Jane Haining: Scottish Missionary Hero Who Died in Auschwitz Revealed

A newly discovered document has revealed further information on the life of Jane Haining, a Christian missionary from Scotland who risked her life to protect hundreds of Jewish school girls during the Holocaust. She was later sent to Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi concentration camp in occupied Poland, because of her efforts to save lives. Jane Haining has been called “Scotland’s Schindler.”

One of the documents found is a handwritten will belonging to Haining. The will was found in a Church of Scotland archives attic in Edinburgh, Scotland. Old photos of Jane and her students were discovered, as well as documents detailing efforts to get her released from the Nazi death camp.

The contents of Haining’s will bequeaths money, as well as her wireless, a typewriter, a fur coat, and watches, reports the Guardian. The will also gives a sense that Jane was aware of the risks to her own life in her work. Told at one point during the war by Church of Scotland officials to come back to Scotland, Haining replied that she would continue to do her duty and stick to her post. The will she wrote was dated July, 1942.

Jane Haining was born in the United Kingdom in 1897. She grew up on a farm, later working for the Church of Scotland. In the early 1930s, Haining moved to Budapest, Hungary, and worked at a Church-run school. Many of the students at the school were girls from the large Jewish population in the city. A large proportion of the pupils were also orphans. In 1940, one year after the Second World War broke out in Europe, Jane was ordered by the Church to return but she refused.

During her time in Hungary, Haining reportedly went to the local market at 5 a.m. on most days to buy food for the girls. As well, Jane eventually cut up most of her leather luggage so she could repair the worn out shoes of the children. Until 1944, Hungary remained independent but allied to Nazi Germany. During this time Jews lost most of their civil rights, jobs, and social position. But they were spared the destruction occurring in most of the rest of Europe.

Told to return two more times, Haining refused both instructions. Nazi troops finally entered Budapest in March, 1944. Under Gestapo orders, Jane helped the Jewish girls sew yellow stars on their clothes. She is said to have wept as she sewed on the imposed symbols.

Within weeks of Nazi occupation, the Christian missionary was arrested and given 15 minutes to gather her belongings. Jane Haining was charged with eight separate offenses, including “working among the Jews,” and “listening to news broadcasts on the BBC,” according to CNN. She was likely betrayed to the Nazis by the school cook’s son-in-law, who Jane once reprimanded for eating rationed food intended for the schoolgirls.

By May, 1944, Haining was an inmate at Auschwitz, in the same camp as some of her Jewish students. By that time, up to 12,000 Hungarian Jews were being transported to Auschwitz daily, most of them sent straight to their deaths in gas chambers. Haining was considered a political prisoner and would have been forced to do hard labor, the BBC noted. According to her death certificate dated August, 1944, Jane Haining died from a wasting of her body following intestinal catarrh. She was 47-years-old. More than one million people were killed in the Auschwitz concentration camp before it was liberated by the Russian army in January, 1945.

The documents belonging to Jane Haining were found by chance. They were discovered in an attic, by researchers who were preparing for an exhibition in Budapest to mark the 175th anniversary of the Church of Scotland mission there.

Jane Haining has been given an honor at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel for her efforts to save lives. Jane was also given a posthumous medal by the UK government in 2010.

[Featured Photo by Alik Keplicz/AP Photo]

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