BERLIN — David Dushman, who as a soldier for the Soviet Union drove his tank via the electrical fence surrounding the Nazi demise 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 demise was confirmed in an announcement on Sunday by the Munich Jewish group group. No reason for demise 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 Purple Military soldier when he drove his T-34 into the excessive, electrical barbed-wire fence surrounding the Auschwitz demise camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Approaching the camp, he recalled peering via 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 informed the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung in 2015. “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 3 times. He stated he was one among 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 demise camp.
“To be trustworthy, we knew hardly something about Auschwitz,” he recalled.
Greater than 1.1 million males, ladies 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 in opposition to Jews within the Soviet Union.
Mr. Dushman’s beginning certificates stated that he was born in Minsk on April 1, 1923, however he maintained that his true fatherland was the port metropolis of Danzig, now Gdansk in Poland. He stated his mom, Bonislava, modified the placement for political causes.
His father, Alexander, a health care provider 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 medication in Moscow, out of affection for his mom, a pediatrician who needed 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 grew to become 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 crew 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 married to his spouse Zoja Petrova in 1956 and the couple emigrated to Munich in 1996, after a quick keep in Austria. Zoja died in 2011 and the couple’s solely son, Sergei Petrov, died of lung most cancers in 2017.
Mr. Dushman is survived by two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, all within the larger Munich space. He stated he additionally got here to think about the younger individuals he coached as household.
On the 1972 Munich Olympics, his crew gained two golds, two silvers and three bronze medals. However the victories have been overshadowed by the assault on the Israeli crew, who have been housed throughout from the Soviets within the Olympic Village.
“We heard pictures and the excitement of helicopters above us,” he later recalled. “We and the entire different athletes have been outraged.”
A decade later, in the course of 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’s not your fault,” he informed 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 overlook.”
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 greatest dream and hope for future generations is to reside in a world the place there is no such thing as a battle,” Mr. Dushman stated throughout his go to. “I urge Thomas Bach and the IOC to do every part they will to make use of sport as a method to unfold peace and reconciliation world wide. Battle is one thing that ought to by no means occur once more.”