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  1. George Soros: Introduction
  2. George Soros: Early Life and Education
  3. George Soros: Success Story
  4. George Soros: Net Worth
  5. George Soros: Famous or Infamous
  6. George Soros: Most Influential Quotes

Soros' Early Life: Loss, Peril and Hiding

George Soros was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1930. Though the storm clouds had yet to gather over Europe, his family was no stranger to conflict.

Soros’ father, Tivadar, was a prisoner of war both during and after World War I. His imprisonment ended when he escaped Russia to marry and start his law practice in Budapest. The family was also no stranger to commerce. Soros’ mother, Elizabeth, was descended from a family that owned a successful silk shop.

Tivadar was a passionate advocate of Esperanto, a language that was invented in the late 1800s on the hope that people might transcend nationality and contribute to peace and understanding across the globe. Tivadar, ironically, learned the language in the Russian prison camp where he was being held and where the camp commander was an avid Esperantist. The idealism of the language struck a chord with Tivadar, who went on to help start a literary journal in Esperanto.

He also taught his young son the language and spoke it home. In 1936, as Hitler hosted the Olympics 540 miles away in Berlin, Tivadar changed the family surname from Schwartz to Soros, an Esperanto word meaning “will soar.”

In interviews later in life, Soros would say that his parents were nonobservant Jews and cautious about expressing their religious background. In March of 1944, Nazi Germany occupied Hungary to prevent the country from making its own peace with the rapidly advancing Western Allies.

Soros was 13 years old when the Nazi army rolled in, and he felt its presence in his daily life very soon after. Nazi-cooperating city authorities forbade Jewish children from attending school and soon began to order the deportation of Jews from Budapest, most to the death camp at Auschwitz.

The Soros family went into hiding, with George pretending to be the godson of an employee of the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture. And though only a teenager, Soros worked with his father to create thousands of fake documents for people trying to flee the Nazis. In later interviews, Soros called it his father’s finest hour, recalling his father’s generosity: providing free documents for people he knew were in immediate danger of deportation to the death camps, asking payment to cover his expenses only when necessary, but also demanding from the wealthy as much money as they could afford to pay.

In 1945, the Battle of Budapest raged, with Soviet and German soldiers engaged in brutal urban warfare throughout the city. Soros survived the siege and battle, which claimed the lives of an estimated 38,000 civilians over the course of three months. He was 14 years old.

Soros Starts Over in England

With the war over, Soros left for England, where, penniless, he searched for and found the Esperanto Society in London, where he found a place to stay. He later enrolled in the London School of Economics (LSE) in 1947. Though poor, he made enough to survive as a waiter and a railway porter.

At LSE, he had the opportunity to study at the feet of the philosopher Karl Popper, considered one of the greatest philosophers of science in the 20th century and the originator of the term "open society." 

In 1951 Soros graduated from LSE with a bachelor of science in philosophy. He stayed three more years to emerge with a doctorate in philosophy in 1954.

Like many people with philosophy degrees, Soros found it hard to get a job. He worked as a traveling salesman along the Welsh coast. At loose ends and depressed, Soros began writing letters systematically to managing directors at merchant banks across London. Most didn’t respond, but one letter landed on the desk of a fellow Hungarian, a managing director at Singer & Friedlander. He offered Soros an entry-level position.


George Soros: Success Story
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