David Dushman, Soviet Soldier Who Helped Liberate Auschwitz, Dies at 98

BERLIN — David Dushman, who as a soldier for the Soviet Union drove his tank by the electrical fence surrounding the Nazi loss of life camp at Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 1945, and is believed to have been the final surviving liberator of the camp, died in Munich on Saturday. He was 98.

Mr. Dushman’s loss of life was confirmed in a press release on Sunday by the Munich Jewish neighborhood group. No reason behind loss of life was given.

“Every witness to history who leaves us is a loss, but parting with David Dushman is particularly painful,” Charlotte Knobloch, president of the group, mentioned within the assertion.

Mr. Dushman was a 21-year-old Red Army soldier when he drove his T-34 into the excessive, electrical barbed-wire fence surrounding the Auschwitz loss of life camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Approaching the camp, he recalled peering by the viewing slit of his tank and, even after years of bloody combating, being shocked by what he witnessed.

“Everywhere there were skeletons. They stumbled from the barracks, sat and lay among the dead,” he informed the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung in 2015. “It was horrifying. We threw all of our canned food at them and drove on quickly, to keep chasing the fascists.”

By the time Mr. Dushman reached Auschwitz, he had already survived two of the battle’s bloodiest battles on the jap entrance, at Stalingrad and Kursk. By battle’s finish he had been wounded thrice. He mentioned he was certainly one of solely 69 males from the 12,000 in his division to outlive.

It was solely after the battle, nevertheless, that he started to grasp what he had witnessed at the loss of life camp.

“To be honest, we knew hardly anything about Auschwitz,” he recalled.

More than 1.1 million males, girls and youngsters had been murdered within the camp, which was arrange in 1940 within the suburbs of Oswiecim, a Polish city that was annexed by the Nazis. More than 6 million Jews had been murdered within the Holocaust.

A Russian Jew, Mr. Dushman and his household had been acquainted with anti-Semitism and state-sanctioned discrimination towards Jews within the Soviet Union.

Mr. Dushman’s beginning certificates mentioned that he was born in Minsk on April 1, 1923, however he maintained that his true place of origin was the port metropolis of Danzig, now Gdansk in Poland. He mentioned his mom, Bonislava, modified the situation for political causes.

His father, Alexander, a physician within the Soviet navy and hero of the Revolution, fell out of favor with Joseph Stalin, the Soviet chief, and was banished in 1938 to a gulag in Siberia. He died there in 1949.

Mr. Dushman was a 21-year-old tank driver within the Soviet military when he drove by the electrical barbed-wire fence surrounding Auschwitz in 1945.Credit…Auschwitz Memorial and Museum, through Shutterstock

After the battle Mr. Dushman studied medication in Moscow, out of affection for his mom, a pediatrician who wished her son to hold on the household’s custom of doctoring.

But his ardour was fencing, and after his research, Mr. Dushman devoted himself to the game.

He grew to become the top-ranked fencer within the Soviet Union in 1951 and went on to turn out to be a coach at the elite Spartak Moscow sports activities membership from 1952 to 1988. He additionally coached the ladies’s nationwide crew of the Soviet Union in fencing. Well into his 90s, Mr. Dushman would take the subway to a Munich sports activities membership thrice every week to fence.

He was married to his spouse Zoja for 60 years, and because the couple by no means had youngsters, he mentioned he got here to contemplate the younger folks he coached as household.

Zoja died in 2011 at their dwelling in Munich, the place that they had emigrated in 1996. No data on survivors was instantly obtainable.

At the 1972 Munich Olympics, his crew gained two golds, two silvers and three bronze medals. But the victories had been overshadowed by the assault on the Israeli crew, who had been housed throughout from the Soviets within the Olympic Village.

“We heard shots and the buzz of helicopters above us,” he later recalled. “We and all of the other athletes were outraged.”

A decade later, through the fencing world championship, the foil of a German fencer broke, fatally stabbing his Soviet opponent within the eye. When the German athlete, Matthias Behr, broke down in sobs of horror, it was Mr. Dushman who rushed to his facet with phrases of consolation.

“It is not your fault,” he informed Mr. Behr. “An accident like this was planned by God.”

When Thomas Bach, now president of the International Olympic Committee, was himself a junior fencer for West Germany within the 1970s, he recalled Mr. Dushman befriending him and providing him pointers, which he recalled in a press release as “a deep human gesture that I will never ever forget.”

In 2015 Mr. Bach invited the previous coach to the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, the place Mr. Dushman made an attraction to the committee to advertise sport as a path to peace.

“My biggest dream and hope for future generations is to live in a world where there is no war,” Mr. Dushman mentioned throughout his go to. “I urge Thomas Bach and the IOC to do everything they can to use sport as a way to spread peace and reconciliation around the world. War is something that should never happen again.”