Mormons limit genealogical access to stop baptisms of Shoah victims


The Mormon Church is restricting access to its genealogical records relating to Holocaust victims in a move to protect their names from posthumous baptisms.

“The church is committed to preventing the misguided practice of submitting the names of Holocaust victims and prominent individuals for proxy baptism,” church spokesman Michael Purdy said this week, according to The Associated Press. “In addition to reiterating its policy to members, the church has implemented a new technological barrier to prevent abuse.”

Access to names flagged as not eligible for proxy baptism would be denied, according to Purdy.

The move comes amid embarrassing revelations that Holocaust victim Anne Frank and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal had been baptized in Mormon temples. The baptisms fly in the face of a church policy prohibiting proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims unless requested by one of their descendants.

Daniel Pearl baptized in Mormon proxy ritual


Daniel Pearl was baptized in a Mormon proxy ritual in another case of a prominent deceased Jew discovered to have been baptized posthumously in recent weeks.

Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter kidnapped and executed by terrorists in Pakistan in February 2002, was baptized by proxy on June 1, 2011 at a Mormon temple in Twin Falls, Idaho, the Boston Globe reported Wednesday.

“Danny was Jewish and his last words were ‘I am Jewish,’ Pearl’s mother, Ruth Pearl, said in an interview with The Journal on Wednesday. “It was inappropriate and insensitive to posthumously baptize him.”

The rite was discovered by Helen Radkey, a former member of the Mormon church who has become a whistleblower on such activity.

Only Mormons have access to the church’s genealogy database, which also can be used to submit a deceased person’s name for proxy baptism.

The discovery comes in the same month that it was discovered that the parents of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal were posthumously baptized last month, and Anne Frank was posthumously baptized earlier this month.

Also earlier this month, the names of the father and grandfather of Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel were found to have been submitted for proxy baptism.

Pearl’s parents, Judea and Ruth, told the Boston Globe that learning of the proxy baptism was “disturbing news.”

“To them we say, we appreciate your good intentions but rest assured that Danny’s soul was redeemed through the life that he lived and the values that he upheld,” the Pearls told the newspaper in an email. “He lived as a proud Jew, died as a proud Jew and is currently facing his creator as a Jew, blessed, accepted and redeemed. For the record, let it be clear: Danny did not choose to be baptized, nor did his family consent to this uncalled-for ritual.”

Pearl’s widow, Mariane, who is a Buddhist, called the posthumous baptism “a lack of respect for Danny and a lack of respect for his parents,” and echoed Wiesel in calling for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, a Mormon, to apologize on behalf of the church.


Danny’s parents, Judea and Ruth Pearl, reflect on his life and last words in this webcam video shot 1/18/2007 in the kitchen of their Encino, CA home.

Daniel, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, was murdered in Karachi, Pakistan on February 1, 2002.

In a widely-circulated video, Danny proudly affirmed his identity as a Jew and Zionist, last words that have inspired books, movies and music.

Maybe they’ll inspire you.

For more information, visit the Daniel Pearl Foundation at DanielPearl.org.

Video by Dennis Wilen for JewishJournal.com

Shoah group halts talks with Mormons on posthumous baptism of Jews


A Holocaust survivor organization has broken off negotiations with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) over its practice of posthumously baptizing Jewish victims of the Nazis.

At a news conference Monday, leaders of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, seated in front of panels listing names of Holocaust victims they say were baptized by the Mormons, said that 14 years of quiet negotiations have proven fruitless.

“We felt we had come to the end of the line,” said Ernest Michel, honorary chairman of the American Gathering. “There is no further point in meeting with them.”

Mormon leaders reacted with surprise to news of the American Gathering’s decision. In a statement, the church said it stood by its 1995 commitment to stop baptizing Holocaust victims and remove their names from the database if they become known — the only remaining question was how best to do so. As recently as Nov. 6, the church wrote to Michel to describe further steps to allay the concerns of survivors.

“We empathize with the depth of feeling of all Jews regarding the Holocaust,” the church said in the statement. “It is our regard and empathy that have kept us talking for so many years.”

The concern of Holocaust survivors stems from the Mormon belief that individuals retain the opportunity to accept or reject church sacraments, including baptism, even after death. Under church policy, members are supposed to submit names only of their relatives. The church has become a global leader in genealogical research to facilitate the research of family histories.

In 1995, the church agreed to remove the names of Holocaust victims from its database, known as the International Genealogical Index, or IGI — a rare suspension of church practice, the church says, done because of the singular nature of the Holocaust and the sensitivities of survivors.

Michel claims, however, that new baptisms continue to be performed and new names submitted to the database, though he acknowledges the complexity of preventing new submissions. Millions of church members submit 30,000 new names a day, the church says, and improper submissions are always expected. A new system under development would make it easier to flag submissions as Holocaust victims for whom temple ordinances should not be performed.

“That’s their problem; it’s not my problem,” Michel said. “They put them in; they got to take them out. That’s the bottom line.”

Jewish communal leaders have been reluctant to back Michel’s campaign, saying that at a time of mounting challenges on several fronts, the internal practices of another religious group — offensive as they may be — should not be a top Jewish agenda item.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said Michel expressed interest in discussing the matter with him. But the Reform leader said that he does not see making it a high-priority issue. Yoffie said the internal processes of the Mormon Church are something over which Jews have no control.

“I don’t think this is going to become a major focus of the Jewish community, which now is dealing with a whole range of issues,” Yoffie said. “I wish them well in their efforts.”

But Michel, who frequently stresses that his negotiations with the Mormons have always remained polite and respectful, said the practice is hurtful to Holocaust survivors. He also worries about the uses to which Holocaust deniers may some day put the Mormon records.

“They tell me that my parents’ Jewishness has not been altered,” said Michel’s prepared remarks for the news conference, which was held on the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht. “But in 100 years, how will they be able to guarantee that my mother and father of blessed memory, who lived as Jews and were slaughtered by Hitler for no other reason than they were Jews, will some day not be identified as Mormon victims of the Holocaust?”