SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – A new claim has surfaced that the Mormon church has posthumously baptized a Holocaust victim, this time Anne Frank.
The allegations come just a week after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints apologized when it was brought to light that the parents of Holocaust survivor and Jewish rights advocate Simon Wiesenthal were posthumously baptized by church members at temples in Arizona and Utah in late January.
Researcher Helen Radkey, a former Mormon who revealed the Wiesenthal baptisms, said this week she found Frank’s name in proxy baptism records dated Feb. 18, showing the ritual was performed in the Santo Domingo Temple in the Dominican Republic.
The Mormon church almost immediately issued a statement, though it didn’t mention Frank by name.
“The Church keeps its word and is absolutely firm in its commitment to not accept the names of Holocaust victims for proxy baptism,” the Salt Lake City-based church said. “It is distressing when an individual willfully violates the Church’s policy and something that should be understood to be an offering based on love and respect becomes a source of contention.”
Church officials did not return telephone calls and emails from The Associated Press on Thursday. A spokeswoman for the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam declined comment.
Larry Bair, the president of the Mormon temple of Santo Domingo, said Thursday he had looked into the reports but was unable to verify that Frank had been baptized.
If it did occur, Bair told the AP, “it was a mistake.”
Frank was a Jewish teenager forced into hiding in Amsterdam during the Holocaust and killed in a concentration camp. Her diary was published in 1947.
The news infuriated Jewish leaders, who said the church had previously agreed to bar the process of baptizing Holocaust victims but has failed to follow through by educating its members.
“I am a Holocaust survivor. It is so offensive in the sense that Holocaust victims were killed solely because they were Jews. And here comes the Mormon church taking away their Jewishness,” said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “It’s like killing them twice.”
Mormons believe the baptism ritual allows deceased people a way to the afterlife but it offends members of many other religions.
Jews are particularly offended by an attempt to alter the religion of Holocaust victims, and the baptism of Holocaust survivors was supposed to have been barred by a 1995 agreement.
The church said it takes “a good deal of deception and manipulation to get an improper submission through the safeguards we have put in place.”
“While no system is foolproof in preventing the handful of individuals who are determined to falsify submissions, we are committed to taking action against individual abusers by suspending the submitter’s access privileges,” the church said in its statement. “We will also consider whether other Church disciplinary action should be taken.”
Rindels reported from Las Vegas. Associated Press writers Michael Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, and Ezequiel Abiu Lopez in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, contributed to this report.
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