Rachael Strecher  /  AP
Chairman of the U.S. House of Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Lantos.
updated 1/2/2008 1:24:23 PM ET 2008-01-02T18:24:23

Rep. Tom Lantos, a California Democrat and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced on Wednesday that he will not seek re-election this year because he has cancer of the esophagus.

Lantos, 79, is the only Holocaust survivor elected to Congress and is known for his dedication to human rights issues. He is serving his 14th term as a House member.

"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 in a statement. "I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country."

Lantos was born in Budapest, Hungary. In 1944, as a teenager, he was sent to a labor camp but eventually escaped.

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