Parliament Names De Maiziere Premier, Apologizes for Nazi Atrocities
EAST BERLIN (AP) _ East Germany’s new Parliament today named Lothar de Maiziere as prime minister, backed a plan for swift unification with West Germany and apologized to Jews for the atrocities of the Nazis.
The nation’s first freely elected government also said a unified Germany should at least temporarily be a part of the NATO alliance, a key issue when the superpowers begin unification talks in the coming weeks. And it endorsed a merger of the two German currencies by July 1, a demand of West Germany.
The agreement among East Germany’s major political parties on the speed of reunification, a united Germany’s military alignment and a timetable for a currency union was a huge leap forward to creating a single Germany.
The sweeping moves will be followed by unification talks with West Germany and the four World War II allies that divided the countries: the Soviet Union, United States, Britain and France.
In a remarkable string of conciliatory gestures, Parliament recognized the legitimacy of Poland’s postwar borders and apologized for East Germany’s role in the Soviet-led invasion that crushed reforms in Czechoslovakia in 1968.
It also said East Germany is prepared to make reparations to Nazi victims and urged establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel.
The hard-line Communist government that was toppled in October had never formally apologized for the Holocaust. West Germany has apologized for Nazi atrocities and has paid reparations to Jews.
Parliament approved a declaration saying that East Germany ″admits in the name of the citizens of this country its co-responsibility for the humiliation and expulsion and murder of Jewish women, men and children.
″Jews in all the world and the people of Israel are asked to forgive us for the wrongs they experienced. Persecuted Jews should be granted asylum in the future in East Germany.″
An Israeli Foreign Ministry official, Michael Shilo, said the declaration ″paves the way for further dialogue″ on establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries.
″It’s a very positive text. It may be overdue, but it is nonetheless welcome,″ said Shilo, who headed an Israeli delegation that earlier this year held two rounds of preliminary talks with East Germany’s Communist-led transition government on setting up diplomatic ties.
Shilo said the declaration appeared to meet Israel’s two conditions for establishing ties - East Germany’s acceptance of moral responsibility for the Holocaust and its willingness to negotiate reparations.
Parliament chose de Maiziere, leader of the conservative Christian Democrats, and installed his 24-member Cabinet on a vote of 265-108, with nine abstentions. Eighteen members of the 400-member Parliament were absent.
The prime minister was strongly backed by Chancellor Helmut Kohl of West Germany. His conservative alliance won 48 percent of the vote in March 18 elections. That gave de Maiziere a mandate to negotiate with West Germany.
The coalition agreement on the makeup of his government was reached Wednesday after nearly a week of intense negotiations cleared the way for parliamentary approval.
The Cabinet pledged to secure prosperity, social justice and freedom for all East German citizens, according to excerpts carried by the East German news agency ADN.
The agreement also paved the way for rapid reunification by stating the merging of the two countries should be based on the article of the West German Constitution that permits direct incorporation of East German territory into West Germany.
It calls for a direct 1-1 conversion of East German marks for West German marks when the nations merge their currencies. West Germany’s central bank has proposed a 2-1 rate for all but only small savings accounts.
The coalition agreement also lays the foundation for East Germany’s foreign policy and says: ″It can be assumed that a unified Germany, during a transition period and until the creation of a collective European security system, should be a member of a NATO that itself is transforming its military functions.″
The statement endorses Western demands that a united Germany be part of NATO. The Soviet Union wants a new Germany to be neutral, but this week proposed that it have joint membership in NATO and the Warsaw Pact. West Germany now is in NATO and East Germany is part of the Warsaw Pact.
An increasingly restive workforce worried about rampant unemployment associated with reunification planned demonstrations today.
About 20 tractors and farms trucks, some bearing signs saying ″Market Economy for Farmers?″ rolled into the parking lot of Parliament to demonstrate their concern over loss of state subsidies and fear the government-owned land they till will fall into private hands.
But telephone and other electronics workers fearing unemployment did not follow through with their appeal for a three-hour strike in the capital.
Approval of the de Maiziere government clears the way for the start of talks with West Germany on merging their divergent economic and political systems after four decades of separation.
A West German government spokesman said Wednesday that Kohl wants to sign a treaty on monetary union between the two states by May 6, with the currency merger to go into effect by July 7.