By Cameron Brooks
A new group has been established to promote the “living legacy” of a Scot who gave her life to protect Jewish school girls during the Holocaust.
The Jane Haining Project was formed by a cohort of Christian and Jewish people who believe that her story is very relevant today in light of growing levels of antisemitism, racism, and intolerance.
It is developing plans with public agencies to launch a national essay writing competition in Scottish secondary schools and a digital heritage trail app of notable places connected to the Church of Scotland missionary who died in Auschwitz and the Jewish community.
Speaking ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, Rev Ian Alexander, a Kirk minister and member of the project committee, said: “Jane Haining showed tremendous courage in the face of intolerable evil and her heart-breaking and inspirational story is as important today as ever.
“We hope that the exciting two core activities that are currently being developed will help keep her memory alive for generations to come.”
Miss Haining was the matron at the Scottish Mission School in Budapest, Hungary, and refused to abandon “her girls” after the Second World War broke out in 1939 even though she knew her life was in danger.
She was determined to continue doing her duty and famously said ‘If these children need me in days of sunshine, how much more do they need me in days of darkness?’
The farmer’s daughter from the village of Dunscore in Dumfries and Galloway started working at the school in 1932 and was eventually arrested in 1944 and taken to Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland where she died at the age of 47.
The Jane Haining project emerged from the West of Scotland branch of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) after author Mary Miller gave a talk about her book, Jane Haining: A Life of Love and Courage.
The committee is made up of 10 members including Mrs Miller and is chaired by Professor Anne Anderson, former vice-principal of the University of Glasgow.
James Roberts, Christian Programme Manager with CCJ, is supporting the group and said the primary objective is to bring people together.
“Jane Haining’s story is one that young people can identify with and it evokes a strong emotional response,” he added.
“By refusing to be a bystander, she demonstrated her loving kindness, her sense of fairness, justice and solidarity and her contempt of discrimination in her refusal to treat her Jewish pupils as ‘the other’,” he explained.
“In this light, the project aims to increase understanding, acceptance and kindness between individuals from different cultures and religious backgrounds and equip people to speak out against prejudice and take action to challenge antisemitism and discrimination.
“The Jane Haining Schools Competition will be centred around her inspirational life and accompanied by a suite of appropriate educational resources about the Holocaust and seeks to connect her story to contemporary issues.
“We are in the early stages of development and hope to work with a group of teachers in pilot schools to create the material which will also draw on expertise from Holocaust educators and people who know Miss Haining’s story.”
Mr Roberts said the Jane Haining Project would like to publish the winning essays, create online video blogs and encourage schools across Scotland to share them as well as discuss the missionary’s story and legacy at assemblies.
“We hope we can work towards having the resources embedded in the national curriculum because Holocaust education is not compulsory in Scotland whereas it is in England,” he added.
In addition to Dunscore, Jane Haining has links to Dumfries, Glasgow and Paisley and Mr Roberts said a heritage trail would allow people to connect with her story in a meaningful and tangible way in addition to learning about Scotland’s Jewish heritage.
Miss Haining’s selfless bravery led to her being posthumously awarded a Heroine of the Holocaust medal by the UK Government. She is the only Scot to be named Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel’s memorial to victims of the Holocaust.
Her life is celebrated at Dunscore Church and Queen’s Park Govanhill Church in Glasgow – the church she attended while living in the city prior to her move to Budapest. Last year, a new residential street in Loanhead, Midlothian was named “Haining Park” in her memory.