Life of Scottish missionary who died in Auschwitz revealed
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Life of Scottish missionary who died in Auschwitz revealed

Jane Haining perished in the Nazi camp after being sent there for trying to protect Jews

Jane Haining

 (Photo credit: Church of Scotland/PA Wire)
Jane Haining (Photo credit: Church of Scotland/PA Wire)

The discovery of a handwritten will and more than 70 photographs has provided fresh insight into the life of a Scottish church missionary who died in Auschwitz during the Second World War.

The will of Jane Haining was found as part of a “priceless” church archive in Edinburgh, offering a glimpse into the life of the “Christian martyr” who died in 1944 at the age of 47.

Miss Haining, from Dumfriesshire, died in the notorious camp after refusing to leave the Jewish girls she was protecting at a church-run school in Budapest, Hungary.

She was arrested by two Gestapo officers in Budapest and charged with working amongst Jews, listening to news broadcasts on the BBC and sending British prisoners of war parcels.

She is the only Scot to be officially honoured at the Yad Vashem memorial in Israel for giving her life to help protect Jews during the Holocaust.

The material was discovered in a box at the Church of Scotland World Mission Council’s archive in Edinburgh.

Jane Haining (back second left) during a trip to Lake Balaton with some of the girls in her care (Photo credit : Church of Scotland/PA Wire )
Jane Haining (back second left) during a trip to Lake Balaton with some of the girls in her care (Photo credit : Church of Scotland/PA Wire )

The Rev Ian Alexander, secretary of the Council, said: “Jane Haining was a matron in the girl’s home of the Scottish Mission and her story is one of heroism and personal sacrifice.

“The most poignant discovery is her last will and testament which says ‘to be opened in the event of my death’ and dated July 1942.

“It states, in her own handwriting: ‘I, Jane Mathieson Haining, being in my right mind, do hereby with my own hand give directions for the disposal of my possessions in the event of my death.’

“She lays out what her legacies are to be and who is to receive her wireless, typewriter, fur coat and watches.

The handwritten will of Jane Haining, which along with more than 70 photographs has provided fresh insight into the missionary's life. (Photo credit : Church of Scotland/PA Wire)
The handwritten will of Jane Haining, which along with more than 70 photographs has provided fresh insight into the missionary’s life. (Photo credit : Church of Scotland/PA Wire)

“It is a wonderful document and tremendously exciting to have something that Jane Haining herself has written. It gives a sense she was fully aware of the risks she was taking.

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

The handwritten will of Jane Haining (Photo credit : Church of Scotland/PA Wire)
The handwritten will of Jane Haining (Photo credit : Church of Scotland/PA Wire)

Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “Whilst we were already aware of Jane Haining’s inspirational and brave actions, protecting the children in her care that ultimately led to her death, we are pleased that this important discovery has shed more light on this tragic episode.”

This weekend marks the 175th anniversary of the Church of Scotland Mission in Budapest, which was home to a sizeable middle-class Jewish population in the 1930s.

At least 1.1 million people died in Auschwitz, but the true circumstances behind Miss Haining’s death are unclear.

According to her death certificate, she died of “cachexia following intestinal catarrh”.

In 2010, she was awarded a Hero of the Holocaust medal by the UK Government.

The new archive material will soon be handed over to the National Library of Scotland.

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