Alexander Frieder, one of five brothers from Cincinnati who had been manufacturing two-for-a-nickel cigars in the Philippines since 1918, wrote a letter to Dwight D. Eisenhower on this date in 1945, congratulating him on victory in the war in Europe and urging him not to allow “sentimentalists, propagandists, pacifists and the like” to soften his treatment of post-war Germany. Eisenhower, Philippine President Manuel Quezon, and Paul McNutt, U.S. High Commissioner (and a former governor of Indiana) — all poker partners with Alex Frieder — had combined to help more than 1,200 German and Austrian Jews evade the Nazis by emigrating to the Philippines with U.S. visas based on recommendations from the Jewish Refugee Committee of Manila, which the Frieders ran. Jews had lived in the Philippines since the 1590s, when some had fled the Spanish Inquisition to Spain’s overseas colonies. Under American imperial rule since 1898, the islands were host to some 500 Jews, mostly teachers and business owners, by the start of World War II. The Frieders used the labor of local women, as well as the plantation system, to manufacture close to a quarter of a million cigars per year. To read an article about their business in Cigar Aficionado, click here. The Frieder-McNutt rescue plan led to a larger plan to resettle 10,000 Jewish refugees on the Island of Mindanao, but all such rescue plans halted with Japan’s invasion and occupation of the Philippines in 1942. The war brought death to over a million Filipinos.
“In early 1938, McNutt conferred with Philip [Frieder], telling him he would allow Jews to immigrate to the Philippines if the Jewish community in Manila would guarantee their financial support. Frieder and the refugee committee agreed, at which point the list of acceptable occupations was devised, which included physicians, engineers, technical specialists and a rabbi, among others.” —Bruce Goldman
Watch an excerpt from the documentary, Rescue in the Philippines: