The last surviving soldier who helped liberate Nazi death camp Auschwitz has died at the age of 98.
David Dushman was just 21 when he tore down the electric fence with a tank on January 27, 1945.
He later described in harrowing detail the sight that had met him at the camp, where an estimated 1.1 million people, the majority of them Jews, were murdered.
Mr Dushman, who was a Red Army soldier and later competed for the Soviet Union as a fencer, was branded a “hero” as his death was announced yesterday.
Charlotte Knobloch, leader of the Jewish community of Munich and Upper Bavaria, said in a statement that he had saved “countless lives.”
She said: “Every contemporary witness who passes away is a loss, but the farewell of David Dushman is particularly painful.
“He was one of the last who could tell about this event from his own experience.”
In an interview with Reuters last year, Mr Dushman said: “When we arrived we saw the fence and these unfortunate people, we broke through the fence with our tanks. We gave food to the prisoners and continued .
“They were standing there, all of them in [prisoner] uniforms, only eyes, only eyes, very narrow – that was very terrible, very terrible.”
He told newspaper Sueddeutsche in 2015 that he had hardly known anything about the death camp before liberating it, but said he saw “skeletons everywhere”.
He said: “They staggered out of the barracks, sat and lay among the dead. Terrible.
“We threw them all our canned food and immediately went on to hunt down the fascists,” he said.
Thomas Bach, the German head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) also paid tribute to Mr Dushman, who became one of the world’s greatest fencing coaches.
He said: “When we met in 1970, he immediately offered me friendship and counsel, despite Mr Dushman’s personal experience with world war two and Auschwitz, and he being a man of Jewish origin.
“This was such a deep human gesture that I will never, ever forget it.”
The IOC said he only stopped giving fencing lessons four years ago.