Jane Haining was born in Dunscore, Dumfriesshire, on the 6th of June 1897. At the end of the First World War, she came to Glasgow and joined Queen’s Park West Parish Church and lost no time in harnessing her gifts and energies for the work of the church. She became an enthusiastic monitor in the Band of Hope and gave notable service to the Sunday School as a teacher and in due course as its Secretary.
But having received the call to missionary service she resolved to undertake training to that end. She resigned from a lucrative post as Secretary with J. & P. Coats, took a Diploma at Glasgow School of Domestic Science and for a time worked as a Matron in a Radium Institute in Manchester. Through an advertisement in Life and Work she learned of the need for a Matron of the Girls’ Home of the Jewish Mission Station at Budapest. Despite the fact that she had no knowledge of the Hungarian language, she was appointed to the post and, in June 1932, after training at St Colm’s College in Edinburgh, she was dedicated for missionary service and set out for Budapest.
Jane visited Scotland in 1935 and 1939, bringing with her a more than proficient understanding of Hungarian and a great love for her work — caring for Jewish girls. She returned to Hungary for the last time shortly after Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland. Twice she was urgently requested to return home, but she refused. ‘If the children needed her in peace-time,’ wrote her sister, ‘they had much more need of her in war-time and she would never have had a moment’s happiness if she had come home and left them.’
Life in Budapest became increasingly difficult, with a variety of restrictions placed upon Jane and her work. Finally, in May 1944, she was arrested by the Gestapo and detained in the prison at Fő utca. Efforts were made to secure her release without avail.
Finally, without any semblance of a trial, she was cast into the extermination camp at Auschwitz where on 17 July she died of starvation.
Her former minister, Rev J. L. Craig said in tribute,
No one can assess the value of her wholehearted service of love. That is God’s secret. but of this we can be sure—she must have made a lasting impression upon the hearts and minds of the girls who came under her influence; and they in their turn will transmit to others something of what they received from her; and so through successive generations the effect of her work will be felt.
The Report to the 1945 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland said ‘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 last gave life itself.’ The Kirk Session Minute of 12 September 1944, records, ‘Her work in Budapest was of the highest order and her faithful and devoted service in the Sabbath School of Queen’s Park West Church and in Renwick Mission will be long and worthily remembered.’
The Kirk Session resolved that there should be some form of permanent memorial and in due course the two stained glass windows in the vestibule were commissioned, installed and dedicated in June 1948 by Mr Craig. Truly Jane Haining wrote a proud chapter in the history of Queen’s Park Govanhill Parish Church.
We have recently (February 2020) received parts of an exhibition which follows Jane’s life from her membership here to her death in the Auschwitz concentration camp. This will be displayed in our church for a currently unknown amount of time. However it is worth while coming to see for a glimpse into Jane’s life and into our relative recent history.
- Antiques Roadshow sheds new light on ring belonging to Jane Haining (BBC News, 16 January 2017)
- Scottish teacher killed in Auschwitz is remembered by her students (The Guardian, 22 September 2016)
- Heroism of Scottish missionary who died in Auschwitz revealed in new documents (CNN, 14 September 2016)
- Jane Haining: The Scot who died in Auschwitz (BBC News, 30 November 2014)
- Jane’s hope lives on (Glasgow Local News, 1 April 2012)
- Holocaust heroine Jane Haining honoured by PM (BBC News, 9 March 2010)
- Jane Haning, Scotland’s Schindler (The Independent, 21 December 2008)