- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 6, 2005

CINCINNATI (AP) — When the Nazis took power in Germany and the world turned its back on Jewish refugees, four brothers who ran a cigar factory in the Philippines began working quietly to help 1,200 Jews flee to Manila.

The Frieder brothers never talked about their part in the little-known rescue. But more than 65 years later, the remaining refugees want the world to know what Philip, Alex, Morris and Herbert Frieder achieved.

“The Frieder brothers were just ordinary Jewish businessmen, but they went out of their way to save lives,” said Frank Ephraim, who was 8 years old when his family fled to Manila from Germany in 1939 with the brothers’ help. “They just did what they thought was right.”

The brothers from Cincinnati had taken turns going to Manila for two-year periods during the 1920s and ‘30s to run the Helena Cigar Factory, started by their father in 1918.

While they were there, they established a Jewish Refugee Committee and worked with highly placed friends to help the mostly German and Austrian refugees get passports and visas, then find employment and homes in Manila.

“We were welcomed in the Philippines at a time when the gates to Jews were closed all over the world,” said refugee Lotte Hershfield, 74, of West Hartford, Conn.

The rescue was little-known until a recent book by Mr. Ephraim, “Escape to Manila: From Nazi Tyranny to Japanese Terror,” led to efforts in the United States and the Philippines to honor the humanitarian effort before the aging refugees die off.

Next week, Cincinnati’s Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education will honor the Frieder brothers.

Documents show the Frieders had hoped to bring as many as 10,000 refugees to the Philippines, but World War II intervened. They continued working in Manila until the Japanese invasion in 1941.

Alex Frieder’s daughter, Alice Weston, who is 78 and lives in Cincinnati, said she remembers her father spending hours poring over lists of desperate refugee applicants in Manila.

“Our children have asked why no one ever told them about this, but we were just kids then,” she said. “After we came back to the United States, my father and uncles never talked about it. I think they just thought it was part of their duty.”

The brothers have died, but their family is grateful for the long-delayed recognition.

“We are all so proud of them,” said Morris Frieder’s daughter, Jane Ellis, 77.


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