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Mormons posthumously baptise Anne Frank

Guy Adams
Saturday 25 February 2012 00:00 GMT
In 1933, Anne Frank’s family fled Germany for Amsterdam
In 1933, Anne Frank’s family fled Germany for Amsterdam (Anne Frank House, Amsterdam/Public domain)

Anne Frank, the famous diarist and Holocaust victim, was put to death on account of her Jewish faith. But earlier this month, she was nonetheless secretly co-opted into the Mormon Church.

So claim researchers investigating the US-based Church’s practice of posthumously baptising dead people - sometimes without the knowledge and almost always against the will of surviving friends and family members.

Ms Frank was “christened” at a Mormon temple in the Dominican Republic, in apparent violation of a pact between the Church and Jewish leaders. A local child, acting as her spiritual proxy, is believed to have been dunked in a font during the ceremony.

Computer records of the event register Ms Frank under her full name, Annelies Marie Frank, and say that she lived from 1929 to 1945. The baptism was “completed” at a temple in Santo Domingo on 18 February.

In an apologetic statement, the Mormon Church’s PR department neither confirmed nor denied that the event had taken place, but declared itself “absolutely firm in its commitment to not accept the names of Holocaust victims for proxy baptism.”

“It is distressing when an individual wilfully violates the Church's policy,” the statement continued, "and something that should be understood to be an offering based on love and respect becomes a source of contention.”

It’s the second time in days that the Church has issued a similar mea culpa. Last week, it emerged that the parents of Simon Wiesenthal, a Nazi death camp survivor and Jewish rights advocate, had been recently baptised in Utah and Arizona.

Both affairs highlight a curious avenue of Mormon theology. Members of the Church believe that dead people who are posthumously inducted into their ranks will then, in the afterlife, be offered a chance to enter one of the higher tiers of heaven.

Over the years, they've duly held baptism ceremonies for around 650,000 Holocaust victims, along with countless late celebrities, including John Lennon, and Albert Einstein. Thanks to her prominence, Ms Frank is believed to have been baptised at least nine times.

The practice also sometimes extends to the political arena. It was recently reported that Barack Obama’s late mother, Stanley Ann Durham, had been the subject of a ceremony. And Mitt Romney, the US presidential candidate, is believed to have held one for his dead father-in-law Edward, a staunch atheist.

Unfortunately, other faiths view it as deeply offensive. So amid growing public disquiet, the Mormon Church announced in 2010 that its members would no longer be trying to recruit dead Holocaust victims.

Their apparent failure to keep that promise isn't just sparking stern criticism. It has also proven a boon to late-night comics. Stephen Colbert, the TV satirist, on Thursday announced that he intends to convert all dead Mormons to Judaism, by way of a ceremony involving a frankfurter and a cigar-cutter.

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