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 way of the electrical fence surrounding the Nazi dying 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.
His dying was confirmed in an announcement on Sunday by the Munich Jewish group group. No trigger was given.
“Each witness to historical past who leaves us is a loss, however parting with David Dushman is especially painful,” Charlotte Knobloch, president of the group, stated within the assertion.
Mr. Dushman was a 21-year-old Pink Military soldier when he drove his T-34 into the excessive, electrical barbed-wire fence surrounding the Auschwitz dying camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Approaching the camp, he recalled, he peered by way of the viewing slit of his tank and was shocked by what he noticed.
“In all places there have been skeletons,” he instructed the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung in 2015. “They stumbled from the barracks, sat and lay among the many lifeless. It was horrifying. We threw all of our canned meals at them and drove on shortly, to maintain chasing the fascists.”
By the point Mr. Dushman reached Auschwitz, he had already survived two of the battle’s bloodiest battles on the japanese entrance, at Stalingrad and Kursk. By battle’s finish he had been wounded thrice. He stated he was certainly one of solely 69 males from the 12,000 in his division to outlive.
It was solely after the battle, nonetheless, that he started to grasp what he had witnessed at the camp. “To be sincere, we knew hardly something about Auschwitz,” he stated.
Greater than 1.1 million males, ladies and kids had been murdered within the camp, which was arrange in 1940 within the suburbs of Oswiecim, a Polish city that had been annexed by Nazi Germany. Greater than 6 million Jews had been murdered within the Holocaust.
A Russian Jew, Mr. Dushman and his household had been aware of anti-Semitism and state-sanctioned discrimination in opposition to Jews within the Soviet Union.
His start certificates stated he was born in Minsk on April 1, 1923, however he maintained that his true hometown was the port metropolis of Danzig, now Gdansk, in Poland. He stated his mom, Bonislava, modified the situation for political causes.
His father, Alexander, a health care provider within the Soviet army and a 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.
After the battle Mr. Dushman studied drugs in Moscow, out of affection for his mom, a pediatrician who had wished her son to hold on the household’s custom of doctoring.
However his ardour was fencing, and after his research, he devoted himself to the game.
Mr. Dushman grew to become the top-ranked fencer within the Soviet Union in 1951 and went on to develop into a coach at the elite Spartak Moscow sports activities membership from 1952 to 1988. He additionally coached the ladies’s Soviet nationwide crew in fencing. Nicely into his 90s, he would take the subway to a Munich sports activities membership thrice every week to fence.
He married Zoja Petrova in 1956, and so they emigrated to Munich in 1996, after a quick keep in Austria. His spouse died in 2011, and the couple’s solely son, Sergei, died of lung most cancers in 2017.
Mr. Dushman is survived by two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He stated he had come to contemplate the younger folks he coached as household as nicely.
On the 1972 Munich Olympics, his fencing crew gained two gold, two silver and three bronze medals. However the victories had been overshadowed by the terrorists’ assault on the Israeli crew, who had been housed throughout from the Soviet athletes within the Olympic Village.
“We heard pictures and the excitement of helicopters above us,” he recalled. “We and all the different athletes had been outraged.”
A decade later, through the fencing world championship, the foil of a German fencer broke and his Soviet opponent was fatally stabbed within the eye. When the German athlete, Matthias Behr, broke down in sobs of horror, it was Mr. Dushman who rushed to his aspect with phrases of consolation.
“It’s not your fault,” he instructed Mr. Behr. “An accident like this was deliberate by God.”
When Thomas Bach, now president of the Worldwide Olympic Committee, was himself a junior fencer for West Germany within the Seventies, he recalled Mr. Dushman befriending him and providing him pointers, which he recalled in an announcement as “a deep human gesture that I’ll by no means ever neglect.”
In 2015, Mr. Bach invited Mr. Dushman 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 greatest dream and hope for future generations is to reside in a world the place there isn’t any battle,” he stated throughout his go to. “I urge Thomas Bach and the IOC to do every thing they will to make use of sport as a strategy to unfold peace and reconciliation around the globe. Conflict is one thing that ought to by no means occur once more.”
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