Late Filipino president honored for taking in Holocaust refugees

Julie Wiener

(JTA) — The Raoul Wallenberg Foundation posthumously honored Philippines President Manuel L. Quezon for providing a haven in his country to more than 1,300 Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis.

In a ceremony Wednesday at Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City, Zenaida Quezon Avancena received the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation Medal on behalf of her father, Filipino media outlets reported.

Quezon, who led the Philippines from 1935 to 1944, was recognized for his “life-saving plan” and for “reaching out to the victims of the Nazi murderous machine.”

READ: May 24, 1940: Quezon dedicates home for refugees near Manila 

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Effie Ben-Matityau, Israel’s ambassador to the Philippines, and Lee Blumenthal, board member of the Jewish Association of the Philippines, presented the medal. Several government officials, including President Benigno Aquino, attended the ceremony.

In a statement, the Wallenberg Foundation said Quezon had “wanted to absorb some 100,000 Jewish refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe,” but “his monumental project was thwarted by the outbreak of World War II and the Japanese invasion of the Philippines.”

At the ceremony Ben-Matityau called Quezon a “great leader and humanitarian,” according to the Manila Times.

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