The Guardian • Issue #1965

Auschwitz liberator dies at 98

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #1965

David Dushman, [one of] the last surviving Soviet soldier involved in the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, has died in Germany, aged 98.

The Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria reported on Sunday that Mr Dushman had died at a Munich hospital the previous day.

“Every witness to history who passes on is a loss, but saying farewell to David Dushman is particularly painful,” said Charlotte Knobloch, a former head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews.

“Dushman was right on the front lines when the National Socialists’ machinery of murder was destroyed.”

As a young Red Army soldier, Mr Dushman flattened the forbidding electric fence around the notorious Nazi death camp with his T-34 tank on January 27 1945.

He admitted that he and his comrades didn’t immediately realise the magnitude of what had happened in Auschwitz.

“Skeletons everywhere,” he recalled in a 2015 interview with Munich newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

“[Inmates] stumbled out of the barracks, they sat and lay among the dead. Terrible. We threw them all of our canned food and immediately drove on, to hunt fascists.”

More than a million people, most of them Jews deported there from all over Europe, were murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz-Birkenau between 1940 and 1945.

Mr Dushman had earlier taken part in some of the bloodiest military encounters of World War II, including the battles of Stalingrad and Kursk. He was badly wounded three times but survived the war — one of just 69 soldiers in his 12,000-strong division. […]

After the war, Mr Dushman helped train the Soviet Union’s women’s national fencing team for four decades, training some of the its most successful fencers, including 1976 Olympic gold medallist Valentina Sidorova, and continued to give lessons well into his nineties.

Mr Dushman lived in Austria for several years in the 1990s before relocating in 1996 to Munich. In Germany he visited schools to tell students about the war and the horrors of the Holocaust and also regularly dusted off his military medals to participate in veterans’ gatherings.

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