German media are reporting that the last president of the former East Germany, Manfred Gerlach, has died. He was 83.
Gerlach's widow and unidentified close friends told the Tagesspiegel newspaper, MDR state broadcaster and other German media that Gerlach died late Monday in a Berlin hospital after a long illness. Gerlach's official office and German government officials said they could not confirm his death.
Gerlach led the Liberal Democratic Party before the fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989. After East Germany opened its borders, he became the first to challenge the Communists' leading role in the nation and helped institute changes that paved the way toward reunification with West Germany.