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.

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at Tablet

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

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter