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Australian Holocaust Museum Honors Aborigines’ Protest of Nazis

An Australian Holocaust museum is dedicating a plaque to commemorate a protest staged by Aborigines against the mistreatment of Jews in prewar Nazi Germany.

The plaque, which was slated to be dedicated this week at the Melbourne Jewish Holocaust Museum, commemorates a resolution that an aboriginal delegation attempted to present to the German consul general in Melbourne in 1938.

The delegation, headed by William Cooper, brought with them a resolution condemning the persecution of both Jews and Christians in Nazi Germany, but the German consul, D.W. Drechsler, refused them access to the building.

The story of the protest was published in two Melbourne newspapers at the time but slipped into obscurity.

Then, in 1999, Jonathan Morris, executive director of the Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Center, learned about the protest from Gary Foley, an aboriginal activist who had studied the Holocaust at Melbourne University.

Once the museum’s board learned about the event, it decided to erect the plaque.

The plaque will also acknowledge that the museum, founded in 1984, is built on land which is traditionally owned by the Kulin people, an aboriginal group.

It is believed that the protest was one of the first Australian public protests in support of German Jews.

Today, Melbourne’s 50,000-member Jewish community includes about 8,000 Holocaust survivors.

Wayne Atkinson, a great-nephew of William Cooper and a lecturer in Indigenous Studies at Melbourne University, said he was surprised to learn that his relative’s activism extended to Jews.

Atkinson added, “The recognition by the Jewish community of the work of Uncle William and the aboriginal movement is a wonderful gesture.”

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