A Scottish woman worked in Budapest and died in Auschwitz

December 12, 2013 by David Zwartz
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An intriguing and inspiring story of a Scottish woman who died in Auschwitz because of dedication to her work at a Jewish girls’ home and school in Budapest was unfolded at a meeting in Wellington’s Myers Hall this week, sponsored by the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand.

At the Wellington launch of “From matron to martyr” – (from left) Steven Sedley, founding chairman of the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand, who survived the Nazi occupation as a child in the Budapest ghetto; Klara Szentirmay, Honorary Consul-General of Hungary in New Zealand; Lynley Smith, author; Teddy Poplinger, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Israel in Wellington. [Photo: Anna Chapman]

At the Wellington launch of “From matron to martyr” – (from left) Steven Sedley, founding chairman of the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand, who survived the Nazi occupation as a child in the Budapest ghetto; Klara Szentirmay, Honorary Consul-General of Hungary in New Zealand; Lynley Smith, author; Teddy Poplinger, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Israel in Wellington. [Photo: Anna Chapman]

Lynley Smith, author of the book “From matron to martyr,” told the audience about the life story of Jane Haining, born in a small Scottish village in 1897, and how she became matron at the Church of Scotland Mission in Budapest in 1932. As war approached and Hungary became increasingly anti-Jewish, the work at the girls’ home became harder – made much worse when Hungary joined the Axis in 1941.

Jane refused to return home when war was declared in 1939, and after Nazi Germany invaded Hungary in 1944 she was arrested by the Gestapo on trumped-up charges, but probably because of her work for the Jewish girls in the home. She was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau – where she was tattooed with a number as a political prisoner – and died in July 1944. She has been named by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Among the Nations.

The book is written in the form of a fictional diary. Lynley Smith, a journalist and distant relative of Jane Haining, told of her own personal journey of discovery as the facts became known to her. Other speakers were Ms Klara Szentirmay, Honorary Consul-General of Hungary in New Zealand, and the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Israel, Mr Teddy Poplinger.

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