David Mundell will lead a Holocaust memorial march in Budapest this weekend in honour of a Scottish missionary who died protecting her Hungarian Jewish pupils.
The Secretary of State for Scotland will be among thousands of participants in the torchlit March of the Living, an annual event in Hungary which commemorates the more than 500,000 Jews from the country who were killed by the Nazis.
This year’s march will honour Jane Haining, a teacher at the Scottish Mission School in Budapest during the Second World War.
She helped women to flee the growing Nazi threat by helping them find jobs as domestic servants.
Miss Haining, originally from Dunscore in Dumfriesshire, was eventually arrested by the Gestapo in 1944 and taken to the Auschwitz Birkenau extermination camp where she later died.
READ MORE: Scottish heroine helped women flee the Nazis
Ahead of the march on Sunday, Mr Mundell will visit the Jane Haining memorial and heritage centre in her birthplace of Dunscore, near Dumfries.
Mr Mundell said: “It is a huge honour, and a great privilege, to be asked to lead the March of the Living to mark Hungary’s Holocaust Memorial Day. I am very proud that the 2019 march will remember Scottish missionary Jane Haining.
“An extraordinary, brave and selfless woman, Jane Haining sacrificed herself to protect Jewish schoolgirls in Budapest during the Second World War. Her unwavering devotion saw her lose her life in Auschwitz 75 years ago, aged just 47. She is a hero of which all of Scotland, Hungary and the world can be proud.
“The Holocaust was undoubtedly one of the darkest times in human history, but the courage and personal sacrifice of individuals like Jane Haining give us hope for the future.”
A cairn in Jane Haining’s memory stands outside Dunscore Parish Church, and a memorial to her life was opened inside the Church in January 2018. It features photographs, letters, documents and other personal effects relating to the missionary.
While in Budapest Mr Mundell also plans to visit the Dohány Street Synagogue, and join worshippers at the St Columba’s Church of Scotland, which is adjacent to the site of the former Scottish Mission school where Miss Haining worked.
Speaking ahead of the Secretary of State’s visit, the Rev. Aaron Stevens, Minister of St Columba’s Church of Scotland in Budapest, said: “Jane Haining’s service and sacrifice shows that caring for people from different backgrounds in no way compromises our faith. In fact, it just might be the fullest expression of it.
“Since I’ve had a chance to hear women share their childhood memories of the Scottish Mission, I treasure every opportunity to pass on those stories.
“As an English-speaking church in Budapest with an international congregation, it is natural for us to be involved in outreach among refugees. Compassion and hospitality is in our church’s DNA.”