George Santos’ claims that his grandparents fled the Holocaust are contradicted by genealogical records



New Republican Rep. George Santos’ claims that his grandparents « survived the Holocaust » as Ukrainian Jewish refugees from Belgium who changed their last name to survive are contradicted by sources reviewed by CNN’s KFile, including family trees compiled by genealogy websites, files on Jewish refugees, and interviews. with several genealogists.

Santos, who has called himself a ‘half-Jew’ and a ‘Latino Jew’ in media appearances, says his maternal grandfather was from Ukraine and fled to Brazil to escape Nazism . In another account, the New York Republican said his grandparents converted to Catholicism during the rise of Nazism in Belgium after fleeing Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union. In another account, he claimed that his family changed their names to survive Nazism.

CNN spoke to several genealogists who said there was no proof for the claims. Santos’ false claims about his family background were first reported by The Forward on Wednesday. The archives of the Holocaust Museum and the International Center on Nazi Persecution, which contain records of Jewish refugees, also make no mention of Santos’ grandparents.

Megan Smolenyak, an author and professional genealogist who helped research Santos’ family tree at the request of CNN, said in an email: « There are no signs of Jewish and/or Ukrainian heritage and no indication of name change en route ».

The new Republican lawmaker has come under intense scrutiny over his resume since the New York Times revealed on Monday that Santos’ biography appears to be partly fictional. CNN confirmed details from the New York Times report on Monday, including that he may have misrepresented parts of his resume relating to his college education and work history.

A Santos attorney declined to comment to CNN.

« I’m very proud of my Jewish heritage, » Santos said during a late November 2022 appearance with the Jewish News Syndicate. “I am very proud of the story of my grandparents. My grandfather fleeing Ukraine, fleeing Stalin’s persecution, going to Belgium, taking refuge there, marrying my grandmother, then fleeing Hitler going to Brazil. It is a story of perseverance. I’m so proud. I mean, I wish I could have met my grandfather.

In another interview from earlier this year, Santos claimed that his grandparents survived the Holocaust.

« My grandparents survived the Holocaust, so these regimes of socialism, of Marxism, they don’t work, and they’re followed by a lot of suffering, and we’re seeing that now and what’s happening in Ukraine with the Russians “, Santos said in an interview in May 2022.

But family histories from the MyHeritage and Geneanet websites and a Dutch periodical from the town the family emigrated from show that her maternal grandparents, Paolo and Rosalina Devolder, were both born in Brazil. FamilySearch records, first reported by The Forward, also show that Santos’ great-grandfather lives in Brazil.

Although it is possible that his maternal grandparents returned to Europe and then returned to Brazil, there is no supporting evidence. And there is no evidence that the family were Jewish refugees fleeing Europe.

Additionally, Santos’ ties to Ukraine were only added to his campaign biography between April 2022 and October 2022, according to the Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine. His biography now begins: “George’s grandparents fled Jewish persecution in Ukraine, settled in Belgium and fled persecution again during World War II.

When the Ukraine-Russia conflict began in February 2022, Santos told Fox News digital his ties to Ukraine were « very vague » and said it would be « dishonest » to claim his relatives were in danger. But he added that his family later changed their surname to survive.

« It’s just very vague and weak, » Santos said of his ties to the country. “We don’t have the Ukrainian surname. For many people who are descendants of World War II refugees or Holocaust survivors, many names and documents have been changed in the name of survival.

But records dispute that claim. The Devolder surname has been used by his mother’s family for generations, and the family has not changed it, according to family trees reviewed by genealogists CNN spoke to.

Santos’ mother died in 2016, but her Facebook posts include Catholic prayers and messages about the Virgin Mary at Easter, with no posts indicating Jewish heritage.

In a different guise, Santos said his mother’s grandfather’s family converted to Catholicism during the rise of Nazism, though he made it clear he was not trying to claim Jewish heritage .

“My grandfather grew up Jewish. My grandfather, during the Soviet troubles, fled to Belgium,” Santos said. « And then it was a great decision. Met my grandmother, married and pretty crazy, the Nazis became a thing. And that’s when he said, ‘Oh my God, everything is finished again. » They converted to Catholicism, had their children, raised them Catholic. And I’m Catholic, but that’s pretty much my family history in Judaism.

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