BERLIN, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- Manfred Gerlach, the last head of state in East Germany, has died after a long illness, his wife said. He was 83.
The New York Times reported Gerlach's wife told German newspapers and the public TV network MDR he died Monday in Berlin.
Gerlach, the first politician outside the ruling Communist Party to serve as head of state in East Germany, had a reputation for his support of liberal reforms and was chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party when the Berlin Wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989.
Gerlach was elected acting chairman of the Council of State on Dec. 6, 1989, after the resignation of Egon Krenz as general secretary of the Socialist Unity Party and chairman of the Council of State.
Gerlach became popular for his criticism of Communists after the wall fell, supporting free elections, free speech and fewer restrictions on travel.
The Council of State position was eliminated in a restructuring of East Germany's government, and Gerlach stepped down on April 5, 1990, as Germany moved toward reunification.
Gerlach was born May 8, 1928, in Leipzig and helped form an antifascist youth group at his school in 1944, leading to his arrest.
He joined the new Liberal Democratic Party after World War II and held executive positions with the Free German Youth and the Liberal Democratic Party in Saxony in the late 1940s and 1950s.
Gerlach, a lawyer, was named general secretary of the Liberal Democratic Party of Germany in 1954 and was mayor of Leipzig in the 1950s.
He was elected party chairman in 1967 and held the position until February 1990.