The 16th Street J notes with sadness the passing of Representative Tom Lantos of California. Congressman Lantos was the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the U.S. Congress and a strong moral presence on the Washington scene. Lantos was 16 when the Nazis occupied Hungary in 1944. He escaped from a labor camp and eventually came under the protection of Raoul Wallenberg. His experiences during the Shoah were integral to his public service, where he established the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and stood up for causes ranging from the genocide in Darfur, to the persecution of journalists in China, to formal acknowledgement of the Armenian genocide. He announced his retirement earlier this year with a stirring summation of his biography:
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.”
May his memory be a blessing.