South Scotland

Jane Haining: Scot who died at Auschwitz honoured in Budapest

Jane Haining Image copyright Church of Scotland
Image caption A new exhibition in Budapest will honour Jane Haining

A Scot who gave her life to help protect Jewish schoolgirls during World War Two is to be honoured in her adopted city 73 years after she died.

Jane Haining will be the focus of a new exhibition in the Holocaust Memorial Centre in Budapest.

Spokesman Zoltan Toth-Heinmann said the Church of Scotland missionary, who grew up in Dunscore, near Dumfries, was a "unique and important" figure.

He said her inspirational story had been "neglected" in the city.

As matron at the Scottish Mission school in Budapest during the 1930s and 40s, she refused to return home despite advice from church officials, saying the children needed her in the "days of darkness".

She was arrested in 1944, charged with working amongst Jews and taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, where she died aged 47.

She was posthumously honoured by the UK government for "preserving life in the face of persecution".

Image copyright Church of Scotland
Image caption Zoltan Toth-Heinmann, right, and his colleague Dr Gabor Maklari visited Dunscore recently

Mr Toth-Heinmann said he was determined to ensure that as many people as possible learned about her and visited Scotland this week to seek inspiration for the temporary exhibition, which is going on show in the autumn.

He visited Dunscore Parish Church, the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh and Queen's Park Church in Glasgow, where the missionary worshipped before moving to Budapest in 1932.

He said: "Jane Haining's story is an important part of the Holocaust history in Budapest, and sometimes, for the general public, it might be neglected.

"She was unique because all the other players - rescuers, victims and perpetrators - were local people.

"She was the only one who had the chance to choose if she would stay there and risk her life to save children or just leave and return to Scotland."

'Truly inspirational'

Mr Toth-Heinmann said the exhibition would help ensure that her memory was kept alive and "illustrate her heroism to visitors".

He added: "The primary objective will be the education of young people so they can learn that sometimes it is important to make a sacrifice.

"We have various items relating to her life - artefacts, photographs and documents - which will, along with testimonies from some of her former pupils, bring her story closer to visitors."

Rev Ian Alexander, secretary of the Church of Scotland World Mission Council, said: "Jane Haining's story is heart-breaking, but also truly inspirational.

"Scottish missionaries were advised to return home from Europe during the dark days of World War Two, but Jane declined, writing: 'If these children need me in days of sunshine, how much more do they need me in days of darkness?"'

'Just incredible'

A heritage centre, which will in part tell the story of Ms Haining, is being created inside Dunscore Parish Church.

Matthew Aitken, one of the team behind the project which is expected to be open in October, said: "It is going to be amazing and so many people from the church and the local community have been involved.

"Jane Haining's story is just incredible.

"It is hard to put into words what she did and what she experienced.

"We hope that people come and see the material that we have and learn about her story for themselves."

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