BERLIN, SEPT. 28 -- Amid scenes of high drama, tears, shouts and a sit-in by an opposition party, the East German parliament today voted to make public the names of 56 members of the 400-seat chamber who were found to have had contact with the infamous secret police, known as the Stasi.
Minutes after the vote, Construction Minister Axel Viehweger approached the podium and, in a voice choked with emotion, announced his resignation.
"I ask the chamber to allow me to resign immediately," he said. "I admit that I had contact with the Stasi. . . . But I can tell you honestly my family and I can take no more."
Still unclear was the extent of the minister's contacts with the dreaded Stasi, East Germany's former ministry for state security that for 40 years kept dissent in check and hard-line Communists in power. Viehweger said that his resignation and admission of "contacts" should not be interpreted as an admission of guilt.
Earlier, members of the Alliance 90, made up of those who helped lead last fall's revolution that toppled the Communists from power, staged a sit-in near the podium to protest attempts to overturn the decision.
Today's disclosures came five days before East Germany disappears as an independent state and is absorbed into a West German-dominated united Germany. They were the latest in a series of scandals that have linked leading East German politicians, elected to office last March in the country's first and only free elections, with the security police.
The misdeeds of foreign agents and small-time snitches are chronicled in 6 million Stasi files that have become the subject of an escalating battle between West German prosecutors and East German activists fighting over control, access and the extent to which their contents should be made public.