East Germany's Egon Krenz resigned as president today and a non-Communist took over as head of state for the first time in the nation's history.
In a sign that the security situation may be sliding out of control, the East German government appealed for calm, saying there were growing signs that citizens might attack army bases.
"In the last few hours, there have been growing indications of stormings of facilities and installations of the National People's Army," the government said in a statement distributed by ADN.
It did not specify where the assaults were taking place or say how many people were involved.
On Tuesday, angry citizens began surrounding and in some cases forcing their way into buildings housing the secret police in an effort to stop the destruction of documents needed in prosecutions of former Communist officials.
Krenz, 52, had only three days earlier lost his post as Communist Party leader after barely seven weeks in the job.
The Council of State chose Liberal Democratic party leader Manfred Gerlach to stand in as head of state until Parliament can elect a new Council of State and National Defense Council.
A non-Communist has never before held the post of president in East Germany. Under previous Communist governments, the post had been largely ceremonial, but it was unclear whether it would have a more important role in the current turmoil shaking the country. Reflecting the political crisis in the country, Gerlach said he is "not happy" about taking on the new duties.
Gerlach immediately announced a comprehensive prison amnesty and the shattered Communist Party brought forward to Friday an emergency congress charged with a salvage operation.
The powerful Defense Council was dissolved temporarily.
In Washington, White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater said the change in leadership was "another in a rapid series of changes that have taken place in response to a long pent-up desire of the people of East Germany for a voice in their government."
"We hope this will lead to further reforms which will meet the aspirations of the people for freedom and democracy," Fitzwater said.
No reason was given today for Krenz's resignation as president. His ties with past leaders had made him the target of growing criticism within the party and among opposition groups.
Gerlach's Liberal Democrats were long allied with the Communist Party but have since said they will no longer run in a Communist-led bloc.
Gerlach has been spearheading drives for reforms in East Germany and has been taking on an increasingly prominent role since the ouster of hard-line Communist Party leader Erich Honecker on Oct. 18.