The first and last American Congressman who was a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust died at the age of 80. A champion of human rights Rep. Lantos will be remembered for his courage to speak the truth.

From the New York Times:

Representative Tom Lantos of California, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the only Holocaust survivor ever to serve in Congress, died on Monday. He was 80.


The congressman was known as a strong defender of human rights, an ardent supporter of Israel and an outspoken critic of Communism. He also worked for stronger protections for animals and the environment.

“Tom was a living reminder,” President Bush said in a statement Monday, “that we must never turn a blind eye to the suffering of the innocent at the hands of evil men.”

Mr. Bush called Mr. Lantos “a man of character and a champion of human rights,” and cited his role as a founder of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, created in 1983.

Mr. Lantos voted in 2002 to authorize the Bush administration to use force against Iraq. But as Foreign Affairs chairman he criticized the administration’s handling of the war and was a co-sponsor of a resolution last year opposing Mr. Bush’s buildup of troops.

It was his defense of human rights, though, that most clearly defined a Congressional career that lasted nearly three decades. That focus was an outgrowth of his experience during the Holocaust, in which much of his family, including his mother, perished.

Mr. Lantos, a Hungarian-born Jew who was 16 when the Nazis occupied his native country, once said his entire life had served as preparation for the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Though he held the post for little more than a year, the committee took a number of bold steps in that time, demanding, for instance, that the government of Japan apologize for wartime sex slavery by its military and declaring Turkey’s mass killing of Armenians in World War I an act of genocide, a move that angered the Bush administration and nearly provoked a confrontation with the Turkish government.

He was frequently critical of China, citing its record on human rights, and was arrested outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington in 2006 during a protest against the mass killings in Darfur.