This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
David Dushman, the last surviving Soviet soldier involved in the liberation of Auschwitz, has died, the AP reported.
He was 98.
Dushman flattened the fence around the Nazi death camp located in southern Poland with his tank on January 27, 1945 as Soviet forces moved westward toward Berlin.
The Nazis deported at least 1.3 million people to the Auschwitz complex between 1940 and 1945, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. About 1.1 million were murdered by the camp authorities.
As Soviet forces approached Auschwitz in January 1945, the Nazis began evacuating the camp complex, forcing 60,000 prisoners to march westward. There were about 7,000 prisoners ill and dying when Soviet forces finally arrived.
The Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria said on June 6 that Dushman had died at a Munich hospital on June 5.
“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.”
Following the war, Dushman pursued fencing becoming the Soviet champion of the combat sport in 1951. He later trained the Soviet women’s national fencing team with one of his students going on to win the gold medal in the 1976 Olympic Games.
Later in his life, Dushman visited schools to lecture children about the horrors of the Holocaust.
He gave a long interview shortly before his death about his war experience as well as his sporting career.