Human rights campaigner Bamber dies

AFP
British human rights organizer Helen Bamber on November 10, 2009 near Washington Square Park in New York
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British human rights organizer Helen Bamber on November 10, 2009 near Washington Square Park in New York (AFP Photo/Stan Honda)

London (AFP) - British human rights campaigner Helen Bamber, an early member of Amnesty International, has died at the age of 89, the charity she founded said.

Bamber was in one of the first rehabilitation teams to enter the Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp in 1945 to help the survivors.

She went on to work for human rights in a career spanning seven decades, helping to set up the first medical group of Amnesty International in Britain and founding the Medical Foundation for Care of Victims of Torture.

"Tens of thousands of survivors and their families know that Helen personally changed their lives, and many more have been spared further atrocity by her work," the Helen Bamber Foundation's executive director TJ Birdi said on Thursday.

Born in north London in 1925 to a family of Jewish Polish descent, Bamber went on to be named European Woman of Achievement in 1993 and was made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her work in 1997.

Actor Colin Firth, who was advised by Bamber when he was working on film "The Railway Man" about a British soldier in a Japanese labour camp, called his time with Bamber "life-changing".

"Her aim in life was to heal people whose damage was profound and seemingly intractable," Firth said.

"If she had succeeded in any of this with just one individual, her work would have been worthwhile. But the numbers are beyond count."

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