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George Soros

On this date in 1930, George Soros (né György Schwartz), entrepreneur, philanthropist and social activist, was born to upper-middle-class, nonobservant Jewish parents in Budapest, Hungary. The family changed its surname to Soros in 1936 because Jews were being persecuted. He lived through the Nazi occupation that resulted in the murder of over 500,000 Hungarian Jews and posed as a teen as Christian to escape detection.

After the establishment of a communist government under Soviet hegemony after World War II, he fled to England in 1947 to attend the London School of Economics, where he earned bachelor's and advanced degrees in philosophy.

He worked for a merchant bank in London before emigrating in 1956 to New York City, where he began working in finance and investment and securities analysis. He developed the theory of reflexivity, which posits that market values are driven by the fallible ideas of participants as well as economic fundamentals. He launched the Soros Fund Management in 1970, a hedge fund that eventually made him a multi-billionaire.

He started the Open Society Foundations in 1979, supporting democracy, human rights and economic development in over 120 countries. In 2017 he announced he had transferred $18 billion of his fortune into an endowment to fund future work of the Foundations, bringing his total giving to the Foundations since 1984 to over $32 billion. He has also heavily supported liberal and progressive causes and political candidates, making him a convenient target for conservatives and the Religious Right.

Soros has written 14 books, including Underwriting Democracy (1991), The Bubble of American Supremacy: Correcting the Misuse of American Power (2004), The Crash of 2008 and What it Means (2009) and The Tragedy of the European Union: Disintegration or Revival? (2014). Soros was twice divorced with five children when he married Tamiko Bolton in 2013, a Japanese-American businesswoman 42 years his junior.

Among the FAQs (frequently asked questions) on his website is "What faith is George Soros?" It's answered like this: "He identifies himself as an atheist." About his views on religion: Soros "respects all faiths and religious practices. He believes that people of faith and faith communities contribute to the public’s understanding of pressing social issues and often add a principled, moral aspect to debates that are too often dominated by politicians, statistics and polling."

PHOTO: Soros in 2011 in Munich, Germany; Harald Dettenborn photo.

STEVE KROFT: Are you religious?
GEORGE SOROS: No.
KROFT: Do you believe in God?
SOROS: No.

—Interview on CBS “60 Minutes” (Dec. 20, 1998)

Compiled by Bill Dunn

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