BERLIN, Nov. 8, 1989 (UPI) -- Elderly hard-line members of the Communist Party Politburo, East Germany's top policy-making body, resigned Wednesday to make way for men considered more open to reforms that leader Egon Krenz hopes will stem an exodus of East Germans.
In quick-moving events a day after the East German Cabinet stepped down, Krenz was confirmed by the Communist Central Committee as secretary-general of the party, assuring he remained head of the Politburo and East German leader.
The committee also nominated Hans Modrow, 61, once under a political cloud because he admired reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, as premier to replace Willi Stoph, 75, the East German news service ADN reported.
In another step to stem growing discontent, the Interior Ministry announced it would formally recognize the outlawed opposition group New Forum.
New Forum did not apply for recognition as a political party, but the recognition as a society or organization is necessary under German law for it to operate legally.
In Washington, White House deputy press secretary Roman Popadiuk called on the new East German government ''to enter into a dialogue'' with the people so their desires for democracy can be met.
He expressed the hope that the new leadership ''is a step on the road to stable and evolutionary reforms.''
Modrow's nomination appeared to reflect official desire for reforms to halt the flow of refugees and appease thousands of East Germans staging daily demonstrations demanding an end to the Communist Party's monopoly on power, the freedom to travel abroad and the right to choose their own government.
Under former leader Erich Honecker, East Germany was one of the most conservative and repressive states in the Soviet-dominated East bloc. The Honecker government, which had built the Berlin Wall in 1961, had little tolerance for dissent and ruthlessly crushed any opposition to communist rule, while imposing a strict orthodox Marxist economic system which kept East German far behind West Germany in its standard of living.
Modrow'a nomination must be approved by parliament and a parliamentary committee was to meet Thursday to discuss convening a full session as soon as possible.
Outgoing premier Stoph was an associate of Honecker, who was forced out Oct. 18. Stoph and the more than 40 members of his Cabinet resigned Tuesday to allow Krenz to bring in new faces and liberalize society.
Krenz, meanwhile, called for a Central Committee meeting to draw up an ''action program'' designed to combat discontent. When the committee's three-day plenum began Wednesday, Krenz proposed the 21-member Politburo also resign.
The Central Committee unanimously accepted the proposal, ADN reported. Of the 21 posts, seven members were reappointed, four were replaced and 10 positions were eliminated. The move streamlined the body from 21 to 11 members.
The Democracy Now movement, one of the chief opposition groups that have arisen in East Germany, was not impressed by the changes. ''New names do not make a new policy,'' the group said in a statement said.
Krenz in a speech to the Central Committee said the ''painful'' mass flight of refugees could not be blamed on West Germany.
''Many people have lost faith in the ability to change social conditions in the German Democratic Republic and see no future for themselves,'' he said. ''Those people who have left are not, with a few exceptions, criminals opponents of socialism.''
Krenz said the Politburo voted to replace Honecker on the motion of Stoph because Honecker had blamed the flight of refugees on ''enemy influences'' and refused to face the problems the flight raised in order to solve them.
Modrow, aside from being nominated as premier, was among the four new people named to the Politburo. Modrow, the Communist party leader in Dresden, was elected with only one dissenting vote of the 157 Central Committee members present at the East Berlin meeting, ADN said.
The three other new Politburo members were Economic Minister Wolfgang Rauchfuss, planning commission chief Gerhard Schoerer and Wolfgang Herger, head of central committee security department.
Krenz told the Central Committee nine Politburo members asked to resign: Stoph; parliamentary speaker Horst Sindermann, 74; Harry Tisch, 62, ousted last week as head of the Communist-run labor federation; Kurt Hager, 77, dropped last month as party ideology overseer; Hermann Axen, 73, the party foreign policy formulator; state security minister Erich Mielke, 82; deputy premier Alfred Neumann, 80; Erich Mueckenberger, 79, head of the party control commission; and party agricultural expert Werner Krolikowski, 61.
The 10th position eliminated had been held by Honecker.
Krenz, 52, a disciple of Honecker who has adopted the mantle of Gorbachev since taking power, was confirmed as party leader by a unanimous vote of the Central Committee members.
East Germany's Communist Party Politburo, the top policy-making body, resigned Wednesday, one day after the entire Cabinet quit in an attempt to halt the flight of thousands of its citizens to West Germany, the official East German news agency ADN reported.
The Politburo's decision to resign came at the suggestion of Egon Krenz, the new East German leader, to make clear who was responsible for the current political crisis gripping the nation, ADN reported.
The action was taken on the first day of a three-day meeting in East Berlin of the 165-member Central Committee called by Krenz to try and halt the mass flight of East Germans to the west and to appease the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who have been demanding political and economic reforms.
Premier Willi Stoph and the more than 40 members of the Cabinet resigned Tuesday, giving Krenz a chance to replace elderly hard-liners associated with former leader Erich Honecker.
Krenz is a member of the Politburo, but it was not immediately clear whether he, too, resigned. ADN made no mention of Krenz's status.
Krenz, who came to power last month after Honecker resigned, proposed that the 21 Politburo members resign at the beginning of the Central Committee's three-day plenum.
The Central Committee unanimously accepted the proposal, ADN reported.
''As was reported, the action was designed to make clear the responsibility for the present situation,'' ADN said.
While ADN did not say specifically what prompted the resignations, or what was meant by the ''present situation,'' the flight west of about 90,000 refugees since August has brought on the most serious threat to communist rule in East Germany.
The exodus through Czechoslovakia showed no sign of stopping and more demonstrations demanding an end to communist domination of the government were staged in East Berlin Tuesday night outside Communist Party headquarters and in other cities.
Government spokesman Wolfgang Meyer announced the resignations of Stoph and the more than 40 Cabinet ministers Tuesday at a hastily called news conference, appealing for East Germans to help the administration confront this ''serious situation.''
''We also appeal to citizens who are thinking of leaving the GDR to reconsider their decision,'' he said. ''Our socialist fatherland needs all and everyone.''
The Cabinet resignation triggered a demonstration by 50,000 East Germans Tuesday night in the Baltic Sea port of Wismar, and smaller-scale protests were reported in several other cities. Nearly all of the demonstrations were calling for free elections.
The resignations were prompted by the angry reaction to a travel law proposed this week by Interior Minister Friedrich Dickel. The law proposed that East Germans be allowed in the future to travel to the West for up to 30 days a year.
East Germans were furious that the law was not more liberal. In an unprecedented show of independence Tuesday, a parliamentary committee rejected the proposed law because it was too restrictive. It was the first time in the nation's 40-year history that a committee had rejected a law proposed by the government.
''Why the restriction to 30 days?'' said Baerbel Bohley, a founder of the New Forum opposition group.
The committee also heard a proposal to amend the constitutional article that gives the Communist Party the leading role in the government. The panel referred the proposal to the Justice Ministry, the official ADN news agency reported.
Despite the resignations, Meyer said Stoph's Cabinet would remain in office as a caretaker government until a new Cabinet is selected. The resignations allow Krenz to form his own government less than a month after he took over for Honecker.