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Living legacy of Church of Scotland missionary who died in Auschwitz

by Donna Birrell

A Church of Scotland missionary who gave her life to protect Jewish schoolgirls during the Holocaust is being commemorated.

The Jane Haining project emerged from the West of Scotland branch of the Council of Christians and Jews and is highlighting the story of the Scottish Mission school matron in Hungary who refused to abandon her pupils after war broke out in 1939.

She was determined to continue doing her duty and famously said: 'If these children need me in days of sunshine, how much more do they need me in days of darkness?’

Jane Haining was taken to Auschwitz where she died in 1944 at the age of 47.

The project believes her story is very relevant today in the light of growing levels of antisemitism, racism, and intolerance.

It’s now launching an essay writing competition in Scottish secondary schools and a digital heritage trail app of notable places connected to the Church of Scotland missionary and the Jewish community.

James Roberts, Christian Programme Manager with the Council for Christians and Jews has been speaking to Premier about the project.

“Jane’s history is so remarkable and so inspirational, that we want to use it to encourage similar ideals and virtues in our society today. 

“What are the ideals, which Jane Haining promotes, which we can think about in our society today? Ideals like solidarity, refusing to be a bystander, and standing up for justice and loving kindness.

“I really think she is an inspiration for people today. Things like anti-semitism, racism, intolerance are still prevalent in our society today.

"We still need to make the same sort of commitments that Jane did for her students, to people who are different to us.”

Reverend 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.

"We hope that the exciting two core activities that are currently being developed will help keep her memory alive for generations to come."

The farmer's daughter from the village of Dunscore in Dumfries and Galloway started working at the Scottish Mission School in Hungary in 1932 and was eventually arrested in 1944 and taken to Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland where she died at the age of 47.

James Roberts said: "Jane Haining’s story is one that young people can identify with and it evokes a strong emotional response.

"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'." 

"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. “

Mr Roberts said the Jane Haining Project would like to publish the winning essays, create online video blogs and encourage schools across Scotland to share them as well as discuss the missionary's story and legacy at assemblies.

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

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

More information about the project and the competition can be found at

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