On 27 January 1945, the Red Army arrived at the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau to liberate the camp. Since 2005, this date has been remembered as International Holocaust Remembrance Day and every year, ceremonies mark the anniversary across Europe and the wider world.
Throughout these seventy-eight years survivors of the camp have spoken out about their experience and the need for remembrance. They have retold and recreated the most painful of memories and have done so with great dignity. They have taken school children by the hand and looked world leaders in the eye and they have pricked the conscience of the world again and again as they spoke of the unspeakable. They have done so in the name of those who did not survive.
Many of these survivors are now elderly and a high percentage have died since the last major anniversary. It is now up to others to tell the stories of those who died and those who survived but who are no longer here to speak for themselves.
This then is a fitting date on which to remember the life of Jane Haining, a remarkable Scots woman who died in Auschwitz just a few months before the liberation of the camp. Recognised in 1997 as Righteous Amongst the Nations for her part in protecting Jewish school children and their families, Jane Haining was born and raised a country girl in Dunscore, Dumfriesshire. She trained as a Church of Scotland missionary and was posted to Budapest as matron to the Church of Scotland School there. Against all advice, she refused to leave when the war drew closer to the city. She knew that the children needed her ‘in their darkest hour’ and she fought to keep them out of the camps. She made the ultimate sacrifice. She herself was eventually charged with working amongst Jews and was taken to Auschwitz where she died aged 47.