Lantos Foundation Chair Calls on Hungary to Defend Academic Freedom

April 10, 2017
For Immediate Release
Contact: Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett
(603) 226-3636

Mrs. Annette Lantos, Chair of the Lantos Foundation and the widow of the late Congressman Tom Lantos, today issued an open letter to the people of Hungary decrying controversial legislation that targets the prestigious Central European University for closure. Late last week, Mrs. Lantos sent a letter to the President of Hungary urging him to use his power to prevent the law from taking effect. It is reported that President Ader signed the law earlier today.

The Budapest born Mrs. Lantos describes CEU as "an outstanding, world class academic institution" and a "jewel in Hungary's crown". In her open message she calls upon the Hungarian people to defend academic freedom and the values of a free society.

Dear Hungary,

I write to you today as one of your daughters, who was fortunate to be born and raised in the incomparable city of Budapest. When just a teenager, I was forced to leave my Hungarian home during the terrible days of the Holocaust. I was blessed to find refuge and a new home in my adopted country, the United States of America. Despite all that had happened, neither I nor my late husband Tom Lantos ever lost our deep love for our native land. During the nearly three decades that he served in the U.S. Congress, Hungary had no greater friend in America.

We rejoiced in 1989 when Hungary overcame decades of Soviet rule to become an independent democracy. We also rejoiced when Budapest became the home of Central European University (CEU) – an outstanding, world class academic institution that brought respect and great prestige to the country we love.

You can imagine, then, that I am heartbroken by the recent decision of the government to target this distinguished university with unfounded attacks and threats of closure. I am also very disappointed by the decision of President Ader to sign this ill–conceived legislation into law. Why would the Hungarian government invite controversy and condemnation through this action and jeopardize a successful 23 year academic partnership with a respected American university? It is frankly baffling and illogical. Were my husband still alive, I know he would be speaking out forcefully against these actions. Though I am nearly 86 and a great grandmother many times over, I feel I must do the same.

The glory of any nation is its willingness to honor the past while simultaneously sustaining freedom and embracing the future. CEU represents these shining goals. It embodies the ideals of free, robust, and exacting academic inquiry and it has become the training academy for some of the best and brightest future leaders in Hungary, Europe, and the world. Truly, it is a jewel in Hungary's crown and it would be a tragic mistake to pluck it out and cast it aside. I know that millions of Hungarians agree with me about this and I was heartened to see so many thousands of you take to the streets just a few days ago to voice your support for the continued ability of CEU to be part of Hungary’s rich academic tradition. 

Now more than ever, it is up to the people of Hungary to defend this bastion of learning and liberty and to persuade your government to reconsider this misguided policy. Your fellow countrymen and the world will salute your determination to do so.

Mrs. Annette Lantos
Chair, Lantos Foundation

International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation Commends Returning of Knight's Cross

Letter sent to The Guardian by Mr. Eduardo Eurnekian and Mr. Baruch Tenembaum, Chairman and Founder of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.



Ref.: "Daughter of US Congressman among those returning Hungarian award" - The Guardian - Sept., 4, 2016

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation strongly repudiates the decision to award the Knight's Cross of the Order of Merit to Mr. Zsolt Bayer, a so-called journalist and author who advanced heinous racist remarks against Roma, Jewish and Muslims.

One of the co-founders of our NGO was the late US Congressman and Holocaust survivor, Mr. Tom Lantos. We were not surprised by his daughter's decision to return the aforementioned Hungary award following the ill-judged decision to offer the same distinction to a racist. We applaud her and all the other laureates who decided to take the same step in protest.

We call upon President Janos Ader and Prime Minister Viktor Orban to recall the award to Mr. Bayer.

Hungary was a country plagued with antisemitism during WWII. The infamous Arrow Cross Militia were Hitler's henchmen and oftentimes, they were more vicious than the Nazis themselves.

It was precisely in Hungary, where Raoul Wallenberg, the young Swede,  embarked in an unprecedented life-saving operation which actually spared the lives of scores of Jews and other innocent victims of the Nazis and their Hungarian partners.

Any form of racism and discrimination should not be rewarded but strongly condemned. Instead, it seems that seven decades later, the present Hungarian government has learned very little from Raoul Wallenberg's legacy. This should be immediately rectified and addressed.

