But He Wasn’t There by David Pitts

Nothing in Ida Cook’s earlier life suggested that anything  strange would happen. Born in 1902, she lived for years with her parents and siblings  in a typical London suburban home. She and her sister Louisa developed a great love of opera. When leading international  musicians were performing in London, they attended every performance in the cheapest gallery seats. When they learned that their favourite Galla Curci would not be returning to London, they even saved up out of  their typists’ wages a pound a week for two years solely to be able to attend her performances in the USA .

They wrote to the singer telling her this and she was so impressed that she invited them to meet her. They became great friends, and not only with Galla Curci but with  several other leading musicians of their time, a fact which is relevant to the strange occurrence.

One of those friends was a Viennese conductor called Clemens Kraus. When in London, he would stay at Ida’s flat . They visited him in his home in Vienna in 1934. They had learned a little about Hitler and his Nazi party, but Kraus told them how Jews feared for their lives and how necessary it was to help them to leave Germany for safety in another country .

On the spot,  the two sisters determined to devote their energies and finances to doing just this , and did so for the next years until war broke out in 1939. Later they were to be included in the nation Israel’s list of  Gentile heroes  for the rescues they achieved.

We come now to the mystery.

For many years there was a popular programme on television called This Is Your Life. Secretly from the person chosen, numerous people from periods of her past life were contacted .  Ida was the subject of one of these programmes. 4 months later after a talk at a Women’s Institute, a lady came up to her and said ‘I can’t get over that couple on your This is your life programme.’ ‘But there was no couple on the programme,’ said Ida. ‘Yes, you know – in the part about the refugee work.’ There were indeed representatives oon the show of her refugee work, but only singletons The lady was insistent that there had been a couple, and Ida had to leave it that.

A year later she met a friend of a friend, Brenda. She had also seen the programme. ‘Who’ she asked ‘ was the tall, good-looking foreigner who absolutely dominated the programme?’ Ida said that there had been no such person but Brenda was insistent. ‘He came into the programme with the singer – Viorica – and stayed throughout the refugee part of the programme.’ From her description it sounded like the then well known Viennese conductor called Kraus. He had been the husband of the singer ,was – as we have said –  well known to Ida and had started her on her refugee work; but Ida was quite sure that he had not been able to be on the programme. Brenda remained insistent .’He was there but he did not speak.’

Ida was so intrigued that on a later occasion she showed Benda photographs of her friends and she had no hesitation in picking out the photo of Krauss. ‘But his hair was dark not grey.’

Some time later Ida wrote about the incident for World Digest; even then three men from different parts of the country told her the same experience. Each had also wondered why the man  had not spoken when everyone else did. Each picked out the same photograph of Kraus

But he could not have been on the programme. He had died two years earlier.

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