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June 4, 2019 5:12 pm

Catholic Bishop of Brooklyn Shuts Down Church Appearances of Visiting Polish Antisemitic Historian, Far-Right MP Tied to Iran

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Far-right Polish parliamentarian Robert Winnicki alongside Ramin Mehmanparast, Iran’s ambassador to Poland. Photo: Twitter.

The Catholic bishop of Brooklyn announced on Tuesday that two outspoken Polish far-right activists — one an antisemitic historian, the other an ultranationalist MP with ties to the Iranian regime — would not be permitted to speak at two churches in the Greenpoint and Borough Park neighborhoods where their supporters arranged public appearances during their visits to the US this week.

A spokesperson for Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio told The Algemeiner that the meetings were canceled when he was informed of the identities of the two speakers: Ewa Kurek, a historian whose allegations that Jews were complicit in the Nazi occupation of Poland have been roundly condemned by Holocaust experts, and Robert Winnicki, a member of the Polish Parliament for the far-right National Movement (RN) who is known for his strident antisemitic rhetoric.

“As soon as Bishop DiMarzio learned that contentious figures, mired in antisemitic controversy, were scheduled to speak at Brooklyn churches, he had the events canceled,” Adriana Rodriguez — communications director for the Brooklyn Diocese — said in an email on Tuesday.

Rodriguez emphasized that “anyone who offers a message that discredits the horror of the Holocaust, and the genocide which sought to extinguish the entire Jewish people, is not welcome at our parishes or academies.” She added that Bishop DiMarzio “regularly remembers in prayer the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, and offers intentions for peace in our world.”

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The Anti-Defamation League welcomed the news that the speaking engagements would not now go ahead.

“Appearances by these far-right Polish figures who have made historically inaccurate statements about the Holocaust are disturbing not only because of the potential content, but because these types of events can stir up antisemitic sentiment in New York communities,” Evan Bernstein —  the ADL’s regional director for New York and New Jersey — told The Algemeiner.

“We think the Diocese made the right decision in canceling these events,” Bernstein said.

Bishop DiMarzio’s action followed a letter sent to him on Monday from a group of interfaith activists and community leaders, including State Senator Julia Salazar (D), City Council member Stephen Levin (D), whose districts include Greenpoint, and Prof. John Pawlikowksi, a pioneer of dialogue between Catholics and Jews in the US.

The group’s letter highlighted that in her writings, Ewa Kurek had “alleged that ‘Jews forged a separate peace with the Nazis during the occupation of Poland and had happily confined themselves to ghettos, while accusing Poland’s urbanized and assimilated Jews of being Nazi collaborators during the Holocaust.'”

The letter continued: “Such historical distortions do not foster a healthy relationship with our interfaith neighbors, and go against the teachings of the Church, Vatican II and the work of Pope John Paul II.”

Far-right parliamentarian Winnicki, meanwhile, is one of Poland’s main antisemitic agitators, most recently serving as an organizer of an ultranationalist demonstration outside the US Embassy in Warsaw earlier this month opposing the payment of compensation to Polish Jews who survived the Nazi Holocaust.

In 2018, Winnicki was one of the most vocal supporters of the Polish government’s controversial legislation that criminalized discussion of Polish collaboration with the Nazi authorities during World War II. At one rally, Winnicki demanded the “tools to prosecute the liars, to punish the liars, for the Polish state cannot be left defenseless against the Israeli, Jewish smears.”

As revealed by The Algemeiner at the time, in February of last year, Winnicki led a delegation to the Iranian Embassy in Warsaw at the height of the controversy over the historical legislation. He later described the meeting with the Iranian regime’s ambassador, Ramin Mehmanparast, as “cordial and politically significant.”

Iran has frequently hosted conferences pushing Holocaust revisionism and outright denial. Several Iranian leaders — including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, former Presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani — have openly claimed that the Holocaust was a pernicious myth whose sole goal was to benefit Israel.

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