Holocaust survivors said Monday they are through trying to negotiate with the Mormon church over posthumous baptisms of Jews killed in Nazi concentration camps, saying the church has repeatedly violated a 13-year-old agreement barring the practice.
Ernest Michel, honorary chairman of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, said talks with leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which were held as recently as last week, are over.
"We do not ask for, or want your love," Michel, whose parents died at Auschwitz, said in a statement released ahead of a news conference Monday, the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazi-incited riots against Jews.
"We ask you to respect us and our Judaism just as we respect your religion," he said. "We ask you to leave our six million Jews, all victims of the Holocaust, alone, they suffered enough."
The church denied the charge. The 1995 agreement says the church will not perform baptisms or other rites for Holocaust victims, except in the very rare instances when they have living descendants who are Mormon.
Church spokesman Mike Otterson said Michel's decision to publicly denounce the church seems like a unilateral termination of the discussion.
"Those steps by Mr. Michel on behalf of the American Gathering were both unnecessary and unfortunate and belie the long and valued mutual respect that we have had in past years," Otterson said in an e-mail.
Only the Jews have an agreement with the church limiting who can be baptized, though the agreement covers only Holocaust victims, not all Jewish people. Jews are particularly offended by baptisms of Holocaust victims because they were murdered specifically because of their religion.
In May, the Vatican ordered Catholic dioceses worldwide to withhold member registries from Mormons so that Catholics could not be baptized.
Otterson said the church has kept its part of the agreement by removing more than 200,000 names from the genealogical index.
But since 2005, ongoing monitoring of the database by a Salt Lake City-based researcher shows both resubmissions and new entries of names of Dutch, Greek, Polish and Italian Jews.
The researcher, Helen Radkey, who works for the Holocaust group, said her research suggests that lists of Holocaust victims obtained from camp and government records are being dumped into the database.
She said she has seen and recorded a sampling of several thousand entries that indicate Mormon religious rites, including baptisms, had been conducted for these Holocaust victims, some as recently as July.
"I've seen a steady procession of Jewish Holocaust names, especially names with camps linked to them, going to the International Genealogical Index," said Radkey, who acknowledges that she has limited access to the records. "There's no possible way of knowing exactly how many names, but it's substantial."
Friday, November 14, 2008
Talks shut down between Jewish group and Mormon church over Baptism for the dead
Excerpts of an article "Jewish group wants Mormons to stop proxy baptisms" by DEEPTI HAJELA and JENNIFER DOBNER