Incoming congressman claims his grandparents escaped massacre, contradicts genealogy records


A statement by incoming Republican Rep. George Santos that his grandparents “survived the Holocaust” were Ukrainian Jewish refugees from Belgium who changed their surnames to survive is in line with CNN ( CNN’s KFile reviewed conflicting sources, including family trees compiled by genealogy websites, Jewish refugee records and interviews with multiple genealogists.

Santos, who has described himself as “half-Jewish” and “Latino-Jewish” in media appearances, claims his maternal grandfather was originally 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 story, he claimed his family changed their names to escape Nazism.

CNN interviewed multiple genealogists who said there was no evidence to support the claims. On Wednesday, The Forward was the first to report on Santos’ misrepresentation of his family history. Records from the Holocaust Museum and the International Center for Nazi Persecution contain records about Jewish refugees, and there is no mention of Santos’ grandparents.

“There is no indication of any Jewish and/or Ukrainian ancestry, and no indication of names Something changed along the way.”

The incoming Republican lawmaker’s résumé has faced scrutiny since The New York Times revealed on Monday that his biography appeared to be partially fictional. CNN confirmed details of Monday’s New York Times report, including that he may have misrepresented parts of his resume about his college education and work history.

An attorney for Santos 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’m very proud of my grandparents’ story. My grandfather fled Ukraine, escaped Stalin’s persecution, went to Belgium, sought asylum there, married my grandmother, then escaped Hitler for Brazil. It was a story about persistence. I Proud I mean, I wish I could meet my grandfather.”

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

“My grandparents survived the Holocaust, so these socialist, Marxist regimes don’t work, and there’s a lot of damage that comes with it, and we’re seeing that at the moment, and what’s happening in Ukraine with the Russians, ’” Santos said in an interview in May 2022.

But family histories from websites MyHeritage and Geneanet, as well as a Dutch journal from the town where the family immigrated, show that his maternal grandparents, Paolo and Rosalina Devolder, were both born in Brazil. FamilySearch records, first reported by The Forward, also show that Santos’ great-grandfather lived in Brazil.

While it is possible that his maternal grandparents returned to Europe and then moved back to Brazil, there is no evidence to support this. And there is no evidence that the family were Jewish refugees fleeing Europe.

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

When Ukraine’s conflict with Russia began in February 2022, Santos told Fox Digital News his ties to Ukraine were “very murky” and said it was “hypocritical” to claim his relatives were at risk. But he added that his family has since changed their surname to survive.

“It’s just very vague and tenuous,” Santos said of his ties to the country. “We don’t have Ukrainian surnames. For many descendants of WWII refugees or survivors of the Holocaust, a lot of names and documents have been changed in the name of survival.”

But the Record disputes that claim. The Devolder surname has been used by his mother’s family for generations, and the family hasn’t changed, according to family trees reviewed by genealogists interviewed by CNN.

Santos’ mother died in 2016, but her Facebook posts include Catholic prayers and Easter Virgin Mary posts, none of which indicate Jewish ancestry.

Santos said differently that his mother’s grandfather’s family converted to Catholicism during the rise of Nazism, although he made it clear that he was not trying to inherit Jewish blood.

“My grandfather was Jewish. My grandfather fled to Belgium during the Soviet problems,” Santos said. “And then it was a great move. With my grandmother, she got married, and, crazy enough, the Nazis became a thing. That’s when he said, ‘Oh my God, it’s all over again. They converted Catholic, had kids, raised them. I’m Catholic, but that has very little Jewish history in my family.”

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