Scot and wife who survived Auschwitz share 71st Valentine's Day

A survivor of Auschwitz and the Scots commando who helped save her are today celebrating their 71st Valentine's Day together.

John Mackay and Edith MacKay. Picture: Wullie Marr
John Mackay and Edith MacKay. Picture: Wullie Marr

John Mackay, 96, rescued a column of Jewish prisoners from their Nazi guards as they marched from Auschwitz to another concentration camp towards the end of the Second World War.

Among the rescued prisoners was a young Hungarian Jew called Edith, now 92. John and Edith met at dance organised by troops shortly afterwards at a village hall. They married, moved to Scotland, had a family and now live together in a care home in Dundee.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The devoted couple, who celebrated their first Valentine’s Day in 1946, still refer to each other as “sweetheart” and say their advice to couples is to be romantic all year round - not just on 14 February.

The couple aged 20 and 23. Picture: Wullie Marr

Edith and her mother survived the horrors of Auschwitz and were being marched by the Nazis to another camp further from the rapidly-advancing Allied armies. Weak through lack of food, the pair also faced the ever-present threat of summary execution. Their chances of surviving to the end of the war were slim. But John and his unit ran into the column and took care of all the prisoners.

John, whose own wartime exploits included escaping from an Italian prisoner of war camp, later spotted Edith at the dance but was too shy to approach her.

He sent a over a friend to ask her if she would dance with him, but Edith insisted if he wanted a dance he must ask her himself, so he did. They married on the 17 July 1946 and had two children, Sharon and Peter.

Pamela Shaw, of Balcarres Care Home, where the pair now live, said: “John is a true gentleman. He is always checking in to make sure Edith is happy and the pair still refer to each other as ‘sweetheart’ on a daily basis.

The couple aged 20 and 23. Picture: Wullie Marr

“Their devotion to one another is clear to anyone who spends even a short time in their company.”