In the Footsteps of William Cooper

December 6, 2010 by Henry Benjamin
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Kevin Russell left Southhampton St in the Melbourne suburb of Footscray yesterday with a group of 12 to re-enact the march his great grandfather led in 1938…a march by Aboriginals which is the only recorded protest against Kristallnacht world-wide.


Rabbi Meir Kluwgant and Uncle Boydie Turner


As his group passed Footscray Station another 12 people joined the parade…which saw Jews and Aboriginals walk together to celebrate the memory of Aboriginal William Cooper the man from Barmah who led the 1938 to the German Consulate in 1938 to record their protest. The Germans refused their petition.

William will be honoured with a Tribute and Dinner at Yad Vashem World Holocaust Memorial on Sunday 12 December.  The family are invited guests and have also been invited by The Australian/Israel Leadership Forum to attended a Gala Dinner to be attended by Mr K.Rudd, J.Bishop and another 17 Ministers. The Gala dinner to be held at the King David Hotel Jerusalem and will also be attended by the P.M.of Israel Mr Netanyanu.

For more on that story please read here…

Yesterday’s walk to the group past the new William Cooper Justice Centre in Melbourne through to the city’s Federtaion Square.

Jewish Care’s Rabbi Meir Kluwgant told the crowd gathered that it is written the Torah that no-one should simply stand by and watch others being persecuted. He said that the Aboriginal and Jewish communities had both experiences great pain and suffering and “had a lot in common and are good friends”.

Kevin Russell is William Cooper’s great grandson and told J-Wire that he remembers his grandfather from before he moved from the bush to Melbourne. He said: “He left shortly before the March and I was still in the country but I remember my grandmother telling me about it.”

Russell will leave for Israel tomorrow…a country he has visited before. He said: “The gathering in the city had a lot of meaning for me. There was a lot of sharing happening between the Jewish and Aboriginal communities. For most of the Aboriginals, it was the first time they had experienced Chanukah and the doughnuts were very popular…and we had both Aboriginal and Jewish performers.”

Cooper’s grandson, Uncle Boydie, added: “My grandfather had felt the pain and suffering of persecution and he could relate to what was happening in Europe to the Jews. He died a couple of years after Kristellnacht and I never heard the story from him…but I did from my grandmother. My last memory of him was when I was about 4. I can still see him leaving the country town of Barmah where we lived for the big city. But his memory lives…last year we planted five trees in his name just outside Jerusalem. The family is very proud of what he did.”

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