The Jewish communities in Munich and Upper Bavaria stated in a statement on their website that David Dushman was the last surviving soldier to help liberate Auschwitz-Birkenau. Passed away at the age of 98.
During World War II, Dushman, as a soldier in the Soviet Red Army, helped free the prisoners in the notorious Nazi concentration camps. Charlotte Knobloch, president of the local Jewish community, called Dushman “the hero of Auschwitz” and said in a statement that he had saved “countless lives.”
“The death of all contemporary witnesses is a loss, but the dismissal of David Dushman is particularly painful,” he said. “He is one of the last people who can tell about this incident based on his own experience.” Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp is located in Nazi-occupied Poland and is the largest concentration camp operated by the Hitler regime. More than 1.1 million men, women and children were systematically murdered there, many of them in gas chambers in concentration camps.
Approximately 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. In an interview at an apartment in Munich last year, Dushman told Reuters that his troops used tanks to break through the facility’s fence.
“We had not known that Auschwitz existed,” he said.
Dashman was only one of 69 of his 12,000 troops who survived the war, but he did not escape unscathed. According to Reuters, one of his lungs was removed after he was seriously injured.
After finishing his military career, Dushman became an international fencer and fencing coach. According to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), she was the best fencing player in the Soviet Union in 1951 and coached the Soviet women’s team from 1952 to 1988. Its fencers won two gold medals, two silver medals and three bronze medals at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics.
Thomas Bach, the German president of the International Olympic Committee and a former fencer, knows Dushmann personally. Bach said in a statement that he was “deeply saddened” by the news of 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. This was such a deep human gesture that I will never ever forget it,” Bach said.