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  • MichelleMedenblik

FRAGMENTS | Two Takes on Suicide

With the defeat of Germany, a widespread wave of suicides hit Berlin and spread beyond it. Not only top officials of the regime put an end to their lives, but also ordinary citizens who had difficulty accepting the defeat or were afraid of falling into the hands of the allies. In April 1945, 3,881 suicide cases were registered in Berlin (and even that was considered to be an underestimation), twenty times more than the previous month.

In the pictures: Kurt Lisso, the Nazi treasurer of the city of Leipzig, committed suicide together with his family, holding a Nazi party ID card close to his elbow, before American soldiers entered the city.

Two female photographers documented the family's suicide. Lee Miller, previously a fashion photographer who was covering the war for Vogue, and Margaret Bourke-White, an experienced war photographer known for her meticulously observant eye.

The differences in the photographic approach are clearly visible. While Margaret Bourke-White sought to create distance between herself and the photographed subject, and even moved away from the gallery floor, Lee Miller chose to get closer and document the daughter's body with all the glamor that a fashion photographer can produce.

April 12 1945, The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra organized its last performance as the end of World War II approached. Albert Speer, who served as the Minister of Armaments and War Production in Nazi Germany, organized the event. The Berlin Philharmonic performed Wagner's "Götterdämmerung" - Twilight of the Gods. At the same time, active members of the Hitler Youth distributed potassium cyanide tablets to the audience, so that they could commit suicide without having to face any consequences.
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