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Hans Modrow

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Hans Modrow
Modrow in 1989
Chairman of the
Council of Ministers
In office
13 November 1989 – 12 April 1990
Head of state
Preceded byWilli Stoph
Succeeded byLothar de Maizière
(as Minister-President)
First Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party
in Bezirk Dresden
In office
3 October 1973 – 15 November 1989
Second Secretary
  • Lothar Stammnitz
Preceded byWerner Krolikowski
Succeeded byHansjoachim Hahn
Head of the Department for Agitation of the Central Committee
In office
19 June 1971 – 2 October 1973
  • Werner Lamberz
Preceded byWerner Lamberz
Succeeded byHeinz Geggel
Parliamentary constituencies
Member of the European Parliament
for Germany
In office
20 July 1999 – 20 July 2004
Preceded bymulti-member district
Succeeded bymulti-member district
Member of the Bundestag
for Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
(Volkskammer; 1990)
In office
3 October 1990 – 10 November 1994
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded bymulti-member district
Member of the Volkskammer
for Neubrandenburg
(Dresden-Süd, Dresden-West, Dresden-Mitte;[1] 1976–1990)
(Berlin; 1957–1976)
In office
5 April 1990 – 2 October 1990
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
In office
11 December 1957 – 5 April 1990
Preceded byKarl-Heinz Kniestedt
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Personal details
Born(1928-01-27)27 January 1928
Jasenitz, Pölitz, Pomerania, Prussia, Germany (now Jasienica, Poland)
Died10 February 2023(2023-02-10) (aged 95)
Berlin, Germany
Political partyThe Left (2007–2023)
Other political
Annemarie Straubing
(m. 2003)
Alma mater
Central institution membership

Other offices held
Leader of East Germany

Hans Modrow (German pronunciation: [ˈhans ˈmoːdʁo]; 27 January 1928 – 10 February 2023) was a German politician best known as the last communist premier of East Germany.

Taking office in the middle of the Peaceful Revolution, he was the de facto leader of the country for much of the winter of 1989 and 1990. He was a transitional figure, paving the way to the first and only free elections in East Germany and including many opposition politicians in his cabinet.

After the end of Communist rule and reunification of Germany, he was convicted of electoral fraud and perjury by the Dresden District Court in 1995, on the basis that he had been the Socialist Unity Party (SED) official nominally in charge of the electoral process. He was later convicted of the first charge and was given a nine-month suspended sentence. One of the few high-ranking former SED officials to not have been expelled, he was the honorary chairman of the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS)[2] and was the president of the "council of elders" of the Left Party from 2007.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Modrow was born on 27 January 1928 in Jasenitz, Province of Pomerania, German Reich, now Jasienica, part of the town of Police in Poland.[4][5] As a child he was a Hitler Youth leader and attended a Volksschule. He trained as a machinist from 1942 to 1945 when he was filled with intense hatred of the Bolsheviks, whom he deemed as subhumans, inferior to Germans physically and morally.[6][7] For six months during the Allied bombing of Stettin he served as a volunteer firefighter.[7] He later served briefly in the Volkssturm in January 1945,[7][5] and was subsequently captured as a prisoner of war by the Soviet Red Army in Stralsund in May 1945. He and other German prisoners were sent to a farm in Hinterpommern to work. Upon arrival, his backpack was stolen, making him begin to rethink the Germans' so-called camaraderie. Days later, he was appointed a driver to a Soviet captain, who asked him about Heinrich Heine, a German poet. Modrow had never heard of him and felt embarrassed that the people he thought of as "subhumans" knew more about German culture than he. Transported to a POW camp near Moscow, he joined a National Committee for a Free Germany anti-fascist school run by future SED Politburo member Alfred Neumann for Wehrmacht members and received training in Marxism–Leninism, which he embraced.[6][7] Upon release in 1949 he worked as a machinist for LEW Hennigsdorf.[5] That same year he joined the Socialist Unity Party (SED).[5]