Our current flagship programme, named "Houses of Life", identifies and marks physical sites in Europe that served as shelters during the Holocaust for the benefit of the victims of the Nazi persecution. Hundreds of Houses of Life have been located across Europe, including in Hungary.  The underlying idea is to spread around the brave exploits of the rescuers, instilling their values of solidarity in the hearts and minds of the young generations.

This could serve as an example for the Hungarian government to stress the legacy of the Hungarian rescuers rather than granting awards to those who propagate hatred and divide.

Eduardo Eurnekian – Chairman

Baruch Tenembaum – Founder


The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation

34 East 67th Street

New York, NY 10065


Tel: +1-212-7373275

Lantos Foundation Calls on Russia to Release all New Documents on Raoul Wallenberg

August 4, 2016 would have been the 94th birthday of the great Swedish diplomat and hero, Raoul Wallenberg. A few days after this anniversary, the New York Times reported that the recently published diaries of the first KGB Chief, Ivan Serov, contain previously unknown references to Stalin ordering the death of Wallenberg in 1947. (Read the New York Times article here.)

The famed humanitarian was kidnapped by the Soviets in Budapest in January of 1945. Wallenberg’s disappearance and ultimate fate in the Soviet Gulag has been the source of mystery, speculation, and frequent dissimulation on the part of Russian leadership for over seven decades.

The Lantos Foundation calls on the Russian government, once and for all, to make all relevant documents available to researchers, Wallenberg family members, and the Swedish government so that the mystery surrounding the cruel and unjust fate of one of the greatest humanitarians of the 20th century can finally be resolved.

Lantos Foundation President, Katrina Lantos Swett, said, “It is past time for Russia to come clean on all the circumstances surrounding the death of Raoul Wallenberg in Soviet custody. Both history and justice demand a full accounting of what happened to one of the most important rescuers and heroes of the Holocaust."

She added that, “The Raoul Wallenberg Research Initiative (RWI-70), launched in the past year with the goal of answering the many unanswered questions about Raoul’s fate, should be given full and free access to these recently discovered materials and all other relevant documents.”

Raoul Wallenberg is credited with saving tens of thousands of Jewish lives in Budapest in 1944, including the late Congressman Tom Lantos. In 1981 President Ronald Reagan signed into law Congressman Lantos’ legislation granting Raoul Wallenberg honorary US citizenship, only the second man so honored in US history.

Dr. Lantos Swett added, “While many questions remain about what happened to Raoul Wallenberg, what is beyond question is that through his courage and decency, Wallenberg not only rescued countless innocent lives, he also rescued our faith in the power of decency and goodness to stand up even in the face of unimaginable evil. His legacy of humanity and courage will live forever.”

Joint Statement with Hungarian American Coalition - Opposing Statue of War-time Anti-Semitic Hungarian Leader

As proud Hungarian-Americans and as longtime activists in the fight against rising anti-Semitism, we are calling on the Hungarian government to forcefully and unequivocally oppose the plans to erect a statue of Bálint Hóman in the city of Székesfehérvár later this month. Hóman was a Hungarian government minister who spearheaded Hungary’s anti-Jewish legislation and, in 1944, called for the deportation of Hungarian Jews. In fact, over 400,000 innocent Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz in that year and Hóman shares shameful moral responsibility for the tragic events during this dark chapter of Hungary’s history.

We wholeheartedly echo the outrage expressed by many organizations and citizens of conscience who have spoken out against this proposed statue.  The US House of Representatives Bipartisan Task Force for Combatting Anti-Semitism has expressed its “deep concern” about the statue and has called on the Hungarian government to “publicly condemn Hóman’s role in the persecution and deportation of innocent Hungarians”. We add our voice to theirs in asking the government of Hungary to make it absolutely clear, in word and deed, that they oppose this monument and any efforts to rehabilitate or whitewash the terrible legacy of Bálint Hóman. It will not be sufficient for the government to suggest that this is a matter of local concern and control. The honor and reputation of the Hungarian people cannot be held hostage to the reprehensible decision of local officials to honor a man whose legacy is stained with the blood of thousands of innocent victims of the Holocaust.

