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.”

Lantos Foundation ISIS Genocide Statement

The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice commends Secretary of State John Kerry’s declaration that the Islamic State’s actions against Yezidi, Christian, and Shiite communities constitutes genocide. Coming just days after Congress passed a unanimous joint resolution condemning the Islamic State’s actions as genocide, it is encouraging to see our leaders joining together in a bi-partisan and ecumenical way to boldly call evil by its true name, and in so doing they are honoring basic human rights and justice.

As Secretary Kerry stated in his remarks today: “Naming these crimes is important. But what is essential is to stop them.” We hope that the message sent this week by the United States Congress and by the United States Department of State will not only raise awareness of the horrific crimes being committed in the Middle East today, but will lead to strong action to stop these atrocities.

Too often the world has failed to act when helpless minorities have faced the clear threat of genocide. We hope that this time will be different. We call on the world community to act to ensure that the Yazidi, Christian, and Shiite communities in Syria and Iraq are not only saved, but also restored in the wake of the devastating trauma that they have endured. Only by working together can we overcome the evil that ISIS represents. 

Lantos Foundation Statement on Kehilat Bnei Torah Synagogue Attack

CONCORD, NH – Like the rest of the world, the Lantos Foundation is deeply troubled by the recent attack on Jewish worshipers at the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue in Jerusalem. While this vicious act of terror demands a strong, unequivocal, and directed response, we call on the world’s citizens and leaders to resist the effort to stoke greater hatred and violence as a result of this tragic event. We commend the examples set by those who have already resisted this urge, and we hope that others will not use this tragic event for their own selfish gains. Our prayers go out to the families of those murdered this week and to all victims of religious intolerance around the world.

Lantos Foundation Statement - The Death of James Foley

The brutal murder of James Foley has once again reminded the world of the extraordinary stakes in the ongoing struggle between the forces of human rights and democracy and those of barbarism, repression, and savagery. The Jihadists of ISIS and their ilk are truly enemies of all mankind. From their threatened genocide against the Yazidi community to their "convert or die” ultimatum against the ancient Christian communities of Syria and Iraq, they have demonstrated conclusively that their vicious cruelty knows no bounds, nor will it respect any national boundaries. It is incumbent upon responsible leaders to recognize that unless this evil force is confronted and defeated, it will find its way to our own shores and our own doorsteps.

The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice calls upon the leaders of the civilized world to act decisively and in concert to defend the fundamental human rights of the imperiled people in the path of this murderous horde. James Foley courageously sacrificed his life to bring the story of this suffering region to the world’s attention and his tragic death must strengthen the world’s resolve to defeat this grave threat to humanity.

Once again, the words of Congressman Lantos sound prophetically in our ears; “The veneer of civilization is paper thin. We are its guardians and we can never rest”. 

Meriam Ibrahim Arrives in New Hampshire - Statement from Katrina Lantos Swett

"Over the past several months the world has watched with bated breath as Meriam Ibrahim, a beautiful young mother from Sudan, defied the prosecutors and persecutors in her country who had threatened her with whippings and death if she did not renounce her Christian faith. Meriam refused to give in to this state sponsored intimidation and even gave birth to her new daughter while shackled in a Sudanese prison. Mrs. Ibrahim is a true profile in courage and dignity and has inspired advocates for religious liberty and human rights around the world. Thankfully, she has now arrived in New Hampshire where she and her family will be able to live in security and peace. It is fitting that the Granite State will be Meriam's new home. Our well known motto in New Hampshire is "Live free or die", exemplifying our profound commitment to individual liberty and fundamental human rights. Meriam Ibrahim is a living embodiment of this creed and from her example we should all draw renewed determination to stand up for the rights and dignity of people in every corner of the world."

Israeli President Shimon Peres to Be Named 2014 Lantos Prize Laureate

June 2014, WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice announced today that the 2014 Lantos Human Rights Prize will be awarded to Shimon Peres, President of the State of Israel. President Peres will receive the award for his unwavering dedication to the profound values of democracy and human rights that form the foundation of the State of Israel, as well as his pursuit of peace, justice and reconciliation in the Middle East. Former recipients of the Lantos Prize include former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Professor Elie Wiesel, Paul Rusesabagina, and Chen Guangcheng. The award ceremony will take in place in Washington, DC on June 26, 2014. It will be open to press and coverage is invited.

“The nominating committee’s decision to honor President Peres with this award was inspired by Shimon Peres’ over 60 years of extraordinary leadership as a builder of his nation, as a global statesman and as a tireless and inspired advocate for peace and justice in the Middle East”, said Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice. “President Peres stands out as a leader whose passion  for his country and his people is equaled by his commitment to the cause of peace for all people of the region.”

Over the course of his career, President Peres has received numerous honors for his efforts in the Middle East, and the Lantos Human Rights Prize further recognizes his dedication to democracy and civil liberty. Peres was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. He later went on to establish the Peres Center for Peace. Despite enormous tensions and challenges in the Middle East, Peres has been an eloquent advocate for the fundamental human rights of all peoples. 

