Relatives of Sunderland heroines are traced after Echo appeal

Ida Cook and sister Louise.
Ida Cook and sister Louise.
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A Sunderland Echo appeal to trace living relations of two heroic Sunderland women has paid dividends.

Just last month, we issued a plea to trace any remaining relations of Ida and Louise Cook, who saved dozens of Jews from Nazi persecution.

The Cook family.

The Cook family.

Officials at Sunderland City Council wanted to invite them to the unveiling of a blue plaque in memory of the two sisters, later this month.

The appeal paid off and it led to John Cook, from Cambridgeshire, coming forward.

But that was not the only good news. He also revealed he was not the only surviving relation.

“There are four of us, three nephews and one niece. My father, Ida’s and Louise’s brother, died in 2010,” said John.

This honour came as a complete surprise and, on behalf of the whole family, I would like to say that we are all delighted.

John Cook

He was delighted to receive an invitation to the plaque unveiling on January 27.

John added: “This honour came as a complete surprise and, on behalf of the whole family, I would like to say that we are all delighted. We would also like to thank the council and all those involved in making it possible.”

The Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor Alan Emerson, said: “We are all delighted that John Cook the nephew of these remarkable ladies is travelling to Sunderland with his wife Jenny to join us for this occasion, and to help our city commemorate the bravery of the Cook sisters.

“Ida and Louise willingly faced terrible danger and possible execution if they were caught, in order to save the lives of those facing terrible persecution from one of the most evil regimes in world history.

The Cook sisters.

The Cook sisters.

“Their bravery is an example for us all, and I am honoured to represent the people of Sunderland at the unveiling of this blue plaque at their childhood home as a permanent reminder of their heroism.”

Sunderland City Council will honour the women on Holocaust Memorial Day. The January 27 event starts with the unveiling of the plaque in Croft Avenue, where the sisters lived.

Local historian Stuart Miller will give a talk on the Cook sisters on the afternoon of January 27 from 1.30pm in the Museum and Winter Gardens. It’s being held in memory of Ida who lived from 1904 to 1986 and her sister, Louise, who lived from 1901-1991.

Ida used money made from writing love stories for Mills and Boon in the 1930s to help smuggle scores of people out of Germany.

After completing her education at The Duchess School, in Alnwick, she followed sister Louise to London to work for the Civil Service.

As pressure on the Jews in Germany mounted in 1934, the sisters helped a Jew, Mitia Mayer-Lismann, escape the country.

Their missions consisted of either smuggling people or their belongings out of the country.

The sisters helped rescue almost 30 refugees from Hitler and dozens more benefited from the money and guidance they poured into evacuation missions.