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Mormons meet with Jews over baptizing Holocaust victims

Independent researcher Helen Radkey has no doubt that holocaust victims have been posthumously baptized.
Independent researcher Helen Radkey has no doubt that holocaust victims have been posthumously baptized.

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Ghengis Khan
Joan of Arc
Adolf Hitler
Josef Stalin
Anne Frank

Source: Helen Radkey

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) -- Mormon and Jewish leaders met Tuesday in New York City to discuss the Mormon church's apparent breach of its agreement not to posthumously baptize Holocaust victims and other deceased Jews.

Mormon leaders requested the meeting with Ernest Michel, chairman of the World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors who helped broker the 1995 agreement with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said church spokesman Dale Bills.

Before the meeting, Michel said the discussion would be preliminary. Numerous calls to his office were not returned Tuesday.

In a statement, the Mormon church said the meeting with Michel was "positive and productive" but did not elaborate on the outcome.

Mormons believe proxy baptisms give those in the afterlife the option of joining the religion. It's primarily intended to offer salvation to the ancestors of Mormons, but many others are included.

Baptisms for the dead are performed inside Mormon temples, with a church member immersed in water in place of the deceased person. Names of the deceased are gathered by church members from genealogy records as well as death and governmental documents from around the world.

"For Latter-day Saints, the practice of proxy baptism is a means of expressing love and concern for those who have preceded us. It is a freewill offering," Bills said.

At Tuesday's meeting, Michel met with Mormon leaders Monte Brough and D. Todd Christofferson.

Independent researcher Helen Radkey, who prepared a report for Michel, is certain the agreement has been broken. In her research of the church's extensive genealogical database, she found at least 20,000 Jews -- some of whom died in Nazi concentration camps -- were baptized after they died.

"There shouldn't be one single death camp record in those files," Radkey said.

Radkey has been researching Jews included in the Mormon databases since 1999, when she found Anne Frank and her extended family listed as being baptized.

Also among those baptized posthumously by the church, according to Radkey's research: Ghengis Khan, Joan of Arc, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Buddha.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said the Mormon church needs to rein in its members if it is serious about its pledge to stop baptizing Holocaust victims.

"If these people did not contact the Mormons themselves, the adage should be: Don't call me, I'll call you," Hier said. "With the greatest of respect to them, we do not think they are the exclusive arbitrators of who is saved."

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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