EAST BERLIN — East Germany's ruling Communist Party Politburo followed the government's example and resigned today in a bid to resolve the political crisis, but Egon Krenz stayed on top and the pace of citizens fleeing to the West rose to 350 an hour.
Buckling under the pressure of huge protests and the exodus of 48,000 people since Friday, Krenz tendered the 18-man Politburo's resignation at the start of a three-day meeting of the policy-making Central Committee.
The committee pared some hard-liners and elected a new 11-man Politburo headed by Krenz and proposed that reformist Dresden party chief Hans Modrow become prime minister of a new government, the official news agency ADN said.
Western diplomats said Krenz's new team might be able to handle the crisis in the short term, but several thousand party members who marched on party headquarters after the announcement thought otherwise and chanted for a special party conference to completely overhaul the Communist government.
The Politburo's resignation came less than 24 hours after the entire 44-member Cabinet stepped down.
"With this move we (the Politburo) want to make clear the responsibility for the present situation in East Germany," Krenz told the meeting after the resignation of the old Politburo.
East German television, warming to its new-found openness, interrupted a black-and-white Soviet film to announce the news. ADN flashed the announcement with a dispatch that for the first time used bells to attract subscribers' attention.
Exactly three weeks ago Krenz, a 52-year-old former security chief, replaced orthodox party leader Erich Honecker and immediately promised to turn East Germany around and nudge it toward the reforms it had for so long rejected.
But 21 days later and after previously unimaginable concessions on travel and other matters, Krenz's control over his 16.6 million citizens has evaporated.