Holocaust survivor U.S. Rep. Lantos to retire

02 Jan 2008 19:28:54 GMT
Source: Reuters


By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON, Jan 2 (Reuters) - Rep. Tom Lantos, who chairs the U.S.
House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee and is the only
Holocaust survivor elected to the Congress, on Wednesday said he has
been diagnosed with cancer and will not seek re-election in November.

The 79-year-old California Democrat, who was born in Hungary and twice
escaped Nazi labor camps, said he will serve the remainder of his 14th
term, which ends in January 2009.

In announcing he has been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus and
would end his House career at the end of his term, Lantos reflected on
his life.

"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.

Shortly after Lantos came to Congress in 1981, he pushed for
legislation granting honorary U.S. citizenship to Swedish diplomat
Raoul Wallenberg. That came nearly four decades after Wallenberg
protected Lantos and other occupants of an apartment building from Nazi
arrest.

Throughout his congressional career, Lantos was an outspoken critic of
international human rights abuses.

Lantos helped win passage in 2002 of a congressional resolution
authorizing the U.S. attack on Iraq that unfolded the following year.
More recently, Lantos has been critical of the "U.S. involvement in the
civil war in Iraq."

When Democrats gained majority control of the House a year ago, Lantos
used his new position as chairman of the foreign affairs panel to
conduct oversight of the Iraq war, including a high-profile hearing
last September on progress from the U.S. troop increase.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a fellow Californian, called Lantos "one of
America's leading experts on foreign affairs and most effective
advocates for human rights both at home and abroad." She added, "As the
only Holocaust survivor ever elected to Congress, he has used his
position to fight for those whose voices have been silenced by hatred
and oppression."

(Editing by Vicki Allen)