Leaders of the Mormon church formally apologized to the family of Simon Wiesenthal, who survived the Nazi death camps and went on to become a Nazi hunter and a renowned advocate for Jewish rights, for posthumously baptizing his parents in January, the Associated Press reports.
The Mormons commonly baptize people of other religions after they die, over the objections of those religions' leaders, but Holocaust survivors have been off-limits to that practice since 1995, the Associated Press said, given that their religion was the very excuse the Nazis used for killing them. It is not known whether the Mormon church has baptized American Indians, but Natives do factor heavily into the theology of the Mormons, who believe that Natives are descended from a lost tribe of Israel.
According to the AP, “records indicate Wiesenthal’s parents, Asher and Rosa Rapp Wiesenthal, were baptized in proxy ceremonies performed by Mormon church members at temples in Arizona and Utah in late January.”
Wiesenthal’s father died in World War I and his mother during the Holocaust itself, BBC News said. After surviving the Holocaust, Simon Wiesenthal spent much of the rest of his life tracking down Nazi war criminals. He died in 2005 at age 96.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints apologized as soon as the baptism came to light, the AP said, attributing the move to a church member acting on his or her own.
“We sincerely regret that the actions of an individual member of the church led to the inappropriate submission of these names,” church spokesman Michael Purdy told the Associated Press. “We consider this a serious breach of our protocol and we have suspended indefinitely this person’s ability to access our genealogy records.”