William Cooper – Aboriginal Elder – 1938, protests cruel persecution of the Jewish people
On 6 December 1938, several weeks after Kristallnacht in Germany, Cooper led a delegation of the Australian Aboriginal League to the German Consulate in Melbourne to deliver a petition which condemned the “cruel persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazi government of Germany.” The protest has been referred to as “the only private protest against the Germans following Kristallnacht.”
On 6 December 2008, the 70th anniversary of the protest against Kristallnacht, Cooper’s grandson, Alfred “Boydie” Turner, was presented with a certificate from the Israeli Ambassador stating that 70 Australian trees were to be planted in Israel in honor of William Cooper. The ceremony, held at the State Parliament in Melbourne, was attended by several dozen members of the Yorta Yorta tribe as well as Victorian Premier John Brumby, Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin, lawmakers, diplomats and Jewish leaders.
On 28 April 2009, five trees were planted at the Forest of the Martyrs near Jerusalem at a ceremony in Israel attended by Turner and about 12 members of William Cooper’s extended family as well as a number of Jewish leaders. On the same day, a ceremony at the Aborigines Advancement League in Melbourne was held to honour Cooper’s “brave stance against the oppression of the Jews.”
In August 2010, the Yad VaShem Holocaust museum in Israel announced they would honour Cooper for his protests against the behavior towards Jews on Kristallnacht. Yad Vashem plans to endow a small garden at its entrance in Cooper’s honor. Cooper’s name was submitted for recognition when it was discovered that Cooper’s rally was the only private protest against Germany in the wake of Kristallnacht.
On 5 October 2010, the William Cooper Justice Centre was opened in Melbourne. The newly developed court complex was named in honour of Cooper’s efforts as an indigenous rights campaigner.
In December 2010, there were three commemorative events:
• Cooper’s great-grandson, Kevin Russell re-enacted the walk from Cooper’s home, meeting up with Cooper’s grandson Uncle Boydie at Federation Square.
• Cooper was honoured in Israel by the creation of an Academic Chair in his honour to support resistance and research of World Holocaust Studies. A professorship attached to this Academic Chair is valued at $1,000,000.]
• A Tribute was held at Yad Vashem World Holocaust Memorial, with the family as invited guests. The Australian/Israel Leadership Forum hosted an associated Gala Dinner to be attended by Kevin Rudd, Julie Bishop and another 17 Ministers including the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu
This Day, February 9, In Jewish History by Mitchell A. Levin
Cleveland Jewish News (blog)
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