Two and a half hours north of Berlin, there is a small town called Demmin with a population of around 12,000 people. The first time I visited there was a Saturday. After stepping off the train it seemed like a normal little town, and even reminded me a bit of home: there was someone picking blackberries, teenagers were drinking in the park, a band was playing music in the forest, there was a local ice cream shop but it was closed.
On May 1st 1945 in the space of one day, approximately 1,000 people commited suicide in Demmin. The suicides occurred during a mass panic that was provoked by propaganda which glorified suicide over defeat, and by atrocities committed by soldiers of the Soviet Red Army, who had sacked the town the day before. Although death toll estimates vary, it is acknowlegded to the be largest mass suicide ever recorded in Germany, and was part of a mass suicide wave amongst the German population at the time.