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