This story was originally published in the January 26, 2018 issue of The Slant. Want Asian American news, media and culture in your inbox every Friday? Subscribe today.
In 1939, President of the Philippines Manuel L. Quezon enabled a policy approving 10,000 visas for Jewish refugees to travel to the islands, then a commonwealth of the United States.
Now, this story of how refugees found safe harbor in the Philippines is part of a three-part documentary entitled An Open Door: Holocaust Haven in the Philippines.
The brainchild of filmmaker Noel Izon, An Open Door explores the relationship between the Philippines and Jewish refugees during World War II, inspired by the relationship between Izon’s father and his father’s friend: Dr. Otto Zelezny, one of those Jewish refugees.
“Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Izon’s research brings to light important conversations about the current refugee crisis. Seventy years ago, the Philippine government worked diligently to admit as many Jewish refugees as possible, but in the present climate the refugee crises remain a huge point of contention.
While his work serves to commemorate Dr. Otto Zelezny and the many Filipino and Jewish families who supported one another during the war, it also serves as a lens with which to examine the current landscape. “The issues of refugees and immigration are about how we treat people, and the film asks the question, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’”, Izon says.
Izon’s documentary, which was released in November 2017, is also slated to premiere at the Holocaust Museum sometime in 2018.
— Chery Sutjahjo, editor, who’s now wondering about other Filipino-Jewish crossovers