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Recalling the Mormon who tried to save Anne Frank

Published: Monday, Feb. 27 2012 11:22 a.m. MST

In the wake of last week's international media furor over the a reported recent proxy baptism of famed Jewish Holocaust victim Anne Frank in an LDS temple, a noted Jewish scholar is reminding his Jewish readers of a time when the man he called most politically powerful Mormon in America from 1939-41 made a strident effort to save people like the Frank family.

Writing in JTA, which bills itself "the global news service of the Jewish people," Rafael Medoff recounts in detail the efforts of U.S. Sen. William H. King, D-Utah, to pass legislation that would have admitted 20,000 German Jewish refugee children to the United States who were outside the regular immigration quota system. When that effort failed, Medoff says, King then sponsored a bill to open Alaska to European Jewish refugees.

Although King's efforts on behalf of German Jews both failed, Medoff says they are worth noting because King's "state had few Jewish voters and his party was largely against more immigration."

"But King was driven by his Mormon faith to aid the downtrodden," Medoff wrote. "Another Mormon U.S. senator from Utah, Democrat Elbert Thomas, would soon pick up where King left off and help lead the campaign to rescue Jews from the Nazis in the 1940s."

Medoff feels this story is worth re-telling now, with all of the discussion of Anne Frank and LDS baptism for the dead.

"Before rushing to inject the issue into the presidential race, it is worth recalling that leaders of the Mormon church have already pledged to refrain from posthumously 'saving the souls' of Hitler's victims," Medoff concluded. "And it is especially worth recalling that when the issue was not saving Anne Frank's soul but saving her life, the most most powerful Mormon political figure in America did what he could at a time when too few were willing to do anything at all."

Medoff is director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies in Washington.

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