From 1949 to 1961, Modrow worked in various functions for the Free German Youth (FDJ) in Brandenburg, Mecklenburg, and Berlin and in 1952 and 1953 studied at the Komsomol college in Moscow.[5] In 1953, he attended the state funeral of Joseph Stalin. After Nikita Khrushchev's Secret Speech at the 20th Party Congress condemning Stalin and beginning de-Stalinization, Modrow claimed to have complained to his former teacher Neumann "Comrade, this is unacceptable — you are accusing us of having learned Stalin off by heart, but I never had the inclination to do this myself, you asked us to!"[7] From 1953 to 1961, he served as an FDJ functionary in East Berlin.[5] From 1954 to 1957, he studied at the SED's Karl Marx school in Berlin, graduating as a social scientist.[5] In 1959 to 1961 he studied at the University of Economics in Berlin-Karlshorst and obtained the degree of graduate economist.[5] He gained his doctorate at the Humboldt University of Berlin in 1966.[5] West Germany's Federal Intelligence Service (BND) kept Modrow under observation from 1958 to 2013.[8][9]

Communist party career[edit]

Modrow had a long political career in East Germany, serving as a member of the Volkskammer from 1957 to 1990 and in the SED's Central Committee (ZK) from 1967 to 1989, having previously been a candidate for the ZK from 1958 to 1967.[5] From 1961 to 1967 he was first secretary of the district administration of the SED in Berlin-Köpenick and secretary for agitation and propaganda from 1967 to 1971 in the SED's district leadership in Berlin.[5] During this time he was involved in the formation of the Union Berlin football club,[10][11] which is based in the Köpenick district. From 1971 to 1973 he worked as the head of the SED's department of agitation.[5] In 1975 he was awarded the GDR's Patriotic Order of Merit in gold[12] and received the award of the Order of Karl Marx in 1978.[13]

From 1973 onward, he was the SED's first secretary in Bezirk Dresden, making him de facto leader of East Germany's third-largest Bezirk.[5] He was prevented from rising any further than a regional party boss, largely because he was one of the few SED leaders who dared to publicly criticise longtime SED chief Erich Honecker. He developed some important contacts with the Soviet Union, including eventual Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Modrow initially supported Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika reforms.[7] In early 1987, Gorbachev and the KGB explored the possibility of installing Modrow as Honecker's successor.[14] From 1988 to 1989, the Stasi, under the orders of Honecker and Erich Mielke, conducted a massive surveillance operation against Modrow with the intention of gathering enough evidence to convict him of high treason.[15]

Peaceful Revolution and premiership[edit]

During the Peaceful Revolution of 1989, Modrow ordered thousands of Volkspolizei, Stasi, Combat Groups of the Working Class, and National People's Army troops to crush a demonstration at the Dresden Hauptbahnhof on 4–5 October. Some 1,300 people were arrested. In a top secret and encrypted telex to Honecker on 9 October, Modrow reported: "With the determined commitment of the comrades of the security organs, anti-state terrorist riots were suppressed".[16]

When Honecker was toppled on 18 October, Gorbachev hoped that Modrow would become the new leader of the SED. Egon Krenz was selected instead.[17] He became premier following the resignation of Willi Stoph on 13 November, four days after the Berlin Wall fell. The SED formally abandoned power on 1 December. Krenz resigned two days later, on 3 December. Since the premiership was the highest state post in East Germany, Modrow became the de facto leader of the country.[18][19]

To defeat the opposition's demand for the complete dissolution of the Stasi, it was renamed as the "Office for National Security" (Amt für Nationale Sicherheit – AfNS) on 17 November 1989. Modrow's attempt to re-brand it further as the "Office for the Protection of the Constitution of the GDR" (Verfassungsschutz der DDR) failed due to pressure from the public and the opposition parties and the AfNS was dissolved on 13 January 1990.[20] The Modrow government gave orders to destroy incriminating Stasi files.[16]

On 7 December 1989, Modrow accepted the proposal of the East German Round Table opposition groups to hold free elections within six months. Modrow and the Round Table agreed on 28 January to bring the elections forward to 18 March. By this time, the SED had added "Party of Democratic Socialism" to its name; the SED portion was dropped altogether in February. Some of the Round Table parties strove for a "third way" model of democratic socialism and therefore agreed with Modrow to slow down or block a reunification with capitalist West Germany. As the SED-PDS regime grew weaker, Modrow on 1 February 1990 proposed a slow, three-stage process that would create a neutral German confederation and continued to oppose "rapid" reunification. The collapse of the East German state and economy in early 1990 and the approaching East German free elections allowed Helmut Kohl's government in Bonn to disregard Modrow's demand for neutrality.[21]