The Lantos Foundation established the Lantos Human Rights Prize in 2009 to honor and bring attention to heroes of the human rights movement. It is awarded annually to an individual or organization that best exemplifies the Foundation’s mission, namely to be a vital voice standing up for the values of decency, dignity, freedom, and justice in every corner of the world. The prize also serves to commemorate the late Congressman Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to the U.S. Congress and a prominent advocate for human rights during his nearly three decades as a U.S. Representative.

Additional details about the award ceremony honoring President Shimon Peres will be announced soon. For information call the Lantos Foundation at 603-226-3636. Press inquiries should be directed to 202.265.3000. 

Lantos Foundation Statement - Mikhail Khodorkovsky Is a Free Man

Today Mikhail Khodorkovsky is a free man. He is free not only in the narrow sense of having been freed from illegitimate imprisonment. He possesses the deeper freedom that comes from having met the test of conscience and courage. This deeper freedom comes when someone faces unjust persecution at the hands of a corrupt judiciary and authoritarian state and nonetheless maintains their integrity and principles. Like other prisoners of conscience before him -  men like Natan Sharansky and Nelson Mandela - Mikhail has shown a deep determination to fight for a more just and democratic world. Furthermore, he has been willing to pay a high personal price for his ideals. Mr. Khodorkovsky’s demonstration of character and determination has won the respect of his fellow Russians and millions of others around the world.

Statement on Mikhail Khodorkovsky Pardon

We are thrilled by the news this morning that Mikhail Khodorkovsky could shortly be pardoned and freed after 10 years of unjust incarceration. The Lantos Foundation has been actively protesting his political prosecution, rigged conviction, and continued incarceration throughout this shameful miscarriage of justice. We also welcome the fast track progress of an amnesty bill in the Russian Duma that could lead to the release of the young women of Pussy Riot and the lifting of charges against the Green Peace activists. These are all positive steps and we hope they are the harbinger of more reforms to come.

The announcement this morning indicated that Mr. Khodorkovsky would be released soon. We are cautiously optimistic, but we cannot celebrate this progress, until the deeds match the words. We hope that before the Holidays Mikhail is safely reunited with his loving family and amnesty is granted to the many other political prisoners in Russia.

As the world’s eyes turn to Russia for the upcoming Sochi Olympics, we hope that these steps towards reform and compassion will prove to be more than short-lived public relations gestures. Our hope for the people of Russia is that these actions represent a genuine desire to return to greater democracy and to build a society where the rule of law is respected, robust civil society is celebrated, and people are free to express themselves.

In this holy season, the freeing of Mikhail Khodorkovsky gives many of us cause to celebrate and to hope for a coming year with greater peace and goodwill towards all people.

Statement on President Obama Questioning President Putin on the Fate of Holocaust Hero, Raoul Wallenberg

The Wallenberg Family’s announcement that President Obama has agreed to raise the question of Raoul Wallenberg’s fate with Russian President Putin is welcome news to the Lantos Family and to the untold thousands who were rescued due to his heroism during World War II. Without Wallenberg’s extraordinary efforts, neither of my parents would have survived the Holocaust. They both dedicated their lives to seeking his freedom from the Russian gulag and, subsequently, to honoring Raoul’s memory and emulating his commitment to human rights. In fact, my mother, Mrs. Annette Lantos first brought up Wallenberg’s fate with another American President, Jimmy Carter, during a public radio call-in show in the 1970s. My father’s first act as a newly elected member of Congress was to introduce legislation which made Raoul Wallenberg an honorary American citizen - only the second individual so honored in our nation’s history. Today the Lantos Foundation continues their commitment to this remarkable humanitarian and diplomat by working to preserve Raoul Wallenberg’s memory and his rightful place in history as one of the greatest heroes of the Holocaust.

We are gratified by this news that the US government is going to reengage on Wallenberg’s fate after he disappeared in the Russian Gulag in 1945. The Wallenberg family richly deserves the answers they have been waiting nearly 70 years to hear.

An Update From Our 2012 Lantos Prize Recipient - Chen Guangcheng

2012 Lantos Human Rights Prize recipient & human rights activist, Chen Guangcheng, asked that the following information be shared with Lantos Foundation supporters:

Last Sunday, Chen Guangcheng heard from his older brother, Chen Guangfu, who lives in China, reporting that there were police surrounding their village. For four days, at every entrance to the village, a police car and 4 uniformed police as well as plain-clothed men were stationed 24 hours a day, watching and following whoever entered or left the village. As far as we know, as of this posting no one has been questioned or prevented from moving about, but there is concern about what this means and where it will lead.

The Chinese government continues to use intimidation tactics against anyone they perceive as a threat to their oppressive political control over the Chinese people and Chen’s family remains a particular target of the government. As we receive more information we will pass it along.