Days following the fall of the Berlin Wall, Modrow was appointed prime minister in November 1989.
The final Communist prime minister of East Germany, Hans Modrow, supervised democratic changes that paved the ground for German reunification and passed away at the age of 95, according to the hard-left Die Linke party in Germany.
“Hans Modrow passed away last night at the age of 95. With this, our party loses a significant personality, according to a statement released on Saturday by the party, which is the successor of the East German Communist Party.
On November 13, 1989, four days after the Berlin Wall that had divided East and West Berlin for 28 years came down, Modrow was appointed prime minister of a transitional government led by communists. He had pledged to aid in the democratic transformation of East Germany.
Following Mikhail Gorbachev’s ascent to power in the Soviet Union, demonstrators in East Germany called for democracy and freedom, echoing similar demands in the rest of Soviet-dominated eastern Europe. This led to the forceful removal of the former communist leadership.
Although it led to his resignation as prime minister, Modrow declared the first and only free election in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in March 1990.
Opponents charged him with attempting to stall political change and reunification, which happened in October 1990 despite the fact that he implemented changes. His efforts to rebrand the Stasi security police rather than dismantle it drew criticism as well.
Modrow was found guilty of electoral fraud in a municipal election in May 1989 in 1993, but he was not sentenced to prison because he claimed the accusations were politically motivated.
The PDS, a predecessor to Die Linke, was represented by him in the German parliament from 1990 to 1994. From 1999 to 2004, he served as a member of the European Parliament.
Modrow considered himself a reformist who sought to democratize and transform the Communist party from the inside out. He stated to Reuters in 1999 that he did not want the former GDR to return but felt that its accomplishments should be acknowledged.
“Under the GDR, the Cold Conflict did not turn into a heated war in terms of international relations,” he remarked. And following the bloodshed of World War II, we were able to establish friendly relations with Poland.
Ascend the party hierarchy
Modrow was trained as a machinist before being born in 1928 in what was then the German town of Jasenitz, today known as Jasienica in Poland. He was a member of the Volkssturm, a Nazi militia that enlisted males between the ages of 16 and 60 in a last-ditch effort to win the war, and served as the platoon leader of a youth fire brigade during World War II.
At the age of 17, Modrow was taken prisoner of war by Soviet forces and transported to the Soviet Union, where he studied anti-fascism and turned firmly communist.
In 1949, the year the GDR was established, upon his return home, he obtained employment as a machinist and then pursued studies in social science and economics, earning a PhD in the latter field.
Modrow was a member of the Free German Youth, the organization that almost all young people in East Germany joined, and he advanced through the Socialist Unity Party (SED), which was in power, to become the regional party boss in Dresden from 1973 to 1989. Additionally, he spent more than three decades in the East German parliament.
In the wake of Egon Krenz’s resignation as SED chairman on December 5, 1990, Modrow assumed the role of de facto leader of East Germany.
He gained respect as prime minister because he led a modest lifestyle compared to his communist forebears. He attempted to stifle enthusiasm for reunification at first, but in February 1990 he presented a proposal to merge East and West Germany.
In 1990, when he unveiled his proposal for reunification, he stated that Germany should “again become an unified fatherland for all citizens of the German nation,” but that this could only happen under circumstances that allayed the concerns of its neighbors.
Since 2007, Modrow has presided over Die Linke’s council of elders, where he has given special attention to the growth and background of the party.