Tom Lantos

This great Hungarian-American died today.  Here are some excerpts taken from an AP News article:

California Rep Tom Lantos who as a teenager twice escaped from a Nazi-run forced labor camp in Hungary and became the only Holocaust survivor to win a seat in Congress, has died. He was 80.

Lantos, who referred to himself as "an American by choice," was born to Jewish parents in Budapest, Hungary, and was 16 when Adolf Hitler occupied Hungary in 1944. He survived by escaping from the labor camp and coming under the protection of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who used his official status and visa-issuing powers to save thousands of Hungarian Jews.

Lantos' mother and much of his family perished in the Holocaust.

That background gave Lantos a moral authority unique in Congress and he used it repeatedly to speak out on foreign policy issues, sometimes courting controversy.

Lantos joined the Hungarian Underground after the Nazi occupation but was captured and sent to a forced labor camp 40 miles north of Budapest, according to the biography on his congressional Web site. He was beaten severely when he tried to escape, but feeling he had nothing to lose he made another attempt. This time he made it back to Budapest and to one of the safehouses that Wallenberg had established.

Lantos came to the United States in 1947 after being awarded a scholarship to study at the University of Washington Seattle. In 1950 he married Annette, his childhood sweetheart, with whom he'd managed to reunite after the war. The couple moved to the San Francisco Bay area so Lantos could pursue a doctorate in economics at the University of California, Berkeley.

"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," Lantos said upon announcing his retirement last month. "I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country."

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