The last surviving Soviet soldier involved in liberating the Auschwitz concentration camp has died aged 98 in a Munich hospital.
David Dushman was a young Red Army serviceman when he flattened the site’s electric fence with his tank on 27 January 1945.
More than a million people, mostly Jews sent there from all over Europe, had been murdered by the Nazis at the camp in Poland during the Second World War.
Image: David Dushman said there were ‘skeletons everywhere’ when they liberated the camp
In an interview many years later, he admitted he and his comrades did not immediately realise the full horror of what had happened in the camp.
“Skeletons everywhere,” he recalled in 2015.
“They stumbled out of the barracks, they sat and lay among the dead. Terrible.”
“We threw them all of our canned food and immediately drove on, to hunt fascists,” he told Munich newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
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Image: Jewish prisoners being selected for the gas chambers after coming off the train at Auschwitz
Mr Dushman had earlier taken part in some of the deadliest battles of the war, including in the cities of Stalingrad and Kursk.
He was seriously wounded three times but survived – one of just 69 soldiers in his 12,000-strong division.
After the war ended, he helped train the Soviet Union’s women’s national fencing team and survived the attack on the Munich Olympics.
Image: Mr Dushman at the Soviet memorial in Berlin in 2015
Later in life, Mr Dushman visited schools to educate pupils about the war and the Holocaust.
“Every witness to history who passes on is a loss, but saying farewell to David Dushman is particularly painful,” said Charlotte Knobloch, a former head of Germany’s central council of Jews.
“Dushman was right on the front lines when the National Socialists’ machinery of murder was destroyed.”
Along with other heroes of Auschwitz, Mr Dushman saved many lives, she said.
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach also paid tribute to him, praising his fencing skills.
Image: Mr Dushman was also a keen fencer and survived the attack on the Munich Olympics
Mr Bach recounted how as a young fencer for West Germany he was offered “friendship and counsel” by the veteran coach in 1970 “despite Mr Dushman’s personal experience with World War Two and Auschwitz, and he being a man of Jewish origin”.
“This was such a deep human gesture that I will never ever forget it,” Mr Bach added.
He died on Saturday and details on funeral arrangements were not immediately known.
Mr Dushman’s wife, Zoja, died several years ago.
Source : Sky News