The poignant last words of a church missionary who died in Auschwitz after refusing to leave Jewish girls in her care have been revealed.
Jane Haining told sobbing pupils at the Church of Scotland-run school in Budapest, Hungary, “Don’t worry, I’ll be back by lunch” as she was led away by the Gestapo.
Within an hour of her arrest, her pupils were all dispersed, hidden and given new names as staff feared for their safety.
Their protector died in the concentration camp in 1944 aged 47.
Survivor Agnes Rostas, 80, joined eight other former pupils at memorial events held in the Scottish Mission in Budapest last weekend and recalled her matron’s last words.
She was among a group of distraught primary school children who looked on as secret police searched Miss Haining’s office and charged her with working among Jews, listening to news broadcasts on the BBC and sending British prisoners of war parcels.
The missionary was betrayed by the school cook’s son-in-law, whom she caught eating scarce food intended for the pupils.
Mrs Rostas said: “On the morning of that day, German officers were visiting Miss Haining and from our bedroom window across the hall we could see her room.
“After hours of questioning we could see that the two officers were taking her away and as they were going down one set of stairs, we hurried to another set to follow them down.
“We were sitting at the foot of the stairs crying and she looked back and said to us ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be back by lunch’.
“That was the last time I saw her and I found out 40 years later she had died in Auschwitz.”
Another pupil, Judit Beck, now 87, was taken to the same concentration camp and was the only family member to survive.
The former pupils recalled Miss Haining made sure they did not have to wear clothes with the Star of David on them, marking them as Jewish, inside the school and cried when she had to sew the symbols on.
The missionary from Dumfriesshire 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.
A group of 26 Church of Scotland ministers and members were in the Hungarian capital last weekend to commemorate her extraordinary bravery to mark the 175th anniversary of the Scottish Mission in Budapest.
Rev Iain Cunningham, convener of the World Mission Council, said: “Meeting former pupils who knew her in person and hearing their stories first hand has been deeply moving.”
The visit follows the discovery of Miss Haining’s handwritten will and more than 70 photographs in at the World Mission Council’s archive in Edinburgh.