Maximilian Teleki
President of the Hungarian American Coalition

Katrina Lantos Swett
President of the Lantos Foundation

Lantos Foundation International Advisory Committee Co-Chair, delivers relief supplies to Syrian refugees

Annette Lantos Tillemann Dick , Co-Chair of the Lantos Foundation's International Advisory Committee, recently returned from a humanitarian mission to Hungary delivering relief  supplies to thousands of Syrian families in refugee camps.  Mrs. Lantos Tillemann-Dick joined forces with the Tom Lantos Institute, Airline Ambassadors, and the international humanitarian services of the the LDS church. Her efforts are in the best tradition of the late Congressman Lantos who was indefatigable in fighting for the dignity and rights of persecuted people in every corner of the globe.    

Statement Regarding Hungary's Response to Sándor Szakály's Remarks and the Proposed Monument to German Occupation

Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett
President, Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice

Recent days have seen considerable controversy in Hungary over the remarks of Sándor Szakály, Director of the Veritas Institute.  His statements regarding the tragic and unforgivable 1941 deportation of thousands of Jews from Hungary to Ukraine where they were massacred in the notorious Kamenets-Podolskii atrocity have sparked outrage and deep concern across Hungary and beyond.

The Lantos Foundation is aware that Mr. Szakály has acknowledged that his statements were wrong and ill informed.   This is an important step and we welcome it.  Nonetheless, questions remain as to whether Mr. Szakály is the appropriate person to serve as the Director of an institute of historical research.

We are also aware of the statement issued by the Minister of State for the Prime Minister’s office, Mr. János Lázár. This very brief statement merely asserts that the views Sándor Szakály expressed do not reflect the opinion of the Prime Minister’s office.  One would hope that this was self-evident, and while appreciated, this modest comment is by no means an adequate repudiation of the offensive and inaccurate comments of Mr. Szakály.

The deeper question remains regarding Hungary’s willingness to come to terms with its complicity in the deportation and murder of over half a million Hungarian citizens during the Holocaust. This painful issue is one that must be honestly faced, not only for the sake of Hungary’s past, but more importantly for the sake of Hungary’s future.

The Lantos Foundation sincerely appreciates the powerful and courageous speeches of Deputy Prime Minister Tibor Navracsics and Foreign Minister János Martonyi at the October 2013 conference on resurgent anti-Semitism that was sponsored by the Tom Lantos Institute in Budapest, We also appreciate the eloquent and strong remarks of Ambassador Csaba Kőrösi, at the recent opening of the United Nations exhibit commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Hungarian Holocaust. Such speeches reflect the integrity and decency of the Hungarian people. Furthermore, going back a decade, the Hungarian government established the Holocaust Memorial Center on Páva Street, which is one of the most impressive such museums anywhere in the world. In addition, many important initiatives are planned to memorialize this tragic 70th anniversary and to teach the lessons of this terrible time in Hungarian history to a new generation.

Holocaust in Hungary Exhibition Opens at United Nations

Guests Encouraged to Remember, Learn, and Face Present Dangers

New York, NYHolocaust in Hungary, a moving historical exhibit documenting the horrific events that took the lives of 550,000 Jews in Hungary during the Holocaust, opened yesterday at United Nations Headquarters, in New York.

Under-Secretary General Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal welcomed more than 150 guests and joined Ambassador of Hungary to the United Nations Csaba Kőrösi, to remember those who lost their lives as well as those Hungarians who had the courage to help save their fellow citizens from death camps. Max Teleki, President of the Hungarian American Coalition, spoke on behalf of György Vámos representing the Carl Lutz Foundation.

Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, daughter of the late Hungarian Holocaust survivor and US Congressman Tom Lantos, addressed the attendees and said, “We are here tonight not only to remember and to learn, but even more importantly to prepare and to arm ourselves to face the very real dangers of the present moment.”

Lantos Swett was referring to recent remarks that dismissed the 1941 deportations and ultimate deaths of nearly 20,000 Hungarian Jews as a local police action against illegal aliens, and she called on the Hungarian Government to stand firm against such attempts to revise history.

