Born London
Travelled to Belsen, aged 19, to help the survivors of the concentration camp
Returned to London, trained in trauma counselling and became responsible for more than 700 children orphaned in Auschwitz, before helping to found Amnesty International
Founded Medical Foundation for Care of Victims of Torture
Awarded the OBE
Set up the Helen Bamber Foundation to help survivors of human rights violations

I'm not ashamed of liking nice things: clothes, love, the small patio that I have in my flat. Because I am so aware of losses. The people that I see and treat have lost everything. So I know how much the small things matter and how the things one collects form part of your life.

I was twenty when I went to Belsen [the concentration camp, to help Holocaust survivors]. And I felt useless for a while. The knowledge that I could be useful came to me as a kind of revelation. I came across a woman sitting on the floor. She was so thin. From a distance she looked like a piece of material. I sat with her while she dug her fingers into my arm and we rocked together, on the floor, while she rasped out her story of loss. She had lost her husband, her children, everyone she had loved. I said, "I can't change history, but I can be your witness. And I promise that your story will be told over and over again."

In the war, I watched my mother when the air raids came. She would sit at the piano looking beautifully put together and with her hair up. There is something about facing adversity and thinking, "I'm going to look the best I can and feel good in myself."

I think I've lost friends and let people outside of work down in small ways by not being available and by putting work first, always first. And it has interfered with relationships, definitely. Now I live alone and have many friends but a seven day week and a preoccupation when the phone goes means some relationships have suffered.

I think I've probably had to exert authority in a way that I would not have needed to had I been taller. I can be quite authoritative, a bit of a bloody nuisanceā€¦ I think I do it less now than when I was young and I try not to be aggressive because that is never helpful when you are trying to represent other people's interests. But I do do it if I feel that people aren't listening or taking what I'm talking about seriously.