Touching tribute to Paisley worker and holocaust hero Jane Haining unveiled

Memorial unveiled to Jane Haining in Budapest
Memorial unveiled to Jane Haining in Budapest -Credit:Barta Bálint/Church of Scotland

Heroic Jane Haining, who refused to abandon Jewish schoolgirls in her care and died in Auschwitz, has been honoured in her adopted city.

The former J and P Coats Ltd employee worked in Paisley for 10 years of her life before going to Budapest, where she was matron of a boarding house for Jewish and Christian girls in a school run by the Scottish Mission to the Jews.

A brass Stolpersteine in memory of Jane – the only Scot to die in Auschwitz – has been embedded in the pavement at the entrance of St Columba’s Church of Scotland in the Hungarian capital.

And a plaque in commemoration of the Scottish Mission School matron and the headteacher, Margit Prem, has been erected on an exterior wall of the building on Vorosmarty.

It is the first time that the two friends and allies against the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust have been jointly honoured in public.

Members of the congregation, former pupils who knew Miss Haining, a Rabbi and a deputy mayor attended the unveiling ceremony on April 25.

A Church of Scotland spokesperson said: “It was a very significant date because it was on that day exactly 80 years ago that Miss Haining was arrested at the school, which was attached to the church, by German officers and taken away.

“She was betrayed by the cook’s son-in-law whom she caught eating scarce food intended for the girls.

“Former pupil Agnes Rostas, who witnessed the incident, revealed that her haunting last words to sobbing children were ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be back by lunch’.”

In or around 1940, after the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the Church of Scotland advised missionaries to return to Britain – but Jane decided to stay in Hungary, believing that her children needed her more than ever.

Germany eventually invaded Hungary in 1944 and the Schutzstaffel (SS) began arranging the deportation of the country’s Jews to Auschwitz.

Jane Haining
Jane Haining -Credit:Barta Bálint/Church of Scotland

Gestapo officers arrived at Jane’s door to arrest her. Eight charges were laid against her, including working among Jews, visiting British prisoners of war and listening to the BBC.

She was subsequently deported to Auschwitz where she became prisoner number 79467 and was forced into hard labour.

Jane died two months after arriving at the concentration camp. Her death is believed to be the result of starvation and the terrible conditions in the camp.

Jane was born at Lochenhead Farm in Dunscore, Dumfriesshire in 1897.

She moved to Paisley in 1917 until when she was described as a valued member of the community, She worked in Paisley for thread manufacturer J and P Coats Ltd; first as a clerk, then as secretary to the private secretary. She moved in Budapest in 1932.

The World Holocaust Remembrance Center (WHRC) says Jane was “loved and respected by the students as well as her colleagues who regarded her as the best matron they had ever known”.

Last year, as reported in the Paisley Daily Express, trade unionists from Renfrewshire, accompanied by surviving members of Jane’s family, visited Auschwitz for a wreath-laying ceremony at the tragic site in Poland where Adolf Hitler’s forces murdered more than 1.1 million people between 1940 and 1945.

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