Sponsored by the Carl Lutz Foundation, Budapest; the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice; and the Hungarian American Coalition, with support from The Hungary Initiatives Foundation; and the Permanent Mission of Hungary to the United Nations, “Holocaust in Hungary” will remain at the United Nations until January 31st and will be on exhibit in Washington, DC later this winter.

Katrina Lantos Swett Remarks - UN Hungarian Holocaust Commemoration

Prepared remarks of Katrina Lantos Swett at UN Hungarian Holocaust Commemoration, January 23, 2014

"Good Evening, Dear Friends.

As has already been noted by the earlier speakers, we meet tonight with hearts that are both heavy and full - heavy over the sudden and serious illness of our friend Gyorgy Vamos who has been in so many ways the moving force behind this exhibit and full because we gather today to remember a dark time in history and to commemorate and honor the hundreds of thousands of Jews who lost their lives in the tragedy of the Hungarian Holocaust. As you know my own family is included in the numbers of those who became victims, and my own dear mother and father were saved only because of the selfless heroism of one of the most extraordinary diplomats and humanitarians of the 20th century- Raoul Wallenberg. A monument to Wallenberg stands just a stone’s throw away from where we are, across the street from the UN, and perhaps the most notable part of the Memorial is the bronze suitcase, left on the ground to symbolize the unfinished work of Raoul who as we all know was kidnapped and imprisoned by the Soviets when they came to Budapest. I think that image of the suitcase left behind as he was taken is an important symbol and reminder for us here today of our own unfinished business.

This powerful exhibit tells an unforgettable story which we are honor bound to remember and bear witness to. But exhibits such as these have another, even more important purpose. In that sense coming here is quite different from going to admire a Matisse at the Met. We are here tonight not only to remember and to learn but even more importantly to prepare and to arm ourselves to face the very real dangers of the present moment. And as far as anti-Semitism in Europe is concerned, its alarming resurgence in recent years reminds us all of the truth of William Faulkner’s words, “The past is never dead, it’s not even past.”

In just the last few days the dark past has re-emerged in Hungary in a disturbing and outrageous way. In 1941, long before the German occupation of Hungary in 1944, nearly 20,000 Jews were deported by the Hungarian authorities to German occupied Ukraine where they were murdered en masse in the infamous Kamianets-Podilskyi massacre. This was the first mass atrocity directed at Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust. And yet, a few days ago, the director of a government funded Historical Institute described this unforgivable deportation as simply a “local police action against illegal aliens.” It is hard to properly express my outrage at this appalling attempt to rewrite history and to attempt to evade the Hungarian government’s deep moral complicity in the massacre of these innocent people - the vast majority of them native-born Hungarians. Such an effort to evade, avoid, whitewash and desecrate history is utterly unacceptable and cannot be tolerated by any nation that hopes to command the respect of the world community.

I urge the leadership of the Hungarian government to speak out forcefully against these reprehensible statements and to take appropriate steps to rectify this situation. Hungary is too proud and too decent of a nation to let such shameful remarks stand unrebuked by those at the highest level of government.

When I first learned of these events, I thought immediately of my dear father, Tom Lantos, who was truly fearless when it came to confronting those who would seek to once again fan the flames of bigotry and hatred in Hungary. I know if he were still alive, he would take to the floor of his beloved Congress to denounce these comments and to call upon the government of Hungary to stand proudly and unshakably for the values of human rights, tolerance, democracy and decency. There are many in Hungary who do just that, and I have come to know many of them both as leaders I admire and even more as friends. Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi and State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth are two such individuals; I have been moved to witness their eloquent defense of persecuted minorities, and I’ve been touched by their courageous willingness to honestly face Hungarian history – even its darkest chapters. They do much to bring honor to their country, and I know they represent the millions of decent Hungarians who reject the old prejudices of the past.

I spoke a moment ago about Raoul Wallenberg’s suitcase, now sitting in bronze outside this great Parliament of Man as a reminder of his unfinished work.

His suitcase is waiting there for me.  It is waiting there for you. It is now up to us to pick up that suitcase and carry his work forward for as long as we are able in the fight for human rights and justice for all of humanity. That is the work of this exhibit, and we must make it our work as well.

Thank you."