Congressman Tom Lantos, distinguished Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was the only Holocaust survivor ever to serve in the United States Congress and one of the world's leading voices on human rights. In 1983 he co-founded the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, and for nearly three decades led the fight for human rights and justice.
An American by choice, he was born in Budapest, Hungary on February 1, 1928. He was 16 years old when the Wehrmacht occupied his native country and began the extermination of Hungarys Jewish population. Congressman Lantos was sent to a forced labor camp north of Budapest. He escaped but was later captured, beaten, and returned to the camp. Following his second escape, which was successful, he worked as a courier in the underground and survived in an apartment building in Budapest that had been placed under the protection of Swedish diplomat and humanitarian Raoul Wallenberg. After World War Two, Congressman Lantos won a scholarship to the University of Washington (Seattle). He later earned a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California (Berkeley).
Congressman Lantos was a leading figure on the issues of antisemitism and Holocaust remembrance. He was a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, the federal government commission responsible for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and continuing education efforts on the Holocaust, genocide, and human rights. He was also co-founder of the Congressional Task Force Against Antisemitism, which monitors and coordinates congressional action against bigotry, racism, discrimination, and antisemitism. He played the key role in the negotiation and passage of the Global Antisemitism Review Act, which in 2004 committed the United States government to a more active stance in the fight against antisemitism worldwide. In August 2001 he headed of the U.S. delegation to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and related intolerance, in Durban, South Africa, and led the walkout of the U.S. delegation at the conference.