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.
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.