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Booth #112, Hall 2, 2ND Floor.
So last night, in Manila living a #Travelife, there I was at the residence of the Ambassador of Israel for a dinner party to honour Holocaust survivors and their relatives who had fled to Manila under the open-door policy for Jews of Philippine President Manuel Quezon during the horrifying period of the Holocaust in Germany, that spread throughout most of Western and Eastern Europe.
Approximately 1300 Jews were saved by this open-door policy of the Philippines, initiated by President Quezon. They arrived by boats from Europe and made their lives here.
It's not a huge number in the context of how many Jews perished during the Holocaust, but it must be remembered that almost every country in the Western world had already closed its doors to fleeing Jews by then.
There were very few countries that would accept them, fearing the ire of the Germans and involvement in a horror that they felt didn't concern them.
The Philippines was one of the brave countries to actually stand up, go against the wave of passive complicity enveloping most of Europe, and accept Jews on its shores.
|With the Ambassador of Israel and Topsy|
Sometime during the party, Ambassador Effie came up to me and said: "You must hear the story of Topsy, as it is one of the most amazing stories I have ever heard."
Not only was it amazing. But it was amazing that Topsy, whose real maiden name is Celia Tischler, had never told this story to anyone before.
I was one of the first persons to hear this story from her last night.
THE STORY OF TOPSY
So I sat next to her, and she recounted in a very folksy way how her Jewish father had had a brother who had married a Roman Catholic lady, who they called Tante Elise.
Then she said: "Tante Elise had a sister, and this sister was married to Martin Bormann."
THE FEARED NAZI:
Yes, the very same Martin Bormann who was private secretary to Hitler himself, and considered one of the top three figures in the Nazi regime. He was Hitler's gatekeeper and main access point, so he was considered among the most powerful Nazi loyalists.
And Topsy's Jewish family was related to Martin Bormann by marriage.
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MARTIN BORMANN SAVES SOME JEWS
She continued: "One day, Martin Bormann called my father and said: 'You have got to leave Germany as they will kill all of you.'"
And with his connections, Martin Bormann got the family traveling papers to flee Germany, and this was how they were able to escape and eventually make their way to Manila.
Topsy herself says she never heard this story until her father was on his deathbed -- and she says she was shocked when she learned that "Uncle Martin" was actually the much-feared Martin Bormann. And until recently, she'd never even spoken about it to anyone.
But, yes, Martin Bormann, top Nazi official, had saved his relative Jews from an almost certain death.
|That's me with one of the survivors of the Holocaust|
last night, at the residence of the Ambassador of Israel
WHAT HAPPENED TO MARTIN BORMANN?
After the war, Martin Bormann literally disappeared into thin air, although some sources say he died in the chaos and bombings of 1945.
However, last night, we speculated that if he hadn't died -- many Nazis did fake their deaths, after all, to avoid being hunted down -- he must have fled to Argentina or to some other country in South America, just like so many of the other top officials of the Third Reich.
ABOUT THE NAZI HUNTERS
I asked both Topsy and Ambassador Effie: "The Nazi hunters never found him?"
The Nazi hunters are people who have devoted their lives to investigating and searching the world for Nazis who went into hiding after the war.
I assumed Martin Bormann was one of the most sought after of the Nazi criminals, so it was hard to imagine no one had gone after him or had found him.
But they both shook their heads. And I left the party with this amazing story of Topsy to tell, on just another interesting and thought-provoking evening in my never-endingly eventful #Travelife.