The story of a Scottish missionary who died in Auschwitz because she stayed in Hungary to help Jewish schoolchildren is being used in the fight against neo-Nazis in Europe, writer Lynley Smith says.

Ms Smith, who grew up in Invercargill and attended the University of Otago, is pleased with the response to her book From Matron to Martyr, which is to be translated into Hungarian for publication in Hungary, where activists will use it as an education tool about the Holocaust.

She is touring New Zealand giving talks about the book, which tells the story of a distant relative Jane Haining.

A Church of Scotland missionary, Ms Haining was matron of a girls' school in Budapest.


When the church called its missionaries home to Scotland in 1940, Ms Haining refused, the only one who opted to stay in the country, which had sided with Germany.

"She said the children need me now more than they've ever needed me before.

"She was ordered home and she just dug her toes in and refused."

She was taken by the Gestapo in 1944, after Germany invaded because Hungary appeared ready to switch sides. She died in Auschwitz about four months after her arrest.

The school was also for non-Jewish children, but the proportion of Jewish girls grew as the Holocaust claimed their parents.

"Her love for those Jewish children was so much she was prepared to die for them."

Ms Smith, who is based in Snells Beach north of Auckland, visited Israel, Scotland, Hungary and Auschwitz to research the book. It was first published last year.

She visited Hungary in July when the book translation deal was agreed.


She was working with a Hungarian group which was using the story as part of education about the Holocaust. She would also like the story to be translated into German and Hebrew.

"All over Europe the right-wing nationalist parties are becoming quite strong again. They are neo-Nazi, so the whole thing is bubbling away again.

"Unless there's a healing of the nation this whole thing will repeat."