Perse students mark Holocaust Memorial Day with story of the ‘righteous sisters’
“You never know what you can do until you refuse to take no for an answer” – so wrote Ida Cook, who with her sister, Louise, saved 29 Jews from almost certain death in 1930s Nazi Germany.
The sisters, who were later honoured as Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority in Israel, were the great aunts of Old Persean Tim Cook (2004), who returned to the School to recount their story for Holocaust Memorial Day.
The Cook sisters’ triumph rested on matters as diverse as their passion for opera – it was to give them their reason for frequent travel to and from German cities – to Ida’s success and prolificacy as a romantic novelist. Her earnings helped fund the rescues.
“We knew we were the last, often the only hope, of people in danger,” wrote Ida. The sisters bore a heavy emotional burden, but worked on tirelessly. Unable to fund refugees alone they set cogs in motion to gather small donated sums together until enough was found to satisfy the authorities. Louise learned German to better communicate with those hoping to come. And together the sisters bravely smuggled out jewels and furs for their refugees under the very noses of customs officials.
Tim illustrated his moving talk with evocative photographs he had taken on a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The talk was organised by The Perse’s ’42’ society who arrange a programme of lectures each term designed to encourage students' intellectual curiosity and broaden their horizons.