As Holocaust Memorial Day approaches, Prime Minister Gordon Brown remembers Charles Coward and Jane Haining, examples of incredibly brave men and women who were not Jews yet were moved to take incredible risks to help people they had never met escape from the Nazi slaughter.
Jane Haining trained as a missionary in Glasgow in the late 1920s. In 1932 she was appointed matron of a girls’ home attached to the Church of Scotland Jewish Mission in Budapest, with 400 girls in her charge. In a letter home she wrote of “one nice little mite, who is an orphan and is coming to school the first time. She seems to be a lonely wee soul and needs lots of love. We shall see what we can do to make life a little happier for her.”
When war broke out and many of her missionary colleagues were recalled, she chose to return to Budapest from leave in Scotland. She wrote home that if the children she looked after had needed her “in the days of sunshine”, they needed her more “in the days of darkness”. In 1944, the arrival of Adolf Eichmann brought new and unimaginable darkness to Budapest.
Jane Haining defied Nazi orders that all remaining Scottish missionaries leave the country and, as Eichmann organised the mass deportation of Jews to Poland, she was arrested by the Gestapo and charged with “Working among Jews”. Included in the evidence against her was that she was seen weeping while sewing on her girls’ uniforms the yellow Star of David. She was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, tattooed with the number 79467, and in August 1944 went to the gas chamber.
The Church of Scotland said of her: “Typical of all that is best in the Scottish tradition of missionary service, she gave the best years of her life to enhancing that tradition, and at the last gave life itself.”
• Full story at the Daily Telegraph.