Scot who refused to abandon schoolgirls to the Nazis honoured with new plaques

A Scottish missionary who was murdered by the Nazis after caring for Jewish schoolgirls in Budapest has been honoured with new memorials in her adopted city, the Church of Scotland has announced.

Jane Haining, who grew up on a farm near Dunscore in Dumfriesshire, worked as a matron at the Scottish Mission School in the Hungarian capital from 1932 to 1944, before being arrested on charges that included working among Jews, and weeping when seeing girls attend class wearing yellow stars.

On May 14 1944, the 47-year-old was transported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in occupied Poland where she is likely to have been forced to undertake slave labour before dying on July 17 1944.

Jane Haining
Jane Haining (Church of Scotland/PA)

At a ceremony last Thursday, exactly 80 years after she was arrested, two memorials were unveiled outside St Columba’s Church of Scotland in Budapest where the school was located: a “Stolperstein” or brass plaque embedded in the pavement, and a plaque commemorating Ms Haining and school headteacher Margit Prem.

The Rev Ian Alexander, who leads on international partnerships for the church, said: “We are delighted that a new plaque and stolperstein has been unveiled outside the church in honour of Jane Haining and her friend and colleague Margit Prem.

“Both women showed tremendous courage in the face of intolerable evil during a dark period of history.

“Miss Haining was fully aware of the risks she was taking but repeatedly refused to leave Budapest and return home to Scotland as the war engulfed Europe.

A piper at the ceremony in Budapest (Barta Balint/Church of Scotland/PA)

“She was determined to continue doing her duty and stick to her post, saying ‘If these children need me in days of sunshine, how much more do they need me in days of darkness?’

“Miss Haining was simultaneously an ordinary and extraordinary woman and her inspirational story is one of heroism, personal sacrifice and heartbreak, reminding us that when we feel powerless, there is always something that we can do.”

The ceremony was attended by three of the school’s former pupils, along with a rabbi and deputy mayor Szilvia Benedikta Temesvari, who gave a speech highlighting the injustice of the crimes with which Ms Haining was charged, and the importance of tolerance.

The Rev Aaron Stevens, minister of St Columba’s Church of Scotland, said: “There are other plaques to Jane Haining in the world (and) there is a bust commemorating Margit Prem and a park named after her, but this is only memorial to the two of them together.

Holocaust heroine Jane Haining
A Heroine of the Holocaust medal awarded to Jane Haining (Church of Scotland/PA)

“When the Scottish Mission School opened here, Margit Prem was the principal of the school.

“Later, when they took Jane Haining away, it was the end of an era for that school which was closed.

“They were friends, together they made the school what it was, and in many ways both of them dedicated their lives to this school.”

There are more than 75,000 Stolpersteine memorials across Europe outside the homes of, or places associated with, victims of the Nazi Holocaust.

Ms Haining’s bravery in protecting the children in her care previously saw her awarded a Heroine of the Holocaust medal by the UK Government.

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