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Baptism under fire

Holocaust

Talks have broken down between Holocaust survivors and Mormon leaders about the proxy baptism of Jews killed by the Nazis.

The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors has complained for years that to be posthumously baptised a Mormon is an insult to the memory of Jewish victims. The two groups reached a formal agreement in 1995, by which the Church of Latter Day Saints would allow baptism on behalf of Jews only by their direct descendents.

But a researcher found that the agreement has been repeatedly breached by Mormons, and tens of thousands of names gleaned from concentration camp records among other places.

The LDS church teaches that unbelievers can repent after death, but still need baptism if they are to enter paradise, so living believers are baptised on behalf of their dead ancestors.

'We ask you to leave our six million Jews, all victims of the Holocaust, alone, they suffered enough,' said Ernest Michel, honorary chairman of the Holocaust Survivors group. 'Implement a mechanism to undo what you have done.'

The Mormon elder Lance B. Wickman says the church will tighten up supervision of baptism and records, but could not go further. 'We don't think any faith group has the right to ask another to change its doctrines,' he said. 'If our work for the dead is properly understood, it should not be a source of friction to anyone.'