East German leader Egon Krenz, in a nationally televised speech Friday night, appealed to disillusioned young people not to join the growing exodus to the West and promised "far-reaching reforms" in the troubled Communist nation.
Krenz also said that five older members of the ruling Politburo will be retired shortly.
His surprise prime-time speech came after quick trips to Moscow and Warsaw this week and on the eve of an expected massive demonstration for political and economic reforms today in East Berlin.
To East German citizens who are causing a national crisis by leaving their homeland, Krenz said: "Trust our policy of renewal. Your place, dear fellow citizens, is here. We need you all."
He urged them to "please turn full of trust" to Communist Party leaders, and added, "We will not disappoint you."
Krenz said reforms are needed in East Germany's constitution, economy and educational system--all targets of reformist-minded East Germans who have staged street protests in unprecedented numbers in recent weeks.
"There is no going back," Krenz said.
Among the reforms being considered, he said, are to allow East Germans conscripted for military duty to choose alternative service in hospitals, child-care centers and community programs.
Krenz indicated that the new leaders are prepared to discuss reforms with every element of society, even "new movements," but he made no reference to any specific group. He said state information should be "true to reality" and that a "variety of opinion" is needed.
Krenz, 53, once a hard-line security chief, has taken an increasingly reformist stance since he came to power Oct. 18. He succeeded Erich Honecker, 77, who had resisted the kind of changes taking place in other East Bloc nations, including the Soviet Union, Poland and Hungary.
The five Politburo members soon to step down, Krenz said, are Kurt Hager, Erich Mielke, Hermann Axen, Erich Mueckenberger and Alfred Neumann.
Hager is the hard-line ideologist of the ruling Socialist Unity (Communist) Party, and Mielke is the minister of state security. Neumann is a deputy to Prime Minister Willi Stoph, whose days are also said to be numbered.
Krenz's address came just a day after the resignation of half a dozen other officials, as a political party allied with the Communists called for the entire Cabinet to step down, and as the flight of East Germans to the West grew to new levels. A health official in East Berlin said the departure of doctors and nurses has placed a severe strain on health services.
ADN, the official East German news service, said Mayor Bernd Seidel of Leipzig resigned Friday because he had lost the confidence of the people. In recent weeks, Leipzig has been the site of regular Monday night demonstrations for political and economic reform.
The news agency also announced the resignation of Herbert Bischoff, head of the official artists' union, a post he had held for 14 years. ADN gave no reason for his departure, but people in the arts have taken a leading role in the demand for reform.
One member of the old guard after another has stepped down since Honecker was forced out as party leader and head of government. On Thursday, Honecker's wife, Margot, resigned as the minister of education, along with labor boss Harry Tisch, two regional party leaders and the heads of two minor political parties.
More changes are expected. According to the West German newspaper Bild, Prime Minister Stoph is also expected to go. It was Bild that forecast the downfall of Erich Honecker last month.
The call for the entire Cabinet to step down appeared in the daily Der Morgen, the publication of the Liberal Democratic Party. This is one of the four minority parties allied with the ruling Communists.
The Der Morgen article made no attack on Communist rule. According to analysts here, it could be the forerunner of a purge of elderly and unpopular officials who stand in the way of reform.
Another East German newspaper, the National Zeitung, said it is regrettable that so many East Germans are fleeing to the West at a time when the new national leadership, installed only last month, is coping with the problems that caused these people to flee.
"Without a doubt," it said, "we are only at the beginning. There is mistrust and a thousand things still to be done. But we are dealing with this matter here, not in Bonn or Frankfurt."
Krenz had already signaled his willingness to take at least some steps toward reform, loosening controls on the press, lifting travel curbs and declaring an amnesty for people who have fled the country or have tried to do so.
Officials in West Berlin announced Friday that more than 167,000 East Germans have arrived in West Germany this year, more than a third of them illegally.
Dorothee Wilms, the West German minister of inter-German relations, said she expects the number to rise to 190,000 by the end of the year.
She said these numbers "show that many people in East Germany still do not trust the new leadership."
Officials at the West German Embassy in Prague, Czechoslovakia, said Friday that about 5,000 East Germans had crowded into the embassy and the surrounding grounds, more than doubling overnight the number on hand seeking to emigrate to the West. Late Friday, East Germany allowed the refugees to start leaving for the West.
East Berlin's city health administrator said the flight of doctors and skilled medical technicians is putting a severe strain on health services in East Germany.
The official, Dr. Geerd Dellas, told the newspaper Berliner Zeitung that 1,100 doctors and nurses have left East Berlin and that "the situation is so difficult that an emergency system of aid" has been set up.