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1989: Protests force out East German rulers

VIDEO : Protest movement forces Krenz ministers out of office

East Germany's Communist-dominated government has resigned - the first time such an event has occurred in the country's 40-year history.

The decision by the Council of Ministers to give up office leaves the Communists still in power but represents a major concession to the growing protest movement.

The mass government resignation is likely to have been approved by East Germany's leader, Egon Krenz, who is expected to select a new government shortly.

The departure of Prime Minister Willi Stoph and all 44 members of his cabinet followed demonstrations over the past month in several major cities.

On Saturday one million people attended a pro-democracy rally in East Berlin's main square.

Mr Stoph was closely associated with the recently deposed Communist leader, Erich Honecker, and Mr Honecker's wife, Margot, who was sacked last week as education minister.

Mr Krenz will be hoping the resignation of a discredited government may help stem the flow of people fleeing the country.

Mass exodus

About 30,000 East Germans are thought to have arrived in West Germany since Saturday by using the recently-opened border with Czechoslovakia.

Czechoslovakia is the latest of the former Soviet-bloc countries to ease travel restrictions and allow free access through its borders.

The drive for change within East Germany was reflected in a new approach by the authorities who held their first-ever press conference.

A statement read out by newly-appointed spokesman Wolfgang Meyer gave no explanation for the government's resignation but urged East Germans planning to leave the country to reconsider.

Shortly afterwards the Communist Party's Politburo began a three-day meeting.

It is expected to elect new members which will set the course for the country's political future.

In Context
Two days later demonstrators persuaded guards to allow them access through the Berlin Wall to West Berlin.

The wall, a symbol of the division of the two Germanys since 1961, was dismantled by jubilant crowds who began to hack it down.

On 3 October 1990 East and West Germany merged to form a new united country.

In 1997 East Germany's last leader, Egon Krenz, was convicted of manslaughter over the deaths of people shot trying to escape to the West and sentenced to six-and-a-half years in jail.

He was released early in December 2003 after winning an appeal.


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