Thursday, 26 April 2018

UNISON Auschwitz study tour

UNISON activists are embarking on a study tour to Auschwitz to raise awareness of the atrocities of the Holocaust and also to honour Jane Haining – the only Scottish woman known to have died in the concentration camp.

The tour – which will be undertaken by UNISON representatives from across Scotland – is part of the union’s ongoing work to educate members, and the wider community to ensure these events are never forgotten.

Mark Ferguson, branch secretary of UNISON Renfrewshire and a member of UNISON’s international committee, said:  "Today we begin learning about the atrocities of the holocaust visiting Schindlers Factory, Ghetto, Synagogue, Pharmacy, the square where many were gathered prior to being taken to the death camps and a candle vigil at Plaizstow Camp Memorial.

"Our guide Magda explained the very varied complicated political situation and governance of both Poland and Krakow. Krakow's architecture and arts were largely unaffected during the Nazis 3rd Reich occupation as the mainly gothic style of the city was admired by them. Other cities like Warsaw were completed destroyed."

The delegation visited market square, St Mary's Basilica, University and Wawel Castle (The Castle on the Hill).

The study group includes Jane Haining’s niece, Dierdre McDowall. During the study tour, a memorial service will be held in Birkenau, where Dierdre and her husband will take part in a wreath laying ceremony. The study tour also includes Lorraine Cameron, Renfrewshire Provost.

Those on the tour recently visited the community of Dunscore (near Dumfries, Scotland) and the newly opened heritage centre which commemorates Jane Haining and the community of Dunscore.

Mark Ferguson, branch secretary of UNISON Renfrewshire and a member of UNISON’s international committee, said: “Observing first-hand the atrocities that took place instils a responsibility on us all to ensure future generations do not repeat these murderous acts.

“We’re honoured to have representatives of Jane Haining’s family joining us and helping us to commemorate her selfless bravery. We must never forget that the Holocaust was a state programme designed to destroy particular groups and we must remember all those affected.

“This educational tour is part of UNISON’s ongoing work to educate activists and the wider community and to raise awareness of the disastrous consequences that can result from dehumanising a particular group and infringing their rights.”

Dierdre McDowell said: “I am full of awe at the prospect of visiting Auschwitz and seeing Block 9 where Jane Haining was held before her death.

“To be able to visit with a group who have connections with her work at Coats of Paisley and, who are helping keep her memory alive is amazing for us, her family.”

Renfrewshire Provost Lorraine Cameron – who is also going on the tour said: “Jane Haining worked in Paisley for over 10 years prior to her humanitarian work in Budapest. We know she was a valued employee and a valued member of the Paisley community, and it’s great to see her being remembered and celebrated.

“I am looking forward to meeting Jane’s niece, and hearing more about her and her work in the mission. It is very important that we remember, and talk about, the atrocities that took place during the Holocaust – and other world conflicts – so we can continue to engage and educate our young people and avoid horrors like this in the future.”

Jane Haining was born in Dunscore in 1897 and, after leaving Dumfries Academy, she worked for ten years at the JP Coats thread factory in Paisley. She went on to become a Church of Scotland missionary at the Scottish Mission School in Budapest during the 1930s and 1940s. When war broke out, despite advice from church officials, she repeatedly refused to return home saying the children needed her in the “days of darkness”. She was arrested by two Gestapo officers in 1944 and later died at the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp.

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