Book tells the full story of the woman whose heroism inspired Braes High film

A new book about the life of a Second World War Christian martyr whose story inspired a film made by Braes High pupils reveals her pivotal role in helping “many” Jews to escape certain death.

Jane Haining.

Jane Haining was a heroic Scots missionary who died in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland after the Nazis arrested her for working among Jews.

She was matron of the Scottish Mission Girls School in Budapest, Hungary, most of whose 400 pupils were Jewish, and spent 12 years there until she was betrayed and arrested in April, 1944.

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Last year a film a made by Braes High pupils was used to open a permanent heritage centre dedicated to her memory at Dunscore Parish Church in the Borders, where she was born.

Jane, pictured with some of her girls.

She forfeited her life, when she could easily have gone home, rather than abandon the Jewish girls in her care, but it is now clear she had also been doing everything in her power to help refugee Jews escape Nazi-occupied Europe by emigration.

Jane was betrayed by the Mission cook’s son-in-law, a future SS soldier called Schreder, who she caught stealing scarce food meant for the girls.

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

Jane is the only Scot to be officially recognised at Israel’s World Holocaust Remembrance Centre at Yad Vashem in Israel, and was honoured by the British government for “preserving life in the face of persecution”.

She is also remembered in a memorial in Budapest.

Fiona Malcolm, head of social subjects at Braes High, said last year of the heritage centre where the pupils’ film was to be shown: “It is important that young Scottish people learn about her story, which is one that I teach to third year pupils.

“Dunscore is a beautiful, peaceful place and it breaks my heart that Jane ended her days in the hellhole that was Auschwitz”.

Earlier this week the new book that tells Jane’s wartime story in great detail was launched in Glasgow.

Author Mary Miller wrote: “Jewish refugees from countries swallowed up by the Nazis were pouring into Budapest, still believing the situation of Jews to be less life-threatening in Hungary than in the surrounding countries.

“At Budapest, the appeals for assistance have been so numerous that queues lined up at the Mission building.

“Rev George Knight (Mission leader) wrote of ‘the new seriousness the present conditions induce’, and the Mission somehow stepped up its efforts to help.

“They believed by then that the only way to save the Jews was through emigration, and by February 1939 the Mission was putting on courses in farming, cattle breeding and other subjects to help refugees to get jobs abroad.

“Jane Haining taught domestic management and gave lectures on social life in Britain.

“George Knight commented that Jane Haining was an able teacher, many a housewife in Britain can testify who received into her home a refugee domestic servant from Hungary.’

“The Mission started a Servants Registry to assist with emigration.”

Rev Ian Alexander, Secretary of the World Mission Council of the Church of Scotland, said of the book: “Jane Haining’s story is heart-breaking, but also truly inspirational.

“Mary Miller has done a great service in the depth of research in this book, offering fresh insights into Jane’s upbringing and the formative influences which so prepared her for her life, witness and service to her God, her Church, and ‘her’ children in Budapest.

“Jane was a woman who was simultaneously ordinary and extraordinary.”

Jane Haining - A Life of Love and Courage is priced £14.99 and will be available from Birlinn Books from Thursday, and in other outlets.