In life, Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal was among the most famous Jews of the 20th century. In death, he wound up on a list of people eligible to be posthumously baptized as Mormons so they could enter heaven.
Bowing to protests from Jewish groups, The Church of Latter Day Saints said Tuesday that it had removed Wiesenthal’s name from its International Genealogical Index, a database of names of people who be could be baptized after death.
A church spokesman said the Nazi hunter’s name was taken off the list after receiving a complaint from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group named in his honor.
Rabbi Marvin Heir, the dean and founder of the group, said, “From their point of view they thought they were doing him a favor by making sure he can get into heaven. For us, it is very offensive. Simon Wiesenthal dedicated his whole life to Jews. I don’t think he needs help getting into heaven.”
In 1995, after the Wiesenthal Center learned that the church was baptizing Holocaust victims posthumously, the church agreed to stop the practice and removed 400,000 names from the index.
Mormon church spokesman Bruce Olsen said Wiesenthal was off the list. He also said it is policy “that members submit only names of their own ancestors for vicarious baptisms” and that the 1995 agreement was still in force.