Oskar Fischer, East Germany’s foreign minister in the years leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, has died at the age of 97.
During his time 15 years in office at the head of the foreign ministry, Fischer was a loyal advocate of Soviet policies, warning against attempts to overthrow Communist rule in neighboring Poland.
However, he also warned that the jockeying for power between the United States and the Soviet Union placed East Germany — given its geographic position — in a very vulnerable position.
Fischer was the first member of the East Germany Cabinet to visit Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. He also visited several other Western European states including Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands.
He trained as a tailor and served with the German Wehrmacht during World War II, at the end of which he was a prisoner of war in the Soviet Union.
Upon his return to what had become Communist-ruled East Germany — or the German Democratic Republic — Fischer became an official of both the Federation of Democratic Youth and the World Federation of Democratic Youth.
He was chosen to serve as East Germany’s ambassador to Bulgariafor four years and, after a period of study in Moscow, he was deputy minister for foreign affairs from 1965 to 1975.
Fischer took over the lead role at the ministry in 1975, after previous holder of the post, Otto Winzer, was removed due to ill health.
He received the most valuable order of merit of the GDR, the Karl Marx Medal, in 1983.
He also held the position even after the fall of the Berlin Wall, in the administration of the last Communist premier of East Germany, Hans Modrow.
Fischer relinquished the role in 1990, as center-left Social Democrat (SPD) politician Markus Meckel took on the role on behalf of a united Germany.
He withdrew into public life for a decade, but did write a book about the limitations placed on East Germany in terms of foreign policy.
In 2000, Fischer served on an advisory committee for the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), the successor party to the Socialist Unity Party of Germany which had ruled East Germany until the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Two years later, as then-Social Democrat Chancellor Gerhard Schröder campaigned for a second term, Fischer took part in an election appeal on behalf of the PDS before largely withdrawing from public life once again.