Protest against Egon Krenz being installed as chairman of the State Council outside the State Council building in East Berlin, 24 October 1989.
Source: picture-alliance/dpa/Wolfgang Kumm

The "Turnaround" with Krenz at the helm

On 18 October 1989 the SED functionary Egon Krenz was presented as the successor to Erich Honecker as head of the state and the Socialist Unity Party. Krenz announced a change of tack for the state party, making concessions to the demonstrators by raising the prospect of reforms. The SED leadership wanted to work with political means via a policy of "dialogue" rather than violence. It hoped to win back the trust it had lost and stabilise its power once more.

However, the population saw Egon Krenz as Honecker's crown prince, a man absolutely unsuitable for initiating genuine democracy in the GDR. People were well aware of his co-responsibility for electoral fraud and violence against demonstrators, and had not forgotten his approval of the brutal suppression of peaceful student protests in Beijing in June of 1989.

Nevertheless, concessions and the renunciation of violence did have specific repercussions. Up to this point, the state had seemed absolutely invulnerable. Now it had revealed itself as instable and open to attack. More and more people started joining demonstrations all over the country.

The SED turned to the population. Half-hearted concessions were designed to give an impression of change. Yet the single ruling party held tightly to its monopoly on power. Official declaration in the Berliner Zeitung, the party newspaper of the SED in East Berlin at the time, 12 October 1989.
At an SED leadership conference on 18 October 1989, the new head of the state and party, Egon Krenz, announced a change of strategy for the single party with the aim of restabilising its position.
Source: Bundesarchiv/183-1989-1018-037/Rainer Mittelstädt
After Egon Krenz was installed as chairman of the State Council, several thousand East Berliners, mainly young people, demonstrated in the city centre on 24 October 1989.
Source: Der Spiegel, 30.10.1989
Monday demonstrations in Leipzig on 24 October 1989. After Egon Krenz’s rise to power – he is compared here to the communist dictators Nicolae Ceausescu (Romania) and Milos Jakes (Czechoslovakia) – the number of demonstrations and their participants rocketed. From 16 to 22 October there were 24 demonstrations with a total of 140,000 participants, and from 23 to 30 October a huge 140 demonstrations attended by 540,000 people in many towns and cities across the GDR.
Source: AP-Photo
Monday demonstrations in Leipzig on 6 November 1989. After Egon Krenz’s rise to power – he is compared here to the communist dictators Nicolae Ceausescu (Romania) and Milos Jakes (Czechoslovakia) – the number of demonstrations and their participants rocketed. From 16 to 22 October there were 24 demonstrations with a total of 140,000 participants, and from 23 to 30 October a huge 140 demonstrations attended by 540,000 people in many towns and cities across the GDR.
Source: picture-alliance/dpa/ Lehtikuva Oy
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