PASSINGS: Manfred Gerlach

Manfred Gerlach

Last East German head of state

Manfred Gerlach, 83, who was the last head of state of East Germany, died Monday in a Berlin hospital after a long illness, his family and friends told the German media.

When the once-monolithic East German power structure began crumbling before the fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989, Gerlach won the support of ordinary East Germans for speaking out against the ruling party and the oppression of anti-communist activists.

A lawyer by training, he was then the leader of the small Liberal Democratic Party. After East Germany opened its borders, he helped institute changes that paved the way for reunification with West Germany in 1990, when his position was discontinued.

Born in 1928 in Leipzig, Germany, Gerlach was taken into juvenile detention by the Nazis toward the end of World War II for forming an illegal youth group at his school.

He served as mayor of Leipzig in the 1950s and became the leader of his party in 1967.

-- Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports

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