Budapest promenade named for late Jewish congressman Tom Lantos

Gabe Friedman

(JTA) — A promenade in Budapest has been named after the late U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to have served in the Congress.

The Tom Lantos Promenade, which was inaugurated Monday, is located near the school the late congressman attended in the Hungarian capital during his teenage years.

Lantos, who was part of a middle-class Jewish family, was forced into a labor camp at 16 in 1944. He escaped to a safe house set up by the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved tens of thousands of Jews from Nazi-occupied Hungary.

Lantos joined Wallenberg’s network and delivered supplies to Jews in other safe houses. He immigrated to the United States and eventually earned a doctorate in economics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1953. After serving as an adviser to various senators, he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1980. He died in 2008 at 80.

Vice President Joe Biden wrote a letter that was read during the promenade’s inauguration ceremony.

“Tom was my counselor, my teacher, and ultimately, he became part of my family. I will be forever indebted to Tom for everything I learned from him,” Biden wrote.

Speaking at the the ceremony, the U.S. ambassador to Hungary, Colleen Bell, called Lantos “a proud American” and said “he remained a proud Hungarian, a proud son of Budapest. Bell said Lantos “worked for the best for both countries.”

After his death, the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, which Lantos founded in 1983, was renamed the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. The caucus has dealt with an array of issues, including advocating for Christians in Saudi Arabia and Sudan to practice their faith and for other minorities worldwide. His efforts as ranking Democrat to protect religious freedom in 2004 resulted in a U.S. bill to attempt to stop the spread of anti-Semitism.

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