hall, discussions of the...

  15. 9 War
    (pp. 83-96)

    For jewish refugees in Manila, the Hawaiian Islands were lush, romantic, and remote tropical islands somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, owned by the United States. There was some bewilderment on that fateful Monday morning when most of them first heard about the Japanese air attack on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor. Although there was little doubt that war had come to the Pacific, the full implications and its dimensions may not have been immediately apparent. The refugees would soon learn the consequences: that night the Japanese air force paid a noisy visit to the Manila area.

    I was awakened...

  16. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  17. 10 Occupation
    (pp. 97-111)

    Twenty-two-year-old Carole Frenkel was very worried. She was in Iloilo, on Panay Island in the center of the Philippine Archipelago, about three hundred miles southeast of Manila; her husband, Günther, was under Japanese occupation in Manila. Rumors of imminent Japanese landings surged through the anxious population on the island, but at that moment, in the early spring of 1942, Iloilo was in American hands. The young couple were completely cut off from each other. Carole had come to Iloilo in November 1941 as a representative of Manila’s Aguinaldo department store to demonstrate cosmetics. She had met Günther in Milan in...

  18. 11 Can We Hold Out?
    (pp. 112-125)

    The three hundred Japanese soldiers were pedaling furiously on their bicycles along the Manila Bay frontage road from south of Pasay. An officer was at the head of the column, his samurai sword hanging loosely at his side. When the sweating battalion arrived at the beginning of the paved Dewey Boulevard, still keeping up speed, several bicycle tires popped. A short distance further there were more tire failures. The soldiers jumped off the bikes and hopped onto the rear of another bicycle, towing their disabled bicycles with one hand.

    Alerted by phone that a “bicycle brigade” was on its way...

  19. 12 The Final Months of Occupation
    (pp. 126-139)

    Manuel quezon, exiled president of the Philippines, died on August 1, 1944, at Saranac Lake in upstate New York. Until the very end, the sixty-five-year-old unrelenting fighter for Philippine independence prayed to see his native land again, but that was not to be.¹ The Jewish community mourned—who could forget his determined speech welcoming the immigration of Jewish refugees at the dedication of the Jewish home in Marikina in 1940, on land he had provided? Even the ill-fated attempt to settle ten thousand Jewish refugees in Mindanao, which had been offered by Quezon at a time when other countries turned...

  20. 13 The Battle
    (pp. 140-165)

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

    In the early hours of Tuesday, January 9, 1945, the troops hit the beaches of Lingayen Gulf, 110 miles north of Manila, in a replay, but on a much larger scale, of the Japanese invasion at...

  21. 14 Reestablishing the Community
    (pp. 166-178)

    Morton i. netzorg, former executive secretary of the Jewish Refugee Committee in Manila, was liberated together with three thousand other internees at Santo Tomás Internment Camp on February 3, 1945. Also among the freed American Jews was Samuel Schechter, who had served as president of the Jewish community before the war. Ill, weak, and in no physical or emotional condition to reclaim the position, he was eager to head home to the United States.

    Netzorg was a natural leader, and as he was able to contact American refugee aid organizations through army communication channels, he became the person the Jews...

  22. 15 Leaving the Philippines
    (pp. 179-194)

    Intended as replacements, one hundred U.S. Army nurses, including the newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant Feibusch, arrived in Manila in February 1946. Ilse Feibusch, who was born in Wuppertal, Germany, left with her family in late 1938 after Kristallnacht and sailed from Bremerhaven to San Francisco. In 1944, since there were no boys in the Feibusch family, she had decided to join the army. Graduating as a registered nurse from the Mount Zion Hospital Nurses School, and after three months in practice, she reported for basic training at Fort Lewis.

    Now, in Manila, she sat next to an ambulance driver as...

  23. NOTES
    (pp. 195-212)
  24. INDEX
    (pp. 213-220)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 221-222)