Derry women discover heirlooms of heroic aunt who defied the Nazis and died in Auschwitz

Derry women discover heirlooms of heroic aunt who defied the Nazis and died in Auschwitz

The Derry-based nieces of a heroic Scottish woman who died in Auschwitz concentration camp have spoken of their pride after family heirlooms were revealed on the Antiques Roadshow at the weekend.

The ring and various other artefacts belonging to Jane Haining had been kept in a Church of Scotland storeroom in Edinburgh and only came to light last year.

The church authorities contacted Miss Haining’s two nieces in Derry, Deirdre McDowell and Jane McIvor - the daughters of Agnes O'Brien, Jane Haining’s half-sister.

Jane Haining died at the notorious camp in 1944, aged 47.

Her ‘crime’ had been caring for and providing safe haven to Jewish schoolgirls, many of who were orphans, at a church-run school in Budapest, Hungary.

Jane Haining's jewellery was analysed by expert John Benjamin for a special episode of the programme marking Holocaust Memorial Day.

Miss Haining's two nieces described their aunt as "courageous, very determined, considerate and kind".

Some two dozen members of her family, from England, Scotland and Ireland recently attended a Church of Scotland reception in Edinburgh to honour their aunt and also hear more about the artefacts.

Teh ring belonging to Jane Haining [Picture: Andy O'Brien] The ring belonging to Jane Haining [Picture: Andy O'Brien]
Jane Haining was arrested by the Nazis for looking after Jewish girls at the Scottish Mission School in Budapest, Hungary, which was run by the Church of Scotland.

Miss Haining’s handwritten will, a copy of the last letter she wrote and photographs, also featured on the programme.

Taking part was an emotional experience for the two sisters from Derry. They grew up hearing stories about their aunt who was held in huge esteem in the family’s history.

Mrs McDowell told the BBC: "She followed the Christian example by looking after and caring for vulnerable children. Our family is honoured and humbled by Jane's actions.

"Her story is an example to us all and must continue to be told to benefit the next generation because the world should never forget the Holocaust."

Jane McIvor, the BBC's Fiona Bruce , Deirdre McDowell Jan(Left-right) e McIvor, the BBC's Fiona Bruce, Deirdre McDowell [Picture: Church of Scotland]
In a break from tradition, the BBC decided not to put a value on the artefacts.

Reflecting on the occasion, Mrs McIvor siad: "It was a very moving day and a great honour to be here amongst people who have tremendous stories of courage and resilience.

"Jane was an amazing woman and did such tremendous work at the Scottish Mission in Budapest.

As with so many of the millions who died in the concentration camps, the exact cause of Jane’s death is unknown.

Her death certificate states that she died of an infection, but that would have been standard practice by the Nazis.

It is estimated that some 1.1million people died at Auschwitz  - those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labor, infectious diseases, individual executions, and medical experiments.

Miss Haining was posthumously named as Righteous Among the Nations in Jerusalem's sacred Yad Vashem in 1997 and awarded a Hero of the Holocaust medal by the UK Government in 2010.

Jane Haining, who perished in Auschwitz [Picture: Church of Scotland] Jane Haining, who perished in Auschwitz [Picture: Church of Scotland]