19 December 2006

The disappearing Mr. Wiesenthal

As Helen Radkey noted in my previous blog posting, Simon Wiesenthal's IGI record would likely be removed as soon as the incident became public.

This is exactly what happened; after that point, readers who clicked the provided link could not view the record. While many did not doubt the report's veracity, others questioned the event. The record can be viewed here.

According to a KUTV.com (Salt Lake City CBS affiliate) statement, the Wiesenthal Center was happy that the record was removed quickly.

Readers can check the International Genealogical Index online, for members of their own families. Several have done so and were shocked to see their relatives listed.

Removing the names, however, doesn't undo the baptism, and perhaps the Church and its members do not truly understand what that word means to the Jewish people.

The mere mention of "baptism" brings back the horrors of many historical forced conversions, from the Spanish Inquisition to the 1858 Mortara Affair in Italy, in which a six-year-old Jewish boy, Edgardo Mortara, was kidnapped from his home by Swiss Vatican guards because a Catholic nursemaid claimed she had secretly baptised him. Despite the pleas of his family and the Jewish world, Pope Pius IX refused to surrender him. For more on this story, click here

Some researchers have likened the removal of a name to the unringing of a bell, which cannot simply be "unrung." Avotaynu's Gary Mokotoff, a professional genealogist and Holocaust researcher, maintains that "no one has the right to involve other people's families in their religion."

Although Simon Wiesenthal was removed this time, it is likely that his name will reappear in the future. This is contrary to the church's own guidelines which informs its members that they should not submit non-relatives to the IGI. Currently, there is no quality control over those who do submit unrelated individuals, although a church spokesman indicates such a program is being developed.

While the cases of high-profile individuals are publicly spotlighted, there are many thousands of other Jewish individuals who were "inappropriately entered" (not related to the submitter) into the database and for whom proxy baptisms have been performed.

In response to my request, a Yad Vashem spokesperson said: "Yad Vashem is, of course, opposed to the posthumous baptism of Holocaust victims, and is well aware of the problem. We are in contact with, and support the efforts of, the Jewish groups involved in this issue."

JewishGen, a major Jewish genealogy presence on the Internet, has an excellent compilation of news and journal articles, opinion pieces and more, addressing all facets of the controversy; click here.


  1. Anonymous8:01 AM

    The WC took a stand when Simon Wisenthal's name appeared in the IGI. Beginning in about 1992, other Jewish groups were outspoken about the posthumous baptism of Holocaust victims. Yet, the baptisms continue and the LDS Church has no mechanisms in place to differentiate between the mining of names from public records and books for names by over zealous members of their church. Surely, their programmers could include filters for entries that would help eliminate such entries, but do the Elders of the church REALLY want to stop this practice? By allowing this to continue for more than a decade after reaching an agreement in 1995 is confirmation that they do not.

  2. Anonymous4:10 PM

    "Surely, their programmers could include filters for entries that would help eliminate such entries"

    What filters would those be?