The commuter train, known as HarzElbeExpress, was carrying 50 passengers, mainly young people who were returning from a football game in Magdeburg or were on their way to a nightclub in Halberstadt.
The head-on collision happened around 22:30 local time in a single section of the rail line at Hordorf, near Magdeburg in eastern Germany. Extreme cold temperatures and heavy fog hampered the work of the emergency services.
By Sunday afternoon, forensic experts were able to identify only two victims, partly because many of them were not carrying any identification. The police believes foreign tourists could be among the dead. It is still unknown if the cause of the accident was a technical or human error, or a combination of both.
This is the second-worst train accident in the past decade in Germany. In 2006, a maglev train collided with a maintenance vehicle in north-western Germany, killing 23 people.