"Holocaust Remembrance Day is a solemn time for all to pause and reflect - both on the tragedy of those dark days and on our responsibility to those who face similar threats of genocide in our time. Just one year ago, our State Department declared that ISIS has been committing genocide against the Yazidis and Christians of Iraq and Syria. We must not shirk our duty to these embattled religious minorities in the Middle East. It is by defending them that we can honor those lost in the Holocaust and give meaning to the pledge 'Never Again'." - Annette Lantos, Chair, Lantos Foundation
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.”
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.
President of the Hungarian American Coalition
Katrina Lantos Swett
President of the Lantos Foundation
Guests Encouraged to Remember, Learn, and Face Present Dangers
New York, NY- Holocaust 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.
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.
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.
Since our founding the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice has been an active voice in combating the twin scourges of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. In 2009 we joined forces with MEMRI to establish the Lantos Archives on Anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial and this continues to be a key focus of our ongoing human rights work.
We were deeply disturbed to read the outrageous statements made by Ezz El-Arab denying the Holocaust in a recent Washington Times article (see link to this article below). We are particularly outraged that he made his despicable claims on the sidelines of a conference co-hosted by two distinguished institutions, the International Centre for Democratic Transition (ICDT) and the newly established Tom Lantos Institute (TLI). Mr. El-Arab’s deplorable tirade underscores the need for ongoing vigilance in every corner of the world particularly among the emerging leadership of the Arab Spring.
We wish to commend the ICDT and the TLI for their very strong statement denouncing Ezz-El-Arab’s despicable and ignorant comments.