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Sunday, November 28, 2021

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

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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.

Mr. Dushman’s dying was confirmed in an announcement on Sunday by the Munich Jewish group group. No explanation for dying 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, mentioned within the assertion.

Mr. Dushman was a 21-year-old Purple 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 peering by way of the viewing slit of his tank and, even after years of bloody preventing, being shocked by what he witnessed.

“In every single place there have been skeletons. They stumbled from the barracks, sat and lay among the many useless,” he advised the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung in 2015. “It was horrifying. We threw all of our canned meals at them and drove on rapidly, 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 3 times. 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, nonetheless, that he started to understand what he had witnessed on the dying camp.

“To be trustworthy, we knew hardly something about Auschwitz,” he recalled.

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

A Russian Jew, Mr. Dushman and his household have been aware of anti-Semitism and state-sanctioned discrimination towards Jews within the Soviet Union.

Mr. Dushman’s delivery certificates mentioned that he was born in Minsk on April 1, 1923, however he maintained that his true native land 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 army 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.

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

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

He turned the top-ranked fencer within the Soviet Union in 1951 and went on to change into a coach on the elite Spartak Moscow sports activities membership from 1952 to 1988. He additionally coached the ladies’s nationwide staff of the Soviet Union in fencing. Effectively into his 90s, Mr. Dushman would take the subway to a Munich sports activities membership 3 times per week to fence.

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

Zoja died in 2011 at their house in Munich, the place they’d emigrated in 1996. No info on survivors was instantly out there.

On the 1972 Munich Olympics, his staff gained two golds, two silvers and three bronze medals. However the victories have been overshadowed by the assault on the Israeli staff, who have been housed throughout from the Soviets within the Olympic Village.

“We heard photographs and the thrill of helicopters above us,” he later recalled. “We and the entire different athletes have been outraged.”

A decade later, throughout 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 isn’t your fault,” he advised 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 Nineteen 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 overlook.”

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

“My largest dream and hope for future generations is to reside in a world the place there isn’t any battle,” Mr. Dushman mentioned throughout his go to. “I urge Thomas Bach and the IOC to do all the pieces they’ll to make use of sport as a method to unfold peace and reconciliation all over the world. Conflict is one thing that ought to by no means occur once more.”

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