WASHINGTON (AP) -- Rep. Tom Lantos of California, the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress, has died, his spokeswoman said Monday.
Lynne Weill said that Lantos, 80, passed away at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center in suburban Maryland.
Lantos, a Democrat who chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee, disclosed last month that he had been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus.
He said at the time that he would serve out his 14th term but would not seek re-election in his Northern California district, which takes in the southwest portion of San Francisco and suburbs to the south including Lantos' home of San Mateo.
The timing of the diagnosis was a particular blow because Lantos had assumed his committee chairmanship just a year earlier, when Democrats retook control of Congress. He said then that in a sense his whole life had been a preparation for the job -- and it was.
Lantos, who referred to himself as "an American by choice," was born to Jewish parents in Budapest, Hungary, and was 16 when Adolf Hitler occupied Hungary in 1944. He survived by escaping twice from a forced labor camp and coming under the protection of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who used his official status and visa-issuing powers to save thousands of Hungarian Jews.
Lantos' mother and much of his family perished in the Holocaust.
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