Catholic officials on Monday abruptly canceled speeches by two right-wing Polish figures at Brooklyn churches after local leaders’s protest letter to Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and inquiries by THE CITY.
Historian Ewa Kurek, who has claimed some Jews collaborated with Nazis and enjoyed the German-occupied Polish ghettos of World War II, was supposed to speak this week at three churches: St. Stanislaus Kostka in Greenpoint, St. Frances de Chantal in Borough Park and Our Lady of Mount Carmel in East Harlem.
Meanwhile, Polish far-right politician Robert Winnicki was also set to appear at St. Stanislaus Kostka. He’s the leader of the “National Movement” (Ruch Narodowy), a nationalist Polish political party.
But as anger over the events spread over the weekend, local activists drafted a letter to DiMarzio, urging the Church to “stand up for the common good, working towards a more loving and cohesive society while remaining neutral within such mired politics.”
Among the signees were about 100 scholars, Jewish, Muslim and Catholic leaders, and elected officials — including State Senator Julia Salazar and Councilmember Stephen Levin, Democrats whose districts include Greenpoint.
On Monday afternoon, Brooklyn church leaders shut down Kurek and Winnicki’s appearances.
“The bishop was unaware of these events,” said Brooklyn Diocese spokesperson Adriana Rodriguez. “As soon as he was made aware he took the appropriate action so that these controversial figures are not permitted to speak at a Brooklyn Catholic Church.”
Representatives for Mount Carmel did not return requests for comment. A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of New York, which covers Manhattan churches, said late Monday afternoon that they were looking into the situation. It was unclear if the Thursday event would still take place.
’A Great Outcome’
Victoria Cambranes, a lifelong Greenpoint resident, had earlier told THE CITY she was “appalled” by the idea of the two controversial Poles speaking in her neighborhood.
After the cancelations, she was overjoyed.
“We’re very happy with the response, this was a great outcome,” said Cambranes, who is half-Polish and unsuccessfully ran to unseat Levin in 2017.
It’s not the first time that Kurek had been invited to speak at Saint Stanislaus: She gave a speech at the Humboldt Street church in April 2018. The now-nixed events were sponsored by a group called Polonia United, which also organized Kurek’s tour. Last year, the Polish government blocked her from receiving an award at their consulate in New York.
Opponents of the planned speeches pointed to a rise in anti-Semitic attacks in Brooklyn.
Last weekend, a swastika and the words “no Jews” were found spray-painted in Prospect Park. Five days letter, a message referencing Adolf Hitler was scrawled on the Jewish Children’s Museum, across the street from the Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters in Crown Heights.
On Monday, at an event prior to his Israel solidarity trip, Gov. Andrew Cuomo condemned hate groups.
“We have fostered these neo-Nazi groups, these domestic terrorist groups, because we have said, ‘Well that is your First Amendment right. This is part of the American debate.’ No,” he said. “Hate crimes are illegal. It is not just immoral. It is not just unethical. It is not just wrong. It is illegal.”
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