U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos, 80, Dies; Hungary Native Survived the Holocaust

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 12, 2008 | Go to article overview

U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos, 80, Dies; Hungary Native Survived the Holocaust


Byline: Sean Lengell, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Rep. Tom Lantos of California, a longtime advocate of human rights and civil rights causes and the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress, has died. He was 80.

Mr. Lantos died early yesterday at Bethesda Naval Medical Center from complications from cancer. He was surrounded by his wife of 57 years, Annette, two daughters, and many of his 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Mr. Lantos, a Democrat who represented his San Francisco-area district for 27 years, announced last month that he was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus and would not seek re-election in November.

He said at the time: "It is only in the United States that a penniless survivor of the Holocaust and a fighter in the anti-Nazi underground could have received an education, raised a family and had the privilege of serving the last three decades of his life as a member of Congress. I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who also represents a San Francisco-area district and was a longtime friend of Mr. Lantos', said his death was a "loss for the Congress and for the nation and a terrible loss for me personally.

"Tom Lantos devoted his life to shining a bright light on dark corners of oppression," Mrs. Pelosi said. "Having lived through the worst evil known to mankind, Tom Lantos translated the experience into a lifetime commitment to the fight against anti-Semitism, Holocaust education and a commitment to the state of Israel."

Rep. Adam H. Putnam, chairman of the House Republican Conference, said Mr. Lantos "brought to this institution a unique sense of purpose forged by a difficult and very personal struggle on behalf of freedom and human dignity."

President Bush called him "a man of character and a champion of human rights" and "a living reminder that we must never turn a blind eye to the suffering of the innocent at the hands of evil men."

Mr. Lantos became chairman of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee when Democrats took control of Congress in January 2007. Last fall, he moved through his committee a measure that would have recognized the World War I-era killings of Armenians as a genocide, legislation strongly opposed by Turkey. The bill, which was not supported by many Republicans and the Bush administration, did not pass the House.

He was a leading advocate among Democrats for the 2002 congressional resolution authorizing the Iraq war, although later he became a strong critic of the Bush administration's war strategy. …

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