Death of the battle tank hero – 11/06/2021 – Jaime Spitzcovsky

The calendar said January 27, 1945, and in the midst of the attack, Soviet soldier David Dushman didn’t hesitate. At the controls of a T-34, he launched the tank against the electrified fence of the Auschwitz extermination camp, the main cog in the Nazi death machine.

The intrepid action of the young soldier, then 21, precipitated the dismantling of a tragic scenario, the extermination of an estimated 1.1 million people, more than 90% of whom were Jews. The destruction of the fence paved the way for the invasion of soldiers of the 60th Army, the first witnesses to the horrors of Auschwitz.

David Alexandrovich Dushman, of Jewish origin, died on the 5th, at the age of 98. After going through the Great Patriotic War, as the Russians refer to the conflict against the Hitlerites, the army with more than 40 decorations devoted itself to the wielding of the sword and to lectures on the Holocaust, in order to fight the negative views aimed at erasing the atrocities of Nazism.

Dushman divided the last decades of his life between Austria and Germany. He died in Munich, his home since 1996, and where he witnessed, at the 1972 Olympics, the terrorist attack responsible for the murder of 11 Israeli athletes. At the time, the ex-soldier was a coach of the Soviet fencing team.

A volunteer early in his career in the Red Army, Dushman was wounded in combat on three occasions and participated in the battles of Stalingrad and Kursk. And he reported that of the 12,000 members of his division, only 69 survived.

When I lived in Moscow between 1990 and 1994, as a correspondent for Folha, I once interviewed General Vassily Petrenko, one of the commanders of the offensive against Auschwitz. After the journalistic contact, we formed a strong friendship and I began to visit him frequently.

Over lunches loaded with Russian cuisine, we invaded the afternoons talking about the eventful transition to the post-Soviet era and the remnants of war. My host’s address indicated an area inhabited by veterans of the Red Army: Praça da Vitória, 1.

Petrenko died in 2003, at the age of 91. Like Dushman, he devoted a significant part of his life, after leaving his uniform, to fighting the threat of neo-Nazism and fascism, with the publication of books, interviews and lectures.

In his speeches, Petrenko underlined the role of General Pavel Kurotchkin, commander of the 60th Army, and responsible, without waiting for the green light from Moscow, to accelerate the advance of Soviet troops towards Auschwitz, in order to stop the massacre.

Lieutenant Ivan Martynushkin, 21, also took part in the January 1945 offensive. And, like his comrades Dushman and Petrenko, he launched into action to denounce and record the atrocities committed by Nazism.

In an interview with Spiegel International last year, Martynushkin recounted the experience of January 1945, on the eve of liberation, when he saw Auschwitz. “Our first thought was that it must be a military base. It was already dark and we did not move forward, ”he recalls. “The next morning our first task was to survey the area, and while we were doing that we saw people moving behind the fence. At first we were worried, but we noticed that they were waving to us. It was then that we understood: they are prisoners ”.

At a time of the worldwide advance of hate speech, revisionisms and historical falsifications, it is even more important to amplify the educational and political actions of Dushman, Petrenko and Martynushkin. It is a requirement of the 21st century.

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