Frank Milewski on Andre Rieu’s faux pas.

NEWS from THE POLISH AMERICAN CONGRESS HOLOCAUST DOCUMENTATION COMMITTEE
177 Kent St., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11222 – (718) 349-9689
___________________________________________________________________

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 25, 2009

DOES THIS DUTCHMAN THINK LIKE A GERMAN – A GERMAN NAZI?

Brooklyn, N.Y. ..You really can’t blame an Auschwitz survivor if he gets upset or angry whenever something reminds him of the time the Germans abused and humiliated him while he was there.

Hitler and his Nazis considered Jews and Poles as “untermenschen,” the German word for “subhuman” or “inferior.” They treated them accordingly — both verbally and physically.

Michael Preisler of Richmond Hill, N.Y. is a Polish Catholic who got some of that treatment and remembers it well.

The Germans gave it to him after the Gestapo arrested him, beat him and sent him to Auschwitz in 1941 where he remained a prisoner for over three years.

It’s no wonder a shiver went down his spine when he received a letter from a Polish American who attended an Andre Rieu concert in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on May 15 th.

Mr. Rieu is the Dutch violinist, conductor and composer they sometimes call “Mr. PBS” because his concert tours are used to raise money for the Public Broadcasting Service and often are televised on PBS.

The orchestra he leads is his own and is known as the Johann Strauss Orchestra.

In Wilkes-Barre, Mr. Rieu apparently felt his audience would like some good old-fashioned German humor from the 1940’s, the kind Mr. Preisler remembers well from Auschwitz. It’s the kind of humor which always ridicules the Polish people.

You could see Preisler turning red as he read the letter from Wilkes-Barre. It stated, “a number of female cast members walked onto the stage in Dutch folk costumes…One of the women appeared to act ‘stupidly.’ She had her hat on backwards and was acting in a comedic way. Rieu walked over to her, re-adjusted her hat, turned to the audience and said ‘She’s from Poland.’ ”

Mr. Rieu may have thought his insulting clowning was funny.

Mr. Preisler did not, particularly with Strauss waltzes as background music, the kind of music he recalls the Germans in Auschwitz loved so much.

Mr. Rieu’s Polish-bashing appears to be a planned and permanent part of his act since it was reported to have already been used before.

“If Rieu doesn’t have the sense to understand how cruel and arrogant his joking is, his bosses at PBS better tell him to stop it because he’s their guy and he’s acting on their behalf.” said Preisler.

Contact: Frank Milewski (718) 263-2700 — Ext 105

mike-preisler-22213
Photo the Germans took of Polish Catholic Michael Preisler the day he arrived in Auschwitz

NEWS from THE POLISH AMERICAN CONGRESS ANTI-BIGOTRY COMMITTEE
177 Kent St., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11222 – (718) 349-9689

___________________________________________________________

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 8, 2009

ANDRE RIEU’S FAUX PAS EMBARRASSES
PBS AND THE NETHERLANDS

Wilkes-Barre, PA … He’s charming, suave and debonair. His is a warm
and winning smile. He directs his musicians and dancers with an impressive
display of old world elegance that captivates every audience for which he
performs.

No one would dispute he represents the quintessential continental.

It’s no wonder the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) chose Maestro
Andre Rieu to project a sense of class and quality that would exemplify
the high standards of television programming PBS claims it offers the
American public.

Even more important for every station in the PBS network, Rieu’s fans are
willing to come up with generous donations whenever PBS tapes his
performances and appeals for contributions when it airs them afterwards.

Unfortunately, PBS just discovered that this goldmine it owns appears to
have an inherent flaw. During his current concert tour of the United
States, Mr. Rieu was unable to resist the compulsion to display some
old world bigotry against the Polish people when he performed in
Wilkes-Barre last month.

Two of his most ardent followers in that city were Rev. Dr. Czeslaw
Kuliczkowski and his wife Donna. Rev. Kuliczkowski is affiliated with
the Scranton-based Polish National Catholic Church which separated
from the Roman Catholic Church a century ago.

Rev. Kuliczkowski’s family lived through the German Nazi and Russian
Communist occupation of Poland in World War II. He is proud of his
grandmother’s efforts in sheltering Jews during that violent period..

But the admiration the Kuliczkowskis held for Rieu ended abruptly that
evening after the maestro’s “warm and friendly smile turned into a snotty
grin” during a skit in which he ridiculed the Polish people. They walked
out immediately, disappointed and disillusioned with Rieu’s cheap shot
against their ethnic group.

“We enjoy a good joke but not a degrading insult,” they said.

As Mrs. Kuliczkowski reported, “a number of female cast members walked
onto the stage in Dutch folk costumes. One of the women appeared to act
stupidly. She had her hat on backwards and was acting in a comedic way.
Rieu walked over to her, readjusted her hat, turned to the audience and said
‘she’s from Poland.’”

Rev. Kuliczkowski had good reason to feel insulted. “My family took a
lot of abuse from the German Nazis and the Russian Communists when
they occupied Poland. We never expected such a putdown from a
Dutchman lik e Mr. Rieu. We object to anyone who promotes prejudice
among our ethnic groups,” he said.

The Kuliczkowskis had no intention of keeping such objections to themselves.
They considered this not only a local matter but an international one as
well. They alerted various PBS stations and the Anti-Bigotry Committee
of the Polish American Congress about Rieu’s antics.

As evidence of how intensely they felt about Rieu’s brazen insult, they
also wrote to the Queen of the Netherlands and to the mayor of
Maastricht, the city in the Netherlands from where Rieu comes.

Since Rieu makes constant references to his hometown and native
country, the Kuliczkowskis wanted these two Dutch officials to know
just how some Americans feel and about how Rieu misrepresents the
Netherlands.

So far, the local PBS station acknowledged their complaint. The Queen
has not yet formulated an appropriate response to this embarrassing
incident.

However, the Mayor of Rieu’s home town was quick to grasp the
distress of the two Americans and promptly answered with an apology
for Rieu’s insensitivity. “I am sure there must have been some
misunderstanding. I apologize for that,” he wrote. The mayor also
noted that the Dutch still thank the Polish army for liberating them
in World War II.

As for the executives who run the whole PBS network, “now’s the time
for them to live up to their high standards. By doing nothing, they allow
bigotry to flourish.” the Kuliczkowskis said.

Contact: Frank Milewski
(718) 263-2700 – Ext. 105
pacdny@verizon.net

NEWS from THE POLISH AMERICAN CONGRESS ANTI-BIGOTRY COMMITTEE

177 Kent St., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11222 – (718) 349-9689________________________________________________________

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 12, 2009

PBS SAYS ANTI-POLISH SLUR CUT
FROM ANDRE RIEU’S CONCERTS

As a result of Polish American complaints about Andre Rieu’s Polish
bashing during his American concert tour, the Public Broadcasting
Service (PBS) advised the Anti-Bigotry Committee of the Polish American
Congress the offensive material has been dropped.

Rieu is the PBS superstar whose performances are usually taped and
later aired by the network as a fundraiser. His crude attempt at low class
anti-Polish humor appears to have been out of step with the high class
image usually projected by PBS.

“A lot of us were angry and disappointed because of Rieu’s nasty antics.
He took a cheap shot at us and lost a lot of friends,” said Frank
Milewski who heads the Anti-Bigotry Committee.

Letter from PBS

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