From 5 February 1990 on, Modrow included eight representatives of opposition parties and civil liberties groups as ministers without portfolio in his cabinet. On 13 February 1990, Modrow met with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, asking for an accommodation loan of 15 billion DM, which was rejected by Kohl.[22] Modrow remained premier until the 18 March 1990 elections.[5] The PDS expelled Honecker, Krenz, and other Communist-era leaders in February 1990.[23]

Criminal sentence[edit]

Modrow in 1999

On 27 May 1993, the Dresden District Court found Modrow guilty of electoral fraud committed in the Dresden municipal elections in May 1989, specifically, understating the percentage of voters who refused to vote for the official slate.[24] The judge declined to impose a prison sentence or a fine.[24] The Dresden District Court revoked the decision in August 1995 and Modrow was sentenced to nine months on probation.[25][26] Modrow did not directly deny the charges, but argued that the trial was politically motivated and that the court lacked jurisdiction for crimes committed in East Germany. "We were all members of a political system," he said, speaking to the court in Dresden. "Some perhaps had the good fortune not to come into contact with manipulation, while others could not or were not allowed to turn away."[24]

Later life and death[edit]

After German reunification, Modrow served as a member of the Bundestag (1990–1994)[5] and of the European Parliament (1999–2004).[27] After leaving office, he wrote a number of books on his political experiences, his continued Marxist political views, and his disappointment at the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc.[28][29] Although a supporter of Gorbachev's reforms in the 1980s, after the fall of Communism he criticised them for weakening the Eastern Bloc's economy.[7] In 2006, he suggested both West Germany and East Germany were responsible for the killings of East Germans by the communist regime at the Berlin Wall, and later defended the construction of the wall as a necessary measure to prevent a war over West Berlin.[30] He also called East Germany an "effective democracy".[31] He was criticised for maintaining contacts with Neo-Stalinist groups.[32] In 2018, he sued the Federal Intelligence Service for access to West German intelligence files on him from the Cold War.[33] In 2019 he criticised the enlargement of NATO, which he also opposed reunified Germany's membership in.[30] Modrow died on 10 February 2023, aged 95.[34][35] He was buried at Dorotheenstadt Cemetery.[36]


