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Ousted East German Leaders Takes Blame for Past Misdeeds

January 17, 1990

WEST BERLIN (AP) _ East Germany’s ousted Communist Party chief, Egon Krenz, said Wednesday he blundered in dealing with dissension in the past, but denied being responsible for last fall’s brutal suppression of pro-democracy protests. In other East German developments, a political party threatened to bring down the shaky coalition government and the official news agency ADN announced the resignation of the nation’s chief Supreme Court judge, Guenter Sarge, and the firing of the country’s deputy chief prosecutor, Harry Harrland.

Last week, Parliament opened disciplinary proceedings against both men, for allegedly moving too slowly to prosecute corruption and abuse of office.

Krenz appeared before an investigating commission of the East Berlin city government looking into police brutality during Oct. 7-8 street protests.

The protests, coinciding with the visit of Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, provided a turning point in the pro-democracy movement that led to the ouster of hard-line leader Erich Honecker 10 days later.

Krenz said he accepted ″joint responsibility for misjudging dissident citizens and dissident groups for years.″

″From today’s viewpoint, it is incomprehensible that there was no general Politburo discussion about the negative developments then taking place in society,″ said Krenz, an influential Politburo member even before Honecker’s fall. Krenz succeeded Honecker and himself was ousted six weeks later.

Krenz added that he and other Politburo members at the time failed to realize the Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches were ″not working against but rather for the German Democratic Republic.″

Krenz, who was in charge of many police functions at the time of the October protests, criticized the attacks by club-swinging officers.

″The excessive action of law enforcement authorities was neither politically nor morally justifiable,″ he told the panel, but he said he was not personally responsible for orders to attack protesters.

Another ousted Politburo member told the commission Honecker himself ordered the attacks.

″Honecker took things into his own hands,″ Guenter Schabowski said. Like Krenz, Schabowski denied personal responsibility for the orders to attack the demonstrators, most of them young people.

The panel members are investigating the possibility of filing criminal charges against the ousted leaders.

Communist Premier Hans Modrow is struggling to hold together the coalition government formed to govern the nation until elections May 6.

The Christian Democrats, one of the non-Communist parties in the coalition, threatened Wednesday to pull out to protest the Communists’ continued tight grip on power.

Party spokesman Lothar Lueck said the party leadership was showing ″a very strong tendency to leave the government.″ The party holds three of the 27 Cabinet seats.

A collapse of the coalition could force Modrow to appeal to the pro- democracy opposition to help govern the country until elections in May.

Leaders of the same party threatened to pull out of the coalition last week over Modrow’s plans to create a new internal security agency. Modrow dropped plans for the security agency in the face of widespread opposition.

A protest outside the East Berlin headquarters of the Honecker-era security agency, which is being dismantled, turned into a rampage Monday night.

The Communist Party daily Neues Deutschland on Wednesday blamed the opposition group New Forum for the rampage and said the popular revolution had taken a dangerous turn.

New Forum denied responsibility for the rampage, although it said the fliers it distributed in advance of the demonstration called on people to bring stones.

″The stones that were to be taken along were meant only to symbolically seal up the doors of the building,″ said New Forum spokesman Rainer Rodenwald.

″The fliers we sent out clearly said ’no violence,‴ he said. ″There is no one from New Forum who wanted or planned the violence.″