David Dushman, the last surviving soldier to take part in the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in 1945, has died at the age of 98.
He died at a clinic in Munich on Friday night, the city’s IKG cultural community reported on Sunday, describing him as a liberating “Auschwitz hero”.
Dushman, a Red Army soldier who later became an international swordsman, used his Soviet T-34 tank to mow Auschwitz̵
“We hardly knew anything about Auschwitz,” he said in a 2015 interview with the daily Sueddeutsche. But he saw “skeletons everywhere.”
“They staggered from the barracks, sat down and lay down among the dead. Terrible. “We threw all our cans at them and immediately continued to hunt down the fascists,” he said.
It was only after the end of the war that he learned of the scale of the atrocities in the camp.
Of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, more than a million were killed in Auschwitz-Birkenau, most in its notorious gas chambers, along with tens of thousands more, including homosexuals, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war.
Dushman is one of 69 soldiers in his division who survived the war but suffered serious injuries.
However, he continued to be the best fencer in the Soviet Union and later one of the greatest fencing coaches in the world, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said in a brief statement.
IOC chief Thomas Bach expressed sadness over Dushman’s death. “When we met in 1970, he immediately offered me friendship and advice, despite Mr. Dushman’s personal experience with World War II and Auschwitz, and he was a man of Jewish descent,” said Bach, who is German.
“It was such a profound human gesture that I will never, ever forget it,” the IOC president added.
Four years ago, he still went to his fencing club almost every day to teach, the IOC said.