FRAGMENTS | Twilight Symphony: The Final Performance
Following Germany's defeat, Berlin and its surroundings were engulfed by a widespread wave of suicides. This somber phenomenon extended beyond high-ranking officials of the regime, as ordinary citizens grappled with the inability to accept the defeat or feared falling into the hands of the allied forces. In April 1945, a staggering 3,881 cases of suicide were officially recorded in Berlin, although it was widely believed to be an underestimation, representing a twenty-fold increase compared to the previous month.
Photographs: Kurt Lisso, the Nazi treasurer of Leipzig, who took his own life alongside his family, clutching a Nazi party identification card near his elbow, just before American soldiers entered the city.
The family's suicide was documented by two female photographers: Lee Miller, who had a background in fashion photography and was covering the war for Vogue, and Margaret Bourke-White, an experienced war photographer renowned for her keen observational skills.
The contrasting photographic approaches employed by Miller and Bourke-White are readily apparent. Bourke-White aimed to establish a sense of detachment between herself and the subjects, intentionally distancing herself and even physically moving away from the gallery floor. On the other hand, Miller opted to get closer to the scene, capturing the daughter's lifeless body with the artistic sophistication and allure that a fashion photographer is capable of producing.
On April 12, 1945, as World War II neared its conclusion, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra held its final performance. The event was organized by Albert Speer, who held the position of Minister of Armaments and War Production in Nazi Germany. During this poignant occasion, the Berlin Philharmonic delivered a rendition of Wagner's "Götterdämmerung" (Twilight of the Gods).
Simultaneously, members of the active Hitler Youth distributed potassium cyanide tablets to the audience. These tablets were intended to provide a means for individuals to take their own lives without having to confront any consequences.