The last liberator of Auschwitz who was still alive has died. The Russian-born Jew David Dushman died at the age of 98 in a hospital in his hometown Munich.
On 27 January 1945, Dushman drove a Soviet tank through the fences of the German extermination camp in the part of Poland annexed by Germany. Completely unprepared for what he and his buddies found, because they didn‘t know about the existence of the camp.
In an interview with Reuters last year, he had to restrain his tears when he described the exiled prisoners he found. “There they stood, all in prison clothes, only eyes, only eyes. It was very terrible, very terrible.”
Before that, he had already fought against the Germans at Stalingrad. After Auschwitz, his unit was ordered to proceed to Berlin. He was one of the 69 soldiers of a 12,000 strong tank division who survived World War II.
It didn’t matter much or he didn‘t make it to the end of the war either. An injury made him miss part of a lung. That didn’t stop him from becoming a professional fencer. Took him a while before he was in condition. “At first I could not even walk, because I got out of breath,” he said in the interview. I came up with my own exercises. Gradually, very slowly, I reached the moment in 1951 when I was champion of Russia.”
Later he became a screen coach. As a coach of the fencing women of the Soviet Union, he witnessed the hostage situation of eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team by the Palestinian PLO at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Eleven Israelis and a German policeman were killed.
After the fall of the Wall, Dushman left for the West. He lived in Munich since 1996. Russian President Putin sent him congratulations every year on May 9, the day Russia celebrates the victory over Nazi Germany.