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  • Writer's pictureKenneth Gibson MSP


Born in Dumfires in 1897, Jane Haining excelled in her studies, graduating as Dumfries Academy school dux before working in Paisley’s renowned J and P Coates thread mill.

A member of the Free Church of Scotland, Jane was deeply religious and, following a talk by the Chair of the Jewish Mission Committee, declared to a friend: “I have found my lifework!”

Jane qualified as a missionary on 19 June 1932 and left for Budapest the very next day, seven months before Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. She lived in the mission and took responsibility for 400 predominantly Jewish girls aged 6 to 16.

Jane was on holiday in Cornwall when war finally broke in 1939, but she immediately returned to “be with her girls.” In 1940 when advised to return to Scotland for her own safety, she paid no heed.

By 1941 Jewish refugees from across Europe began arriving in Hungary fleeing persecution. In 1944 the Nazis invaded the country and – under the direction of Adolf Eichmann – began deporting Jews to Auschwitz.

During this time, Jane continued working and caring for the girls of the mission, saying: “If these children need me in the days of sunshine, how much more do they need me in the days of darkness?”

She was eventually denounced by the mission cook’s son-in-law and arrested by the Gestapo. Among the charges levelled against her was the accusation that she had “wept while sewing yellow stars on the girls” – something she readily admitted to her captors.

Jane was deported to Auschwitz on 15 May 1944, tattooed with serial number 79467 and ‘selected for work’. She died only three months later, having succumbed to starvation and the appalling camp conditions.

Little was known about the ‘Final Solution’ or the horrors of Auschwitz when Jane was taken there – with a Church of Scotland report at the time merely noting that she had been “taken to a detention camp for women at Auschwitz in Upper Silesia.”

Only after the liberation of Europe and the concentration camps was the scale of the genocide understood – as well as the role Jane played in protecting ‘her girls’ from it.

In 1997, Yad Vashem, Israel's official Holocaust memorial, recognised Jane as ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ – an honour awarded to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Her name is inscribed on a wall of honour in the Garden of the Righteous in Jerusalem.

On Holocaust Memorial Day, we remember the six million Jewish men, women and children by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. We also remember people like Jane who instinctively resisted violence and hatred to protect those who could not protect themselves.


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