Tom Lantos’ Daughter Returns Knight’s Cross to Hungarian Government in Protest

September 2, 2016
For Immediate Release
Contact: Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett
603-226-3636


It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to return the Knight’s Cross – a distinguished state award from Hungary that I was honored to receive in 2009. I am Katrina Lantos Swett, the daughter of the late Congressman Tom Lantos, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor who was the only survivor ever elected to the United States Congress.

Despite the unspeakable tragedies that my father experienced in Hungary during that darkest time of history, he never lost his love for his native homeland. During nearly three decades of Congressional service, Tom Lantos was a stalwart advocate for a free and democratic Hungary and a devoted friend to the Hungarian people. He passed his deep love of Hungary on to his children and grandchildren, many of whom have both studied and worked in Hungary. I am keeping that flame of love alive for the great-grandchildren who never met my father as I teach the language, the history, and the songs of Hungary to my own grandchildren.

The Knight’s Cross, which was bestowed on me by Prime Minister Bajnai, was a great honor that I hoped one day to pass on to my sons and daughters. It gives me real sorrow that I will not be able to do this. However, the government’s decision to award the Knight’s Cross to Zsolt Bayer has sullied this noble award. Mr. Bayer’s despicable record of overt and hateful anti-Semitism and racism is beneath contempt. He deserves censure, not honor, for his loathsome writings and speech. Indeed, earlier this year the publication he writes for was fined for engaging in hate speech on account of his words. I feel compelled to join the many others who have denounced the shamefulness of granting this state honor to a hate-filled xenophobe like Zsolt Bayer. Accordingly, with a heavy heart, I am returning the Knight’s Cross to the government of Hungary.

My father is no longer with us, but I remember clearly the incredible pride he felt when he was awarded Hungary’s highest civilian honor, the Grand Cross, at a ceremony in the magnificent Hungarian Parliament. It was a proud and happy day. I do not presume to know exactly what my father would do were he still alive. However, I feel confident he would call on Hungary to restore the honor and virtue of this award by stripping Mr. Bayer of this unmerited recognition.

Katrina Lantos Swett with her father Tom Lantos and her husband Ambassador Richard Swett.

Katrina Lantos Swett with her father Tom Lantos and her husband Ambassador Richard Swett.

Congressman Tom Lantos receiving Hungary's Grand Cross in Hungarian Parliament.

Congressman Tom Lantos receiving Hungary's Grand Cross in Hungarian Parliament.