Scots 'Schindler' Jane Haining honoured at last for trying to save Jewish orphans

Share this article

THE woman who became known as the "Scottish Schindler" after the Second World War is to receive a posthumous British honour this week following a campaign by The Scotsman to win recognition for her heroic actions.

• One of the few surviving photographs of Jane Haining

Jane Haining probably died in 1944 in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau, where she was taken by the Nazis after she refused to abandon dozens of Jewish orphans in her care in Hungary.

The courage and sacrifice of the missionary from Dumfries was recognised in 1999 by Israel, where she is one of the British heroes of the Holocaust commemorated at Yad Vashem, where her name is inscribed on the memorial near that of the German industrialist Oscar Schindler.

Schindler saved nearly 1,200 Jews by employing them in his ammunition and enamelware factory. The story was made famous in the Steven Spielberg film Schindler's List. However, until this week there was no formal recognition in Britain for Ms Haining or the other Britons who gave or risked their lives to save Jews in the war, apart from a plaque.

The Scotsman launched a campaign last year to win formal recognition for Ms Haining, supporting one being run by the Holocaust Education Trust, which organises trips to Auschwitz and wanted posthumous damehoods and knighthoods for her and her fellow heroes.

The Scotsman has learned that Prime Minister Gordon Brown will tomorrow meet relatives of the heroes, including Ms Haining's niece, Deirdre McDowell, who lives in Northern Ireland, at a reception in Downing Street.

It is understood the relatives will receive a medal commissioned for Holocaust heroes, and there is also discussion of a permanent memorial.

Russell Brown, Labour MP for Dumfries and Galloway, whose constituency includes Ms Haining's birthplace, said: "The bravery of Jane Haining and the other Holocaust heroes should inspire future generations to come. We should all be proud of what they did and the sacrifices they made, and it is good news that they are finally to be properly honoured."

Ms Haining left her Dumfries home in 1932 to work as a Church of Scotland missionary in Hungary. At the outbreak of the war she ignored orders and advice to return to Scotland.

Her half-sister, Nan O'Brien, recalled when she made a pilgrimage to Auschwitz in 2000. "It was no surprise she refused to come back when war was declared," she said. "She would never have had a moment's happiness if she had come home and left the children."

When Germany occupied Budapest in 1944, the Nazis ordered Ms Haining to leave and she refused. The act led to her death in the gas chamber.

Ms Haining is now commemorated by a plaque in her honour at the Kirk of Dunscore, where she worshipped.

Ms Haining will not be the only Scot recognised for her bravery in trying to help the Jews.

Tommy Noble, who was a prisoner-of-war, was among a group who found a Jewish girl, Sarah Hannah Rigler (ne Matuson), who had escaped from a death march. They hid and fed her in camp and saved her life.