WEST BERLIN -- Tens of thousands of East Germans streamed through the Berlin Wall into West Berlin on Friday as the Communist regime pledged that freedom of travel will be permanent, began punching holes in the wall for new crossings and promised free elections.
The incoming East Germans and the West Berliners greeting them caused the largest traffic jam ever in the city--with gridlock around the wall's checkpoints and city center as well as the glittering main street, the Kurfuerstendamm.
An estimated 100,000 East Berliners arrived, and many availed themselves of the 100 West German marks offered as a welcome by the local government--enabling the visitors to go shopping with hard currency.
Many of the East Germans visited their local police stations to obtain an exit visa. Long lines formed, but the visas were issued promptly. Others simply went to one of the city's eight crossing points, where border guards ignored formalities and let them through to the West.
As Germans mingled happily on both sides of the wall, East Germany began making holes in it for at least eight more crossing points. Workers and soldiers removed a section of the wall blocking the Eberswalderstrasse. The Glienicke Bridge, site of numerous East-West spy swaps, reportedly was opened to general traffic. And an opening at Potsdamer Platz, once Europe's busiest square, is expected to be ready in a few days.
East German leader Egon Krenz, 52, appeared at a huge rally in East Berlin at the end of a momentous three-day meeting of the policy-making Central Committee of the Communist Party.
"Now is not the time for promises," he told the audience, his voice hoarse from earlier outdoor speeches in chill night air. He called for action.
Krenz said East Germany's Communists must no longer be divided between "us and them" but instead should be "our party."
But other speeches preceding Krenz's called for more reforms than Krenz publicly offered, and he was not particularly warmly received.
It was Interior Minister Friedrich Dickel who disclosed that the dramatic opening of West Berlin to East Germans on Thursday was not a temporary measure.
He said eight new border crossings will be opened and that public transit between the two parts of the once united German capital will be improved.
He added: "It is permanent and will be the foundation of a new travel law."
The East German party's Central Committee issued a statement after its meeting saying that its "action program" reforms will include free elections and parliamentary scrutiny of the detested state security apparatus.
The text transmitted by the official ADN news agency said:
"We propose carrying out parliamentary elections on the basis of a new election law. We are for one election law that guarantees a free, general, democratic and secret election and upholds public control at every stage of the election.
"We are for a democratic coalition government."
The Central Committee also urged "a socialist state based on the rule of law," and proposed "the introduction of a constitutional court in order to ensure compliance with the constitution."
The communique accused ousted leader Erich Honecker and two of his top lieutenants of serious mistakes that "have led the party and republic into a deep crisis," and it asked for a full investigation.