How Two British Opera Buffs Spent the War Years Rescuing Jews from the Nazis

The sisters Ida and Louise Cook worked for most of their lives as typists for the English government, although Ida also became a successful author of romance novels. Unmarried, the Cooks shared an apartment as well as tremendous enthusiasm for opera. It was that passion that would lead to their remarkable wartime exploits, which are the subject of a recent book by Isabel Vincent. Phyllis Chesler writes in her review:

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.

The man who started the Cooks on their rescue work was someone who, at war’s end, was branded a Nazi traitor—their good friend, the Austrian conductor Clemens Krauss. He was condemned as a Nazi and punished accordingly. But Vincent compellingly demonstrates how Krauss actually used his position and his influence within Hitler’s inner circle to help save Jews. Krauss and his wife, [Viorica] Ursuleac, helped the Cooks save Jewish music teachers, Jewish music students, their families, as well as an important Jewish conductor and operatic coach (Georg Maliniak) with whom Krauss had worked.

Krauss would inform the Cooks when he was conducting an opera. They left England for the weekend via plane and train in order to attend Krauss’ performances. Cook writes: “Krauss never let us down once, and we always got our opera performances, but we also dealt with our case or cases under cover of our hobby.” These trips were also a perfect opportunity for them to conduct secret interviews with terrified, endangered, starving Jews.

The Cook sisters hid in plain sight. They forged documents, lied (just a little), cornered diplomats, and painstakingly “organized” small financial contributions from many Brits in order to “guarantee” room and board for their escapees. They also came up with some ingenious schemes [and] repeatedly risked great danger with aplomb.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Holocaust, Holocaust rescue, Music, Righteous Among the Nations


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount