Oskar Helmer (1887-1963) was an Austrian politician from the SPÖ, the
Austrian Social-Democratic Party (photo: VGA). He started as a newspaper editor
and in 1919 became the youngest member of his party to be elected in the
In February 1934 he was arrested and after his release
worked for insurance companies. After the war he became Interior Minister. As
minister he built up the police force and helped the restoration of
Helmer is best remembered for his actions during the
Hungarian crisis in 1956. On
When the Soviet forced invaded
It was decided that the LRCS would be the prime mover on the assistance
front, and would also help ICEM, whose prime task would be to assist the
registration, documentation and transport of refugees out of
On the face of it, UNHCR was not in the best position to handle such a task. For one thing, it was only a temporary organisation with a mandate that was due to expire in 1958. Secondly, it was without a High Commissioner because in July 1956, Gerrit van Heuven Goedhart had died of a heart attack and his replacement, Auguste Lindt, was not elected until December. But the agency's other senior staff proved more than capable of handling the challenge.
Because of his immediate aid to the many Hungarian refugees and for his remarkable services to them the Nansen Medal Committee decided to award the 1959 Medal to Oskar Helmer. The Committee honoured Helmer for his humanitarian spirit when personally dealing with the refugee problem and for the generosity he opened the Austrian borders for those who sought refuge in an extremely difficult time.
award ceremony took place in the Palais des Nations in