Memory of Scottish teacher Jane Haining who died in Auschwitz to be honoured

Miss Haining refused to leave the school in Hungary where she worked at the outbreak of the Second World War and was later arrested by the Gestapo.

Dan Barker
Thursday 27 January 2022 15:20
Jane Haining refused to leave the school in Hungary where she worked and was later arrested by the Gestapo (Church of Scotland/PA)
Jane Haining refused to leave the school in Hungary where she worked and was later arrested by the Gestapo (Church of Scotland/PA)

Growing levels of antisemitism, racism, and intolerance show that the story of a Scottish woman who gave her life to protect school girls during the Holocaust is relevant today, says a group which has formed to promote her living legacy.

Jane Haining, a former school teacher from Dumfriesshire, travelled to Budapest, Hungary in 1932 and became the matron at the Scottish Mission School, where more than 400 girls of mostly Jewish background were studying.

When war broke out, despite knowing her life was in danger, she refused to leave their side.

After the German occupation of Hungary in 1944, she was taken to Auschwitz where she died at the age of 47.

Scottish holocaust hero Jane Haining (right) with Scottish Mission school colleagues (Church of Scotland)

Now a group of Christian and Jewish people have formed the Jane Haining Project to promote her legacy, and they are developing plans to launch a national essay writing competition in Scottish secondary schools, as well as a digital heritage trail app of notable places connected to the Church of Scotland missionary.

The Rev Ian Alexander, a Kirk minister and member of the project committee, said: “Jane Haining showed tremendous courage in the face of intolerable evil and her heart-breaking and inspirational story is as important today as ever.”

He added: “We hope that the exciting two core activities that are currently being developed will help keep her memory alive for generations to come.”

Miss Haining belonged to the small group of Holocaust victims who were given the choice to leave but, instead, decided to stay and risk her life to save children.

Jane Haining (back, second left) during a trip to Lake Balaton with some of the girls in her care (Church of Scotland)

After the German occupation there was no education activity in the school, but students in the Scottish Mission could still live in the girls’ home where they were more secure than with their families.

The missionary was arrested at the school by the Gestapo

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

The Jane Haining project emerged from the West of Scotland branch of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) after author, Mary Miller, gave a talk about her book, Jane Haining: A Life of Love and Courage.

The committee is made up of 10 members including Mrs Miller and is chaired by Professor Anne Anderson, former vice-principal of the University of Glasgow.

James Roberts, Christian programme manager with the CCJ, said the aim of the group was to bring people together.

“By refusing to be a bystander, she demonstrated her loving kindness, her sense of fairness, justice and solidarity and her contempt of discrimination in her refusal to treat her Jewish pupils as the other,” he said.

“In this light, the project aims to increase understanding, acceptance and kindness between individuals from different cultures and religious backgrounds and equip people to speak out against prejudice and take action to challenge antisemitism and discrimination.

“The Jane Haining Schools Competition will be centred around her inspirational life and accompanied by a suite of appropriate educational resources about the Holocaust and seeks to connect her story to contemporary issues.

“We are in the early stages of development and hope to work with a group of teachers in pilot schools to create the material which will also draw on expertise from Holocaust educators and people who know Miss Haining’s story.”

Miss Haining’s bravery led to her being posthumously awarded a Heroine of the Holocaust medal by the UK Government.

She is also the only Scot to be named Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel’s memorial to victims of the Holocaust.

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