A Bishop Saving ‘Singers’: Tales of Torture in Pinochet's Chile


  • Helmut Frenz

    1. Lutheran pastor Helmut Frenz served as a missionary in Chile from 1965 to 1975. Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile at the time of the military coup in 1973, he was expelled from the country in 1975 because his human rights work rendered him persona non grata with the military dictatorship of General Agosto Pinochet. He was awarded the prestigious Nansen medallion for his service to refugees, which continued while he served as the head of Amnesty International upon returning to his native Germany. Upon his retirement, he returned to his beloved Chile, whose current president conferred upon him honorary Chilean citizenship in recognition of Frenz's courageous stance three decades ago. His story is recounted in a memoir, Mi Vida Chilena or “My Chilean Life,” portions of which are here excerpted in translation by Michael Cooper-White, president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. Cooper-White served as an intern in Chile during Frenz's final year as bishop.
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Abstract:  The article provides a brief biographical introduction of Lutheran Bishop Helmut Frenz, co-founder of the Committee for Peace, credited with saving at least 6,000 lives of persecuted Chileans following the September 1973 military coup at the hands of the brutal general Agosto Pinochet. Excerpts from Frenz' book, Mi Vida Chilena, document Pinochet's acknowledgment that torture was the regime's official policy, and share the poignant story of one suspected leftist's brutal torture.