Her work helped 50,000 tor­ture vic­tims

He­len Bam­ber

Sunday Express - - Lives Remembered -

AT THE rel­a­tively young age of 20, He­len Bam­ber trav­elled to Ber­gen-Belsen con­cen­tra­tion camp in Ger­many to help re­ha­bil­i­tate sur­vivors of the Holo­caust.

Ever since then the hu­man rights cam­paigner helped thou­sands of men, women and chil­dren who had suf­fered tor­ture, slav­ery and other forms of ex­treme cru­elty.

Through her Med­i­cal Foun­da­tion for the Care of Vic­tims of Tor­ture, which she founded in 1985, more than 50,000 vic­tims from across 90 coun­tries around the world have been helped. She once told an in­ter­viewer: “I’m not with­out my des­o­la­tion and de­spair be­cause it’s rot­ten out there. But mostly I find lis­ten­ing so re­ward­ing and hum­bling. In the end I’m always in­spired by the beauty of the hu­man spirit.”

Born in north Lon­don to Jewish par­ents of Pol­ish de­scent, Bam­ber was a sickly child and was of­ten bedrid­den with TB.

The threat of Nazism was never far away dur­ing her for­ma­tive years and her ac­coun­tant fa­ther was de­ter­mined to ed­u­cate her on the is­sues at stake for Jews around the world so he read extracts of Hitler’s Mein Kampf to her. When she said she was go­ing to Ber­gen-Belsen in 1945 with a team from the Jewish Re­lief Unit her fa­ther ac­cepted the

Hu­man rights cam­paigner

MAY 1, 1925 - AU­GUST 21, 2014, AGED 89

news with “al­most a shrug of res­ig­na­tion”, she said but added: “I think it was some­thing about repaying a debt. I was aware that if the Nazis had suc­ceeded in in­vad­ing Eng­land then we would have been the vic­tims.”

Dur­ing her time at Ber­gen-Belsen Bam­ber de­cided the world was split into two groups: by­standers and wit­nesses. She be­lieved by­standers saw what they wanted, turned away when it suited and de­nied ev­i­dence if nec­es­sary. Wit­nesses had a duty to ob­serve and re­port truth­fully.

By 1948 Bam­ber was back in Bri­tain and part of the Com­mit­tee for the Care of Chil­dren from Con­cen­tra­tion Camps, help­ing to care for more than 700 or­phans who had been at Auschwitz-Birke­nau.

She later be­came a so­cial worker but, un­able to for­get the suf­fer­ing she had wit­nessed, she joined Amnesty In­ter­na­tional in 1961. She founded the Med­i­cal Foun­da­tion for the Care of Vic­tims of Tor­ture and in 2005 es­tab­lished the He­len Bam­ber Foun­da­tion which as­sists those who have suf­fered slav­ery, eth­nic vi­o­lence and forced pros­ti­tu­tion in coun­tries in­clud­ing Rwanda and China.

She was named Euro­pean Woman of Achieve­ment in 1993 and four years later was awarded the OBE. She is sur­vived by her two sons. Her for­mer hus­band Rudi pre­de­ceased her.

IN­SPIR­ING: He­len Bam­ber

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