While he's widely known as a former representative from California to the US Congress, those who actually followed what he did during his life know that Tom Lantos
was one of the greatest humanitarians ever to serve in the US government. He was also the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the US Congress, a distinction that helped fuel his devotion to human rights.
Lantos was born in Hungary to a Jewish family, and was 16 when the Germans invaded Hungary in 1944. He was sent to a labor camp just outside Budapest where he suffered through long days of forced labor and oppression. He quickly escaped from the camp but was captured and severely beaten before being returned to the camp. Another escape shortly thereafter was much more successful and he managed to make his way back to Budapest and hid with an aunt in a safe house.
Thanks to his blond hair and blue eyes, he was able to move freely through the city and acted as a courier for the anti-Nazi resistance. He delivered medicine and food to other Jews hiding in the city. At 17, the war finally ended but it wasn't a happy one since he discovered that his mother and most of his family had been exterminated by the Nazis. In total about 450,000 Hungarian Jews were killed during the ten month occupation of the country.
Eventually Lantos moved to America and attended college at the University of Washington, then at the University of California in Berkeley. He was elected to the US Congress in 1980 and remained a representative until he died in 2008
Throughout his career, he was reelected 13 times, always by a fairly wide margin. He devoted most of his political work to human rights issues, supporting same-sex marriage and medical marijuana as well as environmental actions. Lantos served as the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs as the Chairman and introduced numerous bills to combat anti-Semitism, anti-Christian measures in the Middle East, and Tibetan freedom.
U2's singer Bono called Lantos a "Prizefighter"
and that's a term that most agree with. After surviving the Holocaust and entering politics, he never stopped in his battle to make sure that those around the world had freedom from oppression. He worked hard towards these goals, and was one of the most respected and inspirational members of congress over the last 20 years.