One Blood: the story of William Cooper
William Cooper is counted among the righteous who saved Jews during the Holocaust. In late 1938, this elder statesman of the Aboriginal rights movement delivered a letter of protest to the German consulate in Melbourne as synagogues burned across Germany in the aftermath of the infamous Night of Broken Glass, or Kristallnacht.
Freelance producer Jessica Noske-Turner takes us on a journey from the former Aboriginal mission station at Cummeragunga to the Forest of Martyrs outside Jerusalem.
(The ABC page also has a link to a moving 2-minute video of the tree-planting ceremony in Israel, using Murray River soil and water, to honour William Cooper, in the presence of his descendents.)
Background from JTA, April 28, 2009, SYDNEY, Australia:
An Australian Aboriginal leader who staged a remarkable protest against the Nazis was honored in Israel.
On Dec. 6, 1938 -- just weeks after the Kristallnacht pogrom in Germany -- William Cooper led a delegation of members of the Australian Aboriginal League to the German Consulate in Melbourne to hand over a petition which protested the “cruel persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazi government of Germany.”
Cooper, who was 77 at the time, died in 1941. Last December, on the 70th anniversary of his little-known protest, his grandson, Alfred “Boydie” Turner, and dozens of other members of the Yorta Yorta tribe gathered in State Parliament in Melbourne. In front of Victorian Premier John Brumby, Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin, lawmakers, diplomats and Jewish leaders, Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem presented a certificate to Turner stating that 70 Australian trees were to be planted in Israel in honor of William Cooper.
On Tuesday, five trees were planted at the Martyrs’ Forest near Jerusalem; the remaining 65 trees will be planted in the Australia-Israel Friendship Forest. Turner and about 12 members of William Cooper’s extended family flew to Israel for the ceremony.
Among the dignitaries attending the ceremony, organized by the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish National Fund of Australia, were Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, KKL-JNF world chairman Efi Stenzler, Australian Ambassador to Israel James Larsen and Rotem.
Members of the Aboriginal community staged a ceremony at the Aborigines Advancement League in Melbourne on Tuesday afternoon to honor Cooper's "brave stance against the oppression of the Jews."
- William Cooper writes to the Prime Minister-elect, Robert G. Menzies, 1939
- A police surveillance report on William Cooper, 1933
- William Cooper's death certificate, 1941
- A handwritten note by William Cooper seeking permission to visit the Coranderrk mission station, 1934
- William Cooper appeals to the Victorian Trades Hall for support, 1939
- The Minister for the Interior and future Prime Minister, John (Jack) McEwen declines to forward the petition to the King, 1938 (Part 1)
- The Minister for the Interior and future Prime Minister, John (Jack) McEwen declines to forward the petition to the King, 1938 (Part 2)