Why Sunderland should be proud to call heroic sisters who defied the Nazis their own

Ida and Louise Cook, who grew up in Sunderland.

Ida and Louise Cook, who grew up in Sunderland.

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To the casual observer sisters Ida and Louise Cook were flighty young women with more money than sense .

They were the 1930s’ equivalent of today’s reality TV show stars and celebrity wannabes. All surface and no substance.

It was a deception that served them well. For although they played the part of airhead opera buffs, they were smuggling jewels and other valuables across the Channel to fund the rescue of persecuted Jews. And those observing them were far from casual, they were Nazi border guards who would have had no hesitation in torturing or killing the sisters had they rumbled their ruse.

It is a remarkable story celebrated as part of Holocaust Memorial Day.

The sisters were born in Sunderland and to mark their heroics, a blue plaque was unveiled on the wall of their family home. The plaque is a small reminder of a incredible story which could have come from the pen of Ida, a successful Mills & Boon novelist.

She made a relative fortune from her novels and, as the nation headed to war, could have used the money to insulate herself and her sister from the horrors of the Nazis.

The nephews of Ida and Louise Cook, John, Peter and Rolf, gather around the plaque.

The nephews of Ida and Louise Cook, John, Peter and Rolf, gather around the plaque.

They did the opposite; meeting the foe head on and putting their lives on the line to help others.

Thanks to their bravery, and bravado (they often wore the jewels and high fashion they were smuggling in full view of the Nazis ), the sisters saved the lives of dozens of Jews.

On Holocaust Memorial Day we called on people to remember the past to inform the future. This incredible story of the Cook sisters’s courage is worthy of repeating and remembering.

They lived in Sunderland for only a short time, but we are proud to call them our own.