Edinburgh urged to honour Scottish missionary Jane Haining who died in Auschwitz
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Edinburgh is being urged to give official recognition to a Scottish missionary who died in Auschwitz after refusing to abandon the Jewish girls she was caring for.
Jane Haining was serving in Hungary as matron at the Scottish Mission School in Budapest when she was arrested by the Nazis and imprisoned for working among Jews, then sent to the concentration camp where she died working as slave labour.
She had rejected advice to return to Scotland when the Second World War broke out. She said: "If these children need me in days of sunshine, how much more do they need me in days of darkness?" Hungary had been neutral in the war and Jewish refugees from all over German-occupied Europe fled there to escape the Holocaust. But in March 1944, the Germans invaded Hungary and the SS began deporting Jews to Auschwitz. In April two Gestapo officers arrived at the mission and arrested Jane Haining. She died in Auschwitz in July 1944. A memorial service was held for her at St George’s West Church in Edinburgh’s Shandwick Place, on 28 September 1944.
There are several memorials to her – in Budapest where she served, in Dumfriesshire where she was born, and in Glasgow where she began work. And she is the only Scot to be named “Righteous Among the Nations” at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel's memorial to the six million victims of the Holocaust.
But now Edinburgh city council is being asked to agree to a memorial plaque outside St Stephen’s Church in the New Town, where a dedication service was held for Ms Haining on 19 June 1932, the day before she left Scotland for Hungary. She had recently completed her training at the city’s St Colm's Women's Missionary College.
Inverleith SNP councillor Vicky Nicolson has tabled a motion for the full council meeting on Thursday (9 February) calling for a small brass plate known as a “Stolpersteine” (Stumbling Stones) to be set in the pavement outside the church. Many similar memorials have been placed near the homes or other places associated with victims of the Nazi holocaust in several European countries.
Cllr Nicolson said: “Jane Haining has never been recognised in Edinburgh. Her dedication service happened in St Stephen’s Church and I think for us as a city it would be really wonderful to recognise that. It would be a marker and a reminder of the Holocaust and what that did to the world. Jane Haining was an incredible human being and for Edinburgh not to have recognised her yet is wrong. She went straight from that service, as a missionary, to Budapest where she looked after Jewish children and saved many lives.”
Edinburgh Central SNP MSP Angus Robertson also wants Jane Haining to be honoured in the Capital. Writing in today’s Evening News, he says: “Since her commemoration in Israel, there has been a growing awareness in Scotland of her heroic efforts to save Jewish lives and the ultimate sacrifice she paid for that. In Edinburgh, the city where she studied at the St Colm’s Women’s Missionary College and saw her mission dedicated there is no permanent commemoration to her remarkable life, love for the children under her charge and sacrifice. A 'Stolperstein' to her memory would be fitting, perhaps outside Edinburgh's St Stephen's Church, where her mission to help Jewish children was dedicated.”
Professor Joe Goldblatt, who chairs the Edinburgh Interfaith Association, is due to speak at the full council meeting as a deputation supporting the Stolpersteine motion.