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Friday, 31 August, 2001, 17:25 GMT 18:25 UK
Germany shaken by satanic suicides
Young people mourning the death of the teenagers
Schools teach children about the bridge's dangers
By Eckhard Berkenbusch in Berlin

Germany has been traumatised by the death of three teenagers with links to satanism who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge in the east of the country.

The full circumstances remain a mystery, but the incident has fuelled fears that young people may be ending their lives after taking part in "death chats" on the internet.

Goeltzschtal Bridge
Goeltzschtal Bridge: Scene of countless suicides
The latest incident occurred overnight between 25 and 26 August, when the youngsters jumped from a bridge already infamous for suicides - the 78metre high Goeltzschtal Bridge near Reichenbach.

The three boys aged 14, 17 and 18 lived in Reichenbach, in what was formerly East Germany. The youngest and the oldest had their feet tied.

It is known that all three had connections with satanism, but they were apparently not full-blown members of any particular satanic sect.

A collective suicide is considered "untypical" in satanist circles. It has been proved that neither drugs nor alcohol were involved.

Vague hints to the motive of the suicide were contained in a death note found at the foot of the bridge.

The three boys were unhappy with their lives, they had realised that their life dreams and plans were not going to come true, says the letter.

Death bridge

The Goeltzschtal Bridge is the tallest brick bridge in the world. It was built in the pioneer days of the railway age and was then, 150 years ago, seen as a miracle of technology.

Map of Germany
But it has attracted countless suicides over the years - nobody knows their exact number.

It is part of the school curriculum in this region to warn pupils of the bridge's fatal dangers, warning signs have been installed on it, and police patrol it in regular intervals.

A few years ago, some killers tried to make a murder look like suicide here.

They placed the corpse at the foot of the bridge, leading the police automatically to assumed suicide.

It was only by a fluke that they ended up on the right track, and the killers were caught.

Satanic trend

Saxony's State Premier, Kurt Biedenkopf, has called for an investigation to find out what kind of destructive force had influenced the three youngsters.

Mourners place wreathes to commemorate the lives of the three teenagers
Mourners at the scene on the day after the bodies were discovered
Experts point out that more and more young people are interested in satanism.

Satanism, they say, is often used as a way of defying the adult world, and a last resort for people who see no chance to be successful in real life.

Some maintain that this is a particular problem for people in eastern Germany who have lost all sense of security and stability in life after the fall of communism.

Estimates speak of a hard core of between 3,000 and 8,000 followers in Germany.

They use emblems like pentagrams and turned-up crosses, but increasingly also Nazi symbols.

Virtual death sects

Satanic murders from time to time hit the headlines, like one a few weeks ago in the Ruhr area of western Germany, or the one in the town of Sondershausen in 1993 when three young boys known to be satanists killed a 15-year-old.

One of the killers, a satanist and Neo-Nazi, later asked for political asylum in the US. He was recently deported back to Germany.

A new way of communication among suicidal people and a cause for grave concern with the authorities are what experts call "death chats" in the internet.

Those chat rooms are used to exchange views on the miseries of life and how to end it.

The German Protestant church believes that some of those chat rooms are being turned into virtual death sects.

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