David Dushman, the last survivor soldier who took part in the liberation of Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in Poland, has died at the age of 98. He was the last living witness to the horrors of Auschwitz outside of the survivors.
On 27 January 1945, Dushman, a soldier in the Red Army, used his T-34 Soviet tank to mow down the electric fence of Auschwitz and free the Jewish prisoners inside.
“We hardly knew anything about Auschwitz,” he said. But he saw “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.”
Only after the end of the war did he learn about the scale of the atrocities in the camp.
Dushman, who was Jewish, became an international fencer following his time in the military and won medals in the Olympics. He later became a fencing coach, trainer other Olympians. In the 1990s he lived in Austria before relocating to Munich, Germany where he lived until his death.
International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach voiced sadness about Dushman’s death.
“When we met in 1970, he immediately offered me friendship and counsel, despite Mr Dushman’s personal experience with World War II and Auschwitz, and he being a man of Jewish origin,” said Bach, who is German.
“This was such a deep human gesture that I will never ever forget it,” added the IOC president.