Last of Soviet soldiers who liberated Auschwitz dies at 98

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FILE - In this Friday, May 8, 2015 file photo, Soviet war veteran David Dushman, 92, center, speaks to people holding Ukrainian flags as he attends a wreath laying ceremony at the Russian War Memorial in the Tiergarten district of Berlin, Germany. Dushman, the last surviving Allied soldier involved in the liberation of Auschwitz, has died. The Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria said Sunday, June 6, 2021 that Dushman had died a day earlier in a Munich hospital at the age of 98. As young Red Army soldier, Dushman flattened the forbidding fence around the notorious Nazi death camp with his tank on Jan. 27, 1945. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

BERLIN – David Dushman, the last surviving Soviet soldier involved in the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, has died. He was 98.

The Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria said Sunday that Dushman had died at a Munich hospital on Saturday.

“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.”

As a young Red Army soldier, Dushman flattened the forbidding electric fence around the notorious Nazi death camp with his T-34 tank on Jan. 27, 1945.

He admitted that he and his comrades didn't immediately realize the full magnitude of what had happened in Auschwitz.

“Skeletons everywhere,” he recalled in a 2015 interview with Munich newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung. “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.”

More than a million people, most of them Jews deported there from all over Europe, were murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz-Birkenau between 1940 and 1945.

Dushman earlier took part in some of the bloodiest military encounters of World War II, including the battles of Stalingrad and Kursk. He was seriously wounded three times but survived the war, one of just 69 soldiers in his 12,000-strong division.