Tom Lantos will be long remembered for his profound moral convictions and his deep commitment to human rights. During his life he helped and inspired numerous individuals around the world. Many more will feel the rewards of his work for years to come.
Tom was born in Budapest, Hungary, where as a teenager he was sent to a forced labor camp by the German Nazi occupant military. After escaping the labor camp, he sought refuge with an aunt who lived in a safe house operated by Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who used his official status and visa-issuing powers to save thousands of Hungarian Jews. Tom quickly joined the anti-Nazi resistance. After the Russians liberated Budapest in 1945, Tom tried to locate his mother and family members but came to realize that they had all perished in the Holocaust.
In 1947, Tom came to the United States to study on a Hillel Foundation Scholarship. He earned his B.A. in 1949 and M.A. in economics in 1950 both from the University of Washington in Seattle. Three years later he received a Ph.D. in economics from the University of California, Berkeley. He subsequently served as a foreign policy commentator on television and as a senior advisor to several U.S. Senators.
Elected to office in 1980, Tom rose to become Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and one of the country's leading champions of human rights. His commitment to this issue was forged from the loss of his family during the Holocaust.
After being diagnosed with esophageal cancer in late December 2007, Congressman Lantos announced that he would not seek reelection. 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."