The resignation Wednesday of Egon Krenz after serving only seven weeks as president of East Germany deals another crushing blow to the authority and image of communism.
Even so, there's room for worrying that the grass-roots revolution in this part of Eastern Europe might be on the verge of reeling out of control.With enraged East Germans breaking into the offices and private villas of former top officials in order to prevent any destruction of documentary evidence of any crimes committed during the former regime of Erich Honecker, the situation is potentially explosive.
East Germany could be flirting with anarchy, which it could discover is not necessarily an improvement over totalitarian repression. And it is risking a possible backlash from the Soviet Union, which has not hesitated to crack down when other neighbors showed signs of independence.
Although the communists seem to be abandoning their monopoly on power, East Germans keep pressing new demands with increasing impatience. So impatient, indeed, are they that several hundred people a day are still abandoning East Germany for West Germany even though the new travel freedoms were intended in part to slow the exodus.
This situation raises the possibility that the reunification of the two Germanys could be carried out hastily at the grass roots rather than carefully through diplomatic negotiations. It also raises some important questions.
If the present rush of events continues, what will be the role of the 380,000 Soviet troops stationed in East Germany? How confident can the West be that the Soviets will continue their policy of letting Warsaw Pact countries reform at their own pace? Could the 17 million people of East Germany, with their failed economy, simply be swallowed up economically by the 71 million people of West Germany with their successful capitalism? Would a reunified Germany present an economic and military threat to the rest of Europe?
At this point, all that's clear is that the fast-moving situation in East Germany is fraught with as many frightening risks as it is with exciting opportunities.