David Dushman, the last surviving soldier who took part in the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in 1945 has died at the age of 98.
He died on Friday night in a Munich facility, according to the city’s Jewish IKG cultural group, who described him as a liberating “hero of Auschwitz.”
On the 27th of January, 1945, Dushman, a Red Army soldier who subsequently became an international fencer, used his T-34 Soviet tank to mow down the electric barrier of Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland, assisting in the liberation of the death camp’s victims.
Firsthand accounts provide unique insight into the Nazi death marches.
In a 2015 interview with Sueddeutsche, he reflected on that day, saying, “We hardly knew anything about Auschwitz.” He did, however, see “skeletons everywhere.”
“They staggered out of the barracks, sat, and lay among the dead. Terrible. We threw them all our canned food and immediately went on to hunt down the fascists,” he said.
He didn’t hear about the camp’s scale of horrors until after the war was over.
More than a million Jews were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau during the Holocaust, the majority in the camp’s infamous gas chambers, along with tens of thousands of others, including homosexuals, Roma, and Soviet prisoners of war.
Dushman was one of 69 troops in his division who lived to see the end of the war, although he was severely injured.
Despite this, he went on to become a top fencer in the Soviet Union and eventually one of the world’s finest fencing trainers, according to a statement released by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Thomas Bach, the IOC’s president, expressed sorrow for Dushman’s death. Despite Mr Dushman’s personal experience with World War II and Auschwitz, and his being a man of Jewish ancestry, when we met in 1970, he instantly gave me friendship and counsel,” Bach, who is German, stated.
“This was such a deep human gesture that I will never, ever forget it,” added the IOC president.
He was still giving classes practically every day at his fencing club there four years ago, according to the IOC.