Jane Haining to be commemorated in Holocaust Memorial Center
Published on 12 August, 2017
A Scot who died in Auschwitz is to be officially honoured in her adopted city 73 years after her death.
Jane Haining will be the focus of a new exhibition in the Holocaust Memorial Centre in Budapest, Hungary.
Spokesman Zoltan Toth-Heinemann said the Church of Scotland missionary, who refused to return home and gave up her life to protect Jewish school girls during the Second World War, was a “unique and important” figure.
But he admitted that the general telling of her story in Budapest had been “neglected” for too long.
Mr Toth-Heinemann said he was determined to ensure that as many people as possible learn about the Scottish Mission boarding school matron, who was posthumously honoured by the UK Government for “preserving life in the face of persecution.”
Miss Haining, who grew up in Dunscore near Dumfries, was arrested and eventually taken to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1944 where she died at the age of 47.
Mr Toth-Heinemann and his colleague Dr Gabor Maklari visited Scotland this week to seek inspiration for the temporary exhibition, which is going on show in the autumn.
They visited Dunscore Parish Church, the National Library of Scotland and Queen’s Park Church in Glasgow, where the missionary worshipped before moving to Budapest in 1932.
Mr Toth-Heinemann 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.
Mr Toth-Heinemann said the exhibition will help ensure that her memory is kept alive and “illustrate her heroism" to visitors.
“The primary objective will be the education of young people so they can learn that sometimes it is important to make a sacrifice,” he added.
“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.”
A small exhibition about Jane Haining is on display in St Columba’s Church of Scotland in Budapest and in the school next door where she used to work.
Mr Toth-Heinemann said: “It is incredible to be in Dunscore to see where Jane grew up.
“I could not imagine the beauty of this place and would say that part of her strength came from the calmness and peacefulness of this area.”
Fiona Malcolm, Faculty Head of Social Subjects at Braes High School in Polmont near Falkirk, said Jane Haining was a Scot whose story is one of “courage and sacrifice”.
“It is important that young Scottish people learn about her story, which is one that I teach to third year pupils.
“I am just back from an annual teacher training course organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
“It was a privilege to see Jane Haining’s name in the Garden of Remembrance there.
“Dunscore is a beautiful, peaceful place and it breaks my heart that Jane ended her days in the hellhole that was Auschwitz.”
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 Second World War but Jane declined, writing 'if these children need me in days of sunshine, how much more do they need me in days of darkness’".
A heritage centre, which will in part tell the story of Miss Haining, is being created inside Dunscore Parish Church, which has a memorial cairn in her memory nearby.
Matthew Aitken, a member 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.”