Such was life

A Koori protest against the Nazis

Kristallachnacht (also known as ‘The night of broken glass’, 9-10 November 1938) was a major escalation in the persecution of the Jews in Germany by the Nazi government. Nearly 100 people were killed, thousands imprisoned, and thousands of homes, businesses and synagogues were destroyed. In Australia one of the first groups to mount a protest was the Australian Aborigines League. A meeting of the League passed a resolution,

‘voicing on behalf of the Aborigines of Australia a strong protest against the cruel persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazi government of Germany, and asking that this persecution be brought to an end’
Argus 3 December 1938 p 7

On 6 December William Cooper, Secretary of the League, led a group of protesters to the German Consulate at 419 Collins Street in Melbourne, which was located in the then AMP building. Dr Dreschler, the Consul, not surprisingly refused to admit the protesters or receive the resolution, which was reported in the Argus the following day.

Newspaper article titled 'Deputation not admitted', which describes the protest, sourced from The Argus, 7 December 1938, p 3

The Argus, 7 December 1938, p 3

This unusual and noble act of solidarity with people the Koori community saw as suffering similar repression to themselves was not given much media attention at the time and did not gather widespread attention until recent years. The protest leader William Cooper has now been honoured by the Yad Vasheem memorial to the Holocaust in Israel, and also in Australia.

William Cooper was an important leader of his community and his significant contribution to advancing the rights and welfare of the Koori community is told in Thinking black: William Cooper and the Australian Aborigines League. An ebook version of Thinking black is available to Victorian registered users of the State Library of Victoria.

A re-enactment of the 1938 protest will be held in Melbourne on 6 December 2012, and this time in a symbolic gesture the honorary German Consul will receive the resolution.

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  1. Fabulous yarn. Refused admittance, just like Au refused Egon Kisch.
    Who was Colonel White, then? Must be a story with him.

  2. Curious restriction, esp in light of the Cooper story –
    “An ebook version of Thinking black is available to Victorian registered users”
    Why not to all registered users? All people interested?
    PS shd that be Black with a capital B?

  3. kflack says:

    Dear David,

    Thanks for your comments. The State Library of Victoria’s eresources, including ebooks, can be accessed by all visitors to the Library at 328 Swanston Street Melbourne. You don’t need to register to read the ebook ‘Living black’ onsite at the Library.

    However, being the State Library of Victoria, and due to our licence agreements with eresource vendors, we can only offer online access to people outside of the Library if they are Victorian registered users. It’s free to register:

    If you’re not in Victoria you might like to have a look at this website which lists other libraries around Australia which offer access to the ebook:

    All the best,
    Katie Flack
    Collections Coordinator, Australian History & Literature Team

  4. Anita says:

    Is there a published collection of William Cooper’s speeches?

    He is such an inspiring representaqtion of the Koori nations.

    It is sad we know more about American activists, eg. Martin Luther King, than we do about our own.

    • pdee says:

      Hi Anita,
      Thanks for your comment. I can not find a collection of Cooper’s speeches- only books about him and the League. Maybe not all the speeches were recorded? Nor can I find any mention of a Cooper estate. There is a link to some letters in the online The Australian Dictionary of Biography entry.
      The book William Cooper, gentle warrior : standing up for Australian Aborigines and persecuted Jews / by Barbara Miller ; contains a very good bibliography which includes books, newspapers, journals and websites. There is no specific section of his speeches. The book is available in the La Trobe reading room- level three at the SLV; at call number LT 305.89915 C788M

      Librarian, Australian History and Literature

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