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 spoke at Northern Kentucky University in 2006, if I recall.
Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints say they are making changes to their massive genealogical database that will make it more difficult for names of Holocaust victims to be entered for posthumous baptism by proxy, a rite that has been a common Mormon practice for more than a century.
But Ernest Michel, honorary chairman of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, said that is not enough. At a news conference in New York City on Monday, he said the church also must "implement a mechanism to undo what you have done."
"Baptism of a Jewish Holocaust victim and then merely removing that name from the database is just not acceptable," said Michel, whose parents died at Auschwitz. He spoke on 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," Michel said in a statement released ahead of the news conference. "We ask you to leave our six million Jews, all victims of the Holocaust, alone, they suffered enough."
Michel said talks with Mormon leaders, held as recently as last week, have ended. He said his group will not sue, and that "the only thing left, therefore, is to turn to the court of public opinion."
In 1995, Mormons and Jews inked an agreement to limit the circumstances that allow for the proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims. Ending the practice outright was not part of the agreement and would essentially be asking Mormons to alter their beliefs, church Elder Lance B. Wickman said Monday in an interview with reporters in Salt Lake City.[...]
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.
Michel suggested that posthumous baptisms of Holocaust victims play into the hands of Holocaust deniers.
"They tell me, that my parents' Jewishness has not been altered but ... 100 years from now, 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 someday not be identified as Mormon victims of the Holocaust?" Michel said Monday.