PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia, Nov. 3, 1989 (UPI) - More than 5,000 East Germans massed at the West German Embassy were told they were free to leave immediately for the West in an order some diplomats interpreted to apply to all East Germans.
One high ranking West German diplomat said the East German Embassy in Prague confirmed on Friday night, following a televised speech by Communist Party leader Egon Krenz in East Berlin, that any East German who comes to Czechoslovakia can go to the West with only their East German identity card.
''If this is confirmed, we have freedom of movement,'' the euphoric diplomat said. ''The (Berlin) Wall is history.
''The GDR (East German) mission confirms those here can go,'' he said. ''They are free to leave by plane, by train, by car, by foot -- whatever they want. They are free to go.''
As he spoke, many East Germans were leaving the embassy to return to their cars and head for the West German border, about 100 miles away.
Many of the refugees were to be moved to West Germany from Prague on five trains, the first of which was expected to leave the capital's main station at 9 a.m. Saturday with the others following at 90-minute intervals.
A fleet of buses was also being prepared for the trip.
New refugees were told the good news as they arrived at the embassy gates.
''I didn't know, but that's fantastic, because my husband is already over there (in West Germany),'' said one woman pushing a baby carriage up the cobblestones to the entrance.
The diplomat said it was not yet confirmed whether the freedom of movement applied to all East German citizens in all countries or only those traveling to Czechoslovakia, but he said all signs appeared to suggest the order was universal.
Although East German officials in Prague told their West German counterparts that all East Germans were free to emigrate, officials in East Germany could not be found to confirm whether it was true.
Diplomats at the West German Embassy in Prague said there may be a problem with East Germans refugees who had already given up their ID cards as part of the cumbersome paperwork process by which they gave up their citizenship.
The diplomat said West Germany would retrieve those IDs on Saturday and return them to the estimated 2,000 to 3,000.
The development is expected to initially trigger an even greater exodus from East Germany, where five of 18 Politburo members resigned Friday night.
But the flow is then expected to diminish quickly once East Germans are convinced they can travel to the West and return whenever they want, diplomats said.
The refugees in Prague, unlike two previous waves of refugees which subsequently went West, were mostly young people, the heart and soul of the nation.
''I couldn't stand it any more,'' said 19-year-old Gunther Blozer, an auto mechanic from Cottbus.
He said new East German leader Egon Krenz ''is the same as Honecker was. He couldn't be a politician for 40 years and turn in one day.''
''I like living in the GDR, I have many friends there, I liked the concerts in Leipzig,'' said Monika Kerzel, 45, who came by car with her husband and two sons. ''But power is not in the hands of the nation as we want it. Just a few people have all the privileges.
Earlier Friday, West German officials in Bonn and Prague expressed concern that the number of refugees soon might exceed the 7,000 who camped at the West German Embassy under deplorable sanitary conditions in late September and early October. That was before the East German government dropped its resistance to letting them leave for West Germany.
In Warsaw, Poland, about 1,000 East Germans were at the West German Embassy Thursday waiting for transport.
Another 386 refugees arrived in West Germany from Hungary to raise to about 68,000 the number who have fled East Germany since August.
Meanwhile, state-run television in Poland reported several hundred Poles have decided to try to emigrate to East Germany, apparently as a ''simple way to get a West German citizenship later.''
The refugees in Prague said they had so little confidence in Krenz's wish to introduce democratic reforms that they thought a general strike would be the only weapon to bring change. Some said they had taken part in the daily mass demonstrations but the result was nothing but promises.
''Politically, morally and socially the German Democratic Republic is on the verge of a breakdown,'' one man said.