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Cold War Files: All Units: People: Egon Krenz

Egon Krenz
Egon Krenz
b. March 19, 1937

Egon Krenz is a former German Communist politician, who briefly served as leader of East Germany in 1989 before Communism in East Germany collapsed.

Krenz was born in Kolberg in what is now Poland, and was resettled in Damgarten in 1944, when Germans were expelled from Poland during World War II.

He joined the SED (East German Communist Party) in 1955. Throughout his career, Krenz held a number of senior posts in the Communist Party, and joined the politburo in 1983.

Following popular protests against East Germany's Communist regime, East German leader Erich Honecker was forced to resign on October 18th 1989. On October 24th Krenz was drafted in as his replacement.

Krenz promised to introduce democratic reforms, but events soon spiralled out of control. He unintentionally presided over the opening of the Berlin Wall on November 9th 1989, which was caused by a misunderstood press briefing by one of his ministers. This quickly led to a mass exodus and then the collapse of the Communist state.

He resigned as leader on December 7, 1989. In a desperate attempt to improve its image, the Party of Democratic Socialism (successor to the SED) stripped him of his party membership in 1990.

In 1997, Krenz was sentenced to 6 1/2 years imprisonment for cold war crimes, specifically the deaths of people who tried to cross the Berlin wall as well as electoral fraud, along with other offences. He appealed, arguing that the legal framework of the newly-united German state did not apply to events that had taken place in East Germany, but the verdict was upheld in 1999. He was released in 2003 after only serving three years of his sentence, and quietly retired to Dierhagen in Mecklenburg.

To this day, Krenz is one of the few former Communist politicians who continues to defend the former East Germany, asserting that both victims and perpetrators had been held hostage by the events of the Cold War.

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