Book Review:  Spinster Sisters Versus Nazis - The Jewish Voice
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Book Review:  Spinster Sisters Versus Nazis

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Book Review:  Spinster Sisters Versus Nazis

The story of Ida and Louise Cook, two opera buffs who lived with their parents while running a scheme to rescue Jews from Hitler

By: Phyllis Chesler

Isabel Vincent, the author of a recent book, revisits a rather operatic story about how two British “spinster sisters,” Ida and Louise Cook, rescued 29 Jews from Hitler’s ovens.

The book is titled Overture of Hope: Two Sisters’ Daring Plan that Saved Opera’s Jewish Stars From the Third Reich, and it is based on prodigious research into the lives of the two “ordinary/extraordinary” sisters. She draws from Ida Cook’s own writing (Ida became a successful writer of romance novels, which helped fund their rescue work), specifically her 1950 memoir. The book was titled We Followed Our Stars, though it was republished in 2008 under the title Safe Passage, which in my view is not quite as romantic.

On that note, I would retitle Vincent’s excellent book: Overture of Hope: Two Sisters’ Daring Plan that Saved Opera’s Jewish Stars From the Third Reich. While the Cook sisters, frugal, modest, civil servants, neither worldly nor political, did save Jewish stars from Hitler—the great majority of these refugees were not great opera stars, but simply civilians.

According to Ida:

Just as the pursuit of opera had originally brought us to the refugee work, so the pursuit of refugee work was made possible only by the support—or if you like, the bribe—of great operatic performances, which lured us back again and again.

So how did two dowdy, “girlish” virgins ever win over such reigning, worldly figures? The Cooks were both passionate and savvy opera fans. They stood in long lines for hours, never missed a concert or a performance, and became known as “the girls” who asked to “snap” the stars’ photos, requested their autographs, and sent long, gushing letters and bunches of roses to their homes and dressing rooms.

This article appears on the Tablet Magazine web site. Read more by clicking here: https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/arts-letters/articles/ida-louise-cook-third-reich

 

 

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