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c. 1996 Religion News Service

Child victims of Nazi experiments laid to rest

(RNS)-Fifty-one years after the end of World War II, the brains of mentally handicapped children whom the Nazis considered”unworthy of life”will be buried Wednesday in a memorial grave at Vienna’s central cemetery.

They are the remains of hundreds of German and Austrian children murdered by the Nazis who conducted experiments in a quest for an Aryan”master race.” The children’s brains have been stored in a Vienna psychiatric hospital for half a century, in formaldehyde-filled jars labeled with each victim’s name, date of death and diagnosis-usually”idiocy,”the Reuter news agency reported.”Most of the brains belonged to children under the age of 10,”said Eberhard Gabriel, chief physician at the hospital where the experiments were conducted and the children’s remains had been stored.”They called the center a `neurological clinic for children and youths,’ and in it the Nazis murdered patients,”Gabriel told Reuters.”Medical records show the children were mentally impaired, many with multiple handicaps.” No one knows what happened to the bodies of the murdered children, said Wolfgang Neugebauer, who heads the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance in Vienna.”They were probably cremated or buried, because the Nazi doctors were only interested in the brains.” The remains of 10 known German children, who were taken to Vienna from Hamburg when the Allies began to bomb German cities, were sent home earlier this week and will be buried there Wednesday (May 8), the 51st anniversary of the war’s end.

Among the victims was Irma Kosemund, whose sister Antje recently urged hospital authorities in Austria to repatriate the remains of her sibling and the other children.

A spokesman for Vienna’s deputy mayor, Sepp Rieder, who is in charge of health issues, said city officials failed to track down relatives of the Austrian victims.”There are very few family members left,”he told Reuters.

Dr. Gabriel said he accepted the decision to bury the children’s remains in a place of honor, but voiced concern that the horror of their fate could be too easily forgotten.

In the 50 years the brains had been stored in the hospital, he said they had been treated with respect and kept in a special remembrance room, rarely visited by medical staff.”A burial in a memorial plot is a one-time event,”Gabriel said.”And after that, out of sight, out of mind.”

Bankrupt tithers win favorable ruling

(RNS)-A federal appeals court ruled Monday (May 6) that contributions to a church from a bankrupt Minnesota couple cannot be seized by creditors, Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News reported.

The decision overturned a lower court ruling that required the Crystal Evangelical Free Church of New Hope, Minn., to relinquish to a bankruptcy trustee $13,450 that Bruce and Nancy Young had tithed to their church before their contracting business failed in 1992.

Monday’s ruling by the 8th District U.S. Court of Appeals was one of the first tests of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 law that received broad bipartisan support. The law prevents government from enforcing laws that encroach on religious practice unless there is a compelling reason to do so.”We hold that the recovery of the contributions substantially burdens the debtors’ free exercise of religion,”the appeals court said in its ruling.”Even though the church does not compel tithing, the debtors consider tithing to be an important expression of their sincerely held religious beliefs.” The decision said repaying creditors is less of a”compelling interest”than public health or national security. Thus, the church should not be forced to surrender the contributions.

In a dissent, Senior District Judge Andrew Bogue noted that recovering the money does not prevent the Youngs from practicing their religion. He also warned that the decision could affect lending practices.”Regardless of the eventual outcome, (the Youngs) were given the opportunity to practice their religion as they chose during the year they were insolvent,”he wrote in his dissent.”Are cautious potential creditors now expected to question the applicants in depth regarding the highly personal activity of religious giving?” Attorney Dick Thompson, representing creditors, told Knight-Ridder he is considering appealing the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.”This decision is contrary to religious freedom,”Thompson said.”This case only supports the religions of those who tithe.”

New magazine explores African-American, Jewish bonds

(RNS)-A magazine dedicated to seeking common ground between African-Americans and Jews has been launched by the American Jewish Committee and Washington’s historically black Howard University.

The first issue of CommonQuest, billed as”the magazine of Black-Jewish relations,”formally made its debut at a reception on the Howard campus Tuesday (May 7).

Russell Adams, chairman of Howard’s Afro-American studies department, will share editing duties with Jonathan Rieder, chairman of the sociology department at Columbia University’s Barnard College.

Adams, who is black, said Howard and the American Jewish Committee decided to publish CommonQuest because of the”harsh rhetoric that marks the current tensions”dividing American Jews and blacks.

Rieder, who is Jewish, wrote in the magazine’s first issue that CommonQuest will also”stray from the peculiarity of black-Jewish relations to explore all aspects of fragmentation and pluralism.”He said the next issue of CommonQuest will explore race and the presidency.

The magazine’s first issue includes 10 viewpoints on last year’s Million Man March; an excerpt from Melissa Fay Greene’s new book”The Temple Bombing,”which explores the bombing of an Atlanta synagogue during the early days of the civil rights struggle; and an article by Jewish author Samuel Freedman on how writing about a black church altered his thinking about race.

Adams said CommonQuest, funded by a grant from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation of Baltimore, will be published at least three times per year. Some 10,000 copies of the first issue are being distributed free to journalists, government officials, and community and religious groups. Subscription rates are still undetermined, Adams added.

Howard University has provided office space for the magazine.

Church pension manager investigated for missing $1.1 million

(RNS)-A longtime employee of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., is under investigation by the Kings County District Attorney for allegedly diverting $1.1 million into her own accounts.

Church officials said they became suspicious April 3, when a routine review revealed that pension manager Vincenza Bologna, 53, had deposited a $15,000 check from the diocese for computer services into her personal bank account.”The loss of trust in one longtime employee weighs heavily on us and on me,”Bishop Thomas Daily said at a press conference Monday (May 6), as he sought to assure the 3,600 retired employees of the diocese that the pension fund remains intact.

Bologna, 53, of Brooklyn, had worked for the diocese 32 years and had been pension manager since 1990. Diocesan spokesman Frank DeRosa said Bologna has been fired. No criminal charges have yet been filed.

Prosecutors are investigating charges that Bologna diverted or misappropriated $1.1 million over six years, in amounts ranging from several hundred dollars to $35,000.”While we believed the existing control system was adequate, the disclosures today indicate this was not so,”Daily said in a statement.”We have instituted changes in the control system, which we hope will prevent a recurrence. However, we know that no system is invulnerable when there is such a complete breach of trust.” DeRosa said the loss is covered by insurance and that the diocese would”aggressively pursue”restitution of the money.

Quote of the day: The Rev. Wallace Charles Smith, senior minister of Shiloh Baptist Church, Washington, D.C., discussing spiritual renewal in churches”Spiritual renewal is an issue of keeping the bread fresh,”Smith told the North American Baptist Fellowship during its recent meeting in Washington.”Stale, hardened, barely digestible sermons filled with 19th-century imagery and warmed-over illustrations do not constitute fresh bread. … Stale-bread religion is dangerous because it affords no counter for the words of cynicism and smothering blankets of materialism that blind us.”

LJB END RNS

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