mass Suicde
Soviet soldiers from the Fifth Guards Army and US soldiers (helmets) from First Army meet 25 April 1945 Getty Images

One of the remaining witnesses to the largest mass suicide in German history has revealed how women killed themselves and their children, shortly before the Nazis admitted defeat in the Second World War.

Manfred Schuster was only 10 years-old when he witnessed women tying children to their bodies with rope or clothes lines, and jumping into a river in a town north of Berlin as Soviet forces entered the town.

Schuster, now 80, described how he had travelled with his friend into town to see if they could find anything that was edible in the stores. They found a heavy bag of sugar and as they attempted to carry it home, they heard "bloodcurdling" screams coming from the nearby river.

He remembered seeing around 50 women with up to four children jumping into the river Peene in the small town of Demmin.

Speaking to the Times, Schuster, said: "I shall never forget the cries of 'mum, mum'."

"The most horrible part was when a couple of children broke free and made it back to the bank, from where they looked on helplessly, screaming back at the water where their mothers and siblings had drowned, " he said. "In absolute horror we dropped our bag of sugar, which exploded in a cloud of white dust, and we ran home as fast as we could."

Hardly any survivors have talked about the mass suicides in the last days of the Third Reich, and details were suppressed by the Communist regime in the former East Germany. However, it is thought that 4,000 Berliners killed themselves and their children in the last two months of the war, the Times reported.

Many Germans decided to commit suicide because they either feared revenge from liberating armies or because Nazi fanatics did not want to live in a world without the ideology.

Schuster, his sister and mother had arrived in Demmin as the town was sacked by the Red Army.

Soviet troops went on a killing and raping spree fuelled by vodka, after a number of them were shot dead by a fanatical teacher, who also shot his wife and three children before turning the gun on himself, according to the Times.

Schuster described an incident where he and his mother were chased by two drunken Russian soldiers towards a farm, the Times reported.

"My mother jumped with me into the cesspool, where I was up to my neck in manure," he said. "When the Russians found us, they were repulsed and my mother escaped rape that day."

Women that had been raped, as well as those who feared attack, decided to kill themselves and their children, some by drowning or by hanging, poisoning or cutting their wrists.

"The terrible events in Demmin have followed me for a lifetime," said Schuster.