  1. ^ Schmidt, Arthur. "Volkskammer der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik 1986–1990, Seite 29" (PDF). gvoon.de. Retrieved 24 July 2023.
  2. ^ "West German Secret Service Opens GDR Files". Der Spiegel. 16 October 2009. Retrieved 18 February 2010.
  3. ^ "Modrow: "Die Gefahr von Krieg war nach 1945 noch nie so hoch wie jetzt"". Märkische Allgemeine. 22 February 2019.
  4. ^ Osmond, Jonathan; Alsop, Rachel (1992). German Reunification: A Reference Guide and Commentary. Longman. p. 226. ISBN 978-0-582-09650-9.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Findbücher / 04 Bestand: Dr. Hans Modrow, MdB (1990 bis 1994)" (PDF) (in German). Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. June 2001. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  6. ^ a b Applebaum, Anne (2012). Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944–1956. New York: Doubleday. p. 17-18. ISBN 9780385515696.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Alex Brown (2019). "I Was the Last Communist Premier of East Germany". Jacobin Magazine (interview with Hans Modrow). Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  8. ^ Heilig, René (2015). "BND spionierte mindestens 71.500 DDR-Bürger aus". Redaktion nd (in German). Retrieved 11 February 2023.
  9. ^ David Martin (28 February 2018). "Last East German leader Hans Modrow demands access to West's intelligence files". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  10. ^ Schuetze, Christopher F. (15 February 2023). "Hans Modrow, 95, Dies; One of East Germany's Last Communist Leaders". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 February 2023.
  11. ^ Ludewig, Alexander (12 February 2016). "Der 1. FC Union als Hauptstadtklub im geteilten Berlin". Neues Deutschland (in German). Berlin: Neues Deutschland Druckerei und Verlag GmbH. Retrieved 16 February 2023.
  12. ^ "Vaterländischer Verdienstorden in Gold". Neues Deutschland (in German). 1 October 1975. p. 5.
  13. ^ "Karl-Marx-Orden an Hans Modrow verliehen". Neues Deutschland (in German). 28 January 1978. p. 2.
  14. ^ "Did KGB plot a coup against the East German leader in 1987?". Bild. 30 October 2009. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  15. ^ Andreas Debski (5 June 2018). "Honecker wollte Modrow ins Gefängnis sperren lassen". Leipziger Volkszeitung (in German). Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  16. ^ a b Gerhard Besier (25 November 1996). "SED/PDS Vom ehrlichen Hans". Focus (in German). Archived from the original on 17 July 2019. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  17. ^ Sebetsyen, Victor (2009). Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire. New York City: Pantheon Books. ISBN 978-0-375-42532-5.
  18. ^ Wilke, Manfred (13 November 2013). "Sündenbock der Partei" [Party scapegoat]. Focus (in German). Retrieved 16 February 2023.
  19. ^ Wehner, Markus (16 April 2007). "Die Partei, die Partei, die hat niemals Schuld" [The party, the party, is never to blame]. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). ISSN 0174-4909. Retrieved 17 February 2023.
  20. ^ Friedheim 1995, p. 168.
  21. ^ Friedheim 1995, pp. 167–171.
  22. ^ Holger Schmale (12 February 2015). "Treffen von Hans Modrow und Helmut Kohl 1990: Die Delegation aus Ost-Berlin fühlte sich gedemütigt". Berliner Zeitung.
  23. ^ Stefan Reinecke (20 January 2020). "PDS-Rauswurf von Egon Krenz 1990". die Tageszeitung.
  24. ^ a b c Kinzer, Stephen (28 May 1993). "Ex-East German Leader Convicted Of Vote Fraud but Not Punished". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 February 2010.
  25. ^ (in German) Urteil: Bewährungsstrafe für Hans Modrow Mitteldeutsche Zeitung. 10 May 2009. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
  26. ^ (in German) Modrow, Hans Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
  27. ^ "Hans Modrow". European Parliament MEPs. European Parliament. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  28. ^ Hans Modrow (2014). Perestroika and Germany: the truth behind the myths. Artery Publications. ISBN 9780955822858.
  29. ^ Hans Modrow (1989). Aufbruch und Ende (in German). Edition Berolina. ISBN 9783867898157.
  30. ^ a b Sébastian Seibt (6 November 2019). "The post-Wall, Cold War world of Hans Modrow, East Germany's last leader". France 24. Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  31. ^ Dirk von Nayhauss (May 2006). "- "Ich war kein Held"". Cicero Magazine (interview with Hans Modrow) (in German). Retrieved 11 February 2023.
  32. ^ Stefan Berg (3 May 2009). "Vergangenheitsbewältigung: Modrows Kontakte zu Neostalinisten belasten die Linke". Der Spiegel (in German). Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  33. ^ "Last East German leader Hans Modrow demands access to West's intelligence files". Deutsche Welle. 28 February 2018. Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  34. ^ "Hans Modrow ist tot". Eulenspiegel Verlagsgruppe (in German). 2023.
    "Ex-DDR-Regierungschef Modrow gestorben". Tagesschau (in German). 11 February 2023. Retrieved 11 February 2023.
  35. ^ "East Germany's last Communist premier dies aged 95". Reuters. 11 February 2023. Retrieved 11 February 2023.
  36. ^ "Abschied von Hans Modrow: Altkanzler Schröder kam zur Trauerfeier in Berlin". 16 March 2023. Retrieved 18 March 2023.
    Maritta Adam-Tkalec (16 March 2023). "Gäste enttäuscht: Trauerfeier für Hans Modrow ohne Repräsentanten des Staates". Berliner Zeitung. Retrieved 18 March 2023.
    Programm der Trauerfeier für Hans Modrow auf www.youtube.com, retrieved 18 March 2023.


  • Friedheim, Daniel V. (1995). "Accelerating collapse: The East German road from liberalisation to power-sharing and its legacy". In Shain, Yossi; Linz, Juan J. (eds.). Between States: Interim Governments and Democratic Transitions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-47417-5.
Political offices
Preceded by Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the German Democratic Republic
Succeeded by