Her work helped 50,000 torture victims
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