May 1, 1945
Up to 2,500 people commit mass suicide to avoid the advancing Soviet troops and the rapes, tortures, and murders they brought
People in Demmin, Germany, were well aware of the atrocities the Soviet army were capable of; some were previous victims of the army. To avoid possibly horrific fates, they began committing suicide en masse.
Some mothers killed their children then themselves. Others wore bags filled with stones and walked into the river with their children in their arms. One man shot three young children, their mothers, his wife, and finally himself; he survived, though blind for life. One daughter cut the wrists of her parents.
There were reports of the attempted killings being unsuccessful: some mothers who poisoned their children survived the poisoning themselves, some children carried into water survived while their mothers did not. One girl was the only survivor of a family whose wrists were cut after their 13-year-old family member was raped to death by Soviets. Others were stopped by Soviet soldiers who were horrified by the massive suicides they were witnessing.
Only 900 bodies were buried in mass graves; bodies in the river were not recovered. Bodies were found floating in the river for weeks after the suicides, and clothing and other possessions from the dead washed up to the shore up to 6 feet wide.