EAST BERLIN — The ruling Politburo of the East German Communist Party resigned Wednesday in an effort to resolve a mushrooming crisis. Within hours, the party named a new, slimmed-down body that includes reformist elements.
Egon Krenz kept his posts as party leader and head of state, but he was jeered by a group of demonstrating Communist Party members outside the headquarters after appearing but declining to spell out a new, reformist program. Krenz criticized the party Old Guard for dragging its feet on reform.
Guenter Schabowski, the party chief in East Berlin and a holdover Politburo member, indicated that the new Politburo would recommend to Parliament new elections demanded by marchers in the mass demonstrations sweeping the country. But he gave no sign that the Communists are ready to relinquish power in a multi-party contest.
In a politically astonishing day, moderate Dresden party chief Hans Modrow was named to the new 11-member Politburo and nominated as prime minister in a new government to replace the Cabinet that resigned Tuesday. He would succeed hard-liner Willi Stoph, who was among those retiring Tuesday.
Modrow, 61, is considered by many to be the East German reformist equivalent of Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev. On Monday night, he marched with demonstrators in Dresden.
Meanwhile in Bonn, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl welcomed the changes in East Germany's Communist regime and promised massive economic aid if free elections are held and the Communist Party renounces its monopoly on power.
He told a meeting of the Parliament, the Bundestag, that if reforms are made in East Germany, "I am ready to talk about a new dimension to our economic aid."
And he added, in a reference to reunification, "We have less reason than ever to be resigned to the long-term division of Germany."
Kohl said the events in East Germany indicate that the Berlin Wall will not indefinitely divide the country.
In Washington, Roman Popadiuk, deputy White House press secretary, said the Bush Administration hopes that the East German shake-up "is a step on the road to stable and evolutionary reform."
He said that in Poland and Hungary "there has been a constructive dialogue between the government and the people," and Washington would like to see the same in East Germany.
A State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, said the Administration hopes that the personnel changes in East Germany are followed by policy changes to address the political and economic reforms needed there.
The new leadership must do more to satisfy the demands of the people, he said, to stem the flood of emigrants by making the country more livable.
His remarks came as the outflow of East Germans continued via Czechoslovakia into West Germany at a rate of several thousand a day--with the emigrant total this year now at about 200,000.
Krenz, in a speech to the special meeting of the policy-making Central Committee that opened here Wednesday, admitted that the country faces a "tense and extremely difficult situation."
However, Krenz blamed the nation's crisis on "comrades who have practiced subjectivity in their decisions about the development of society." He did not underline his own role as the No. 2 man under ousted leader Erich Honecker or his membership for years in the all-important Politburo.
Among the new appointees to the Politburo were Wolfgang Herger, 54, who will be responsible for state security, and Wolfgang Rauchfuss, 57, a deputy prime minister who has taken the critical job of managing the economy. Not much is known about either man, specialists here said Wednesday.
Western diplomats expressed mixed views on the composition of the new Politburo and how effectively it will address East Germany's problems.
"Some of the members offer the possibility of change," said one, "and so that might defuse resentments."
But another added: "They can no longer temporize with promises. They have got to produce real reforms or they will not last long."
Another observer here noted: "It is no longer the complaining dissidents they have to satisfy. It is the members of the Communist Party itself--as you could see outside the headquarters today."
Indeed, the demonstration, attracting several thousand, was called as a way of showing party solidarity while the Central Committee was meeting inside the grim, gray stone building in the middle of the capital.
But the scene turned Kafka-like when rank-and-file party members turned up with banners bearing slogans like: "Ask the Grass Roots," "No Monopoly Power" and "Urgent Free Elections."
There were several speakers, all party members, including a woman who declared, "We are fed up with an economy that reinvents the bicycle over and over again but never introduces it into production."