VIDEO: Scottish Holocaust heroine’s relatives meet for first time

Relatives of a Kirk missionary who sacrificed herself to protect Jewish schoolgirls during the Holocaust have attended a special reunion to view her handwritten will.

Jane Haining died in Auschwitz in 1944 aged 47 after refusing to leave those in her care.

She is the only Scot to be officially honoured at the Yad Vashem memorial in Israel.

Her will was recently discovered, along with photographs, a ring and letters.

To give relatives the chance to see the documents and memorabilia, the moderator of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly, the Right Rev Dr Russell Barr, hosted an afternoon tea.

Among those who attended was Joyce Greenlees, 59, from Cumbernauld, whose grandfather was Miss Haining’s cousin.

The children and grandchildren of the missionary’s late half sister Agnes O’Brien were also there.

Before the get together, neither side of the family knew the other existed.

Retired primary school teacher Mrs Greenlees said she was so proud and pleased to meet the others.

She added: “Jane Haining was a very brave lady who was totally selfless and I think it is very important that everyone knows her story because we can learn lessons from the fact she deeply cared about all people, regardless of religious belief.”

Ms Haining served as a boarding house matron in the Scottish Mission at St Columba’s Church of Scotland in Budapest.

Many of the 315 students at its predominantly Christian school were Jewish and had been rejected by other institutions.

Despite being under surveillance, she managed to keep the children safe for four long years of hardship.

But she was eventually betrayed by the cook’s son-in-law after she caught him eating scarce food intended for the girls.

As she was dragged away by the Gestapo, she stoically told them: “Don’t worry, I’ll be back by lunch.”

Agnes’ son Rob O’Brien, a retired marine surveyor from Northern Ireland, also spoke of his pride for his aunt.

He said: “Jane was a person of very deep religious faith and a woman of great resolve and determination.

“She had no desire to be a heroine, all she wanted to do was live out her faith and care for children.

“She had love for everybody and I think that is a great example to us all.”

Farmer’s daughter Miss Haining, who grew up in Dumfriesshire, was on holiday in Cornwall when war broke out in 1939 but immediately returned to Budapest.

She was repeatedly ordered by the church to return to Scotland, but refused, writing: “If these children need me in days of sunshine, how much more do they need me in days of darkness?”

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