Still, many East Germans elected to stay home and push for substantive changes in their government and society. Numerous marches and demonstrations showed an unanticipated resolve for change among East Germans, and they grew in number and size as summer moved into autumn.
Key DDR officials decided that Honecker had lost all touch with Perestroika-era reality and pushed the Old Warrior into early retirement. He was replaced by Egon Krenz, who let the demonstrations go on and spent a couple of weeks mainly walking around smiling and talking about openness and change.
On the evening of 9 November 1989, Krenz made a startling gesture of openness and change: he instructed guards at the Berlin Wall to open gates and allow East Berliners to visit the western half of their city. Within hours, tens of thousands availed themselves of this opportