A View from Down Under: Australia’s connection to Kristalnacht

In far flung Australia, there was a unique protest against the German pogrom, led by a unique man called William Cooper.

November 13, 2013 16:00
2 minute read.
A sticker simulating broken glass on a shop window in Berlin to mark 'Kristallnacht' anniversary

Kristallnacht stickers in Germany 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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This past week saw the commemoration of Kristalnacht – the German pogrom against the Jews that foreshadowed the Final Solution.  As we look back on history, we see then how the reaction of the world was muted at best.  There were condemnations by some countries, but no real action. There were certainly no emergency sessions at the League of Nations.

Yet here in far flung Australia, there was a unique protest, led by a unique man called William Cooper.  William Cooper was an aboriginal Elder, who on 6th December 1938 aged 77, led a delegation of the Australian Aboriginal League to the German Consulate in Melbourne to present a petition against the “cruel persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazi government of Germany.”

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One of the amazing features of this story is that while leading this protest supporting the Jews of Germany, William Cooper and his people did not even have full rights themselves. William Cooper was not a young man, and he could easily have sat back enjoying the first rays of an Australian summer, yet he chose not to do that.  He saw injustice being perpetrated against a people on the other side of the world and despite not having full justice himself, decided to act upon it. This act of selflessness and humanity was sadly not shared among the countries of the world, and for this unique act, he has been rightly honored at Yad Vashem in December 2010.

We live in a time when protesting is an abused right where oftentimes the goals of the protest are not justice, but anarchy. The protestors of the BDS campaigns, and the Israel Apartheid week, among others, are populated by rent-a-crowds and anarchists, who do not seek to build a better world, but to rather tear one down. They cheapen every other protest whose goals are legitimate and intentions pure.

William Cooper’s protest that day did not save the world.  He did not save any Jews and he did not stop the German tanks from rolling in.  But he did save something else.  As darkness swept through the world, and evil engulfed men’s hearts, his protest was a small flickering of light. He kept alive a sense of humanity and compassion in a world which had lost it.

It has been often been quoted that "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."  William Cooper chose to do something that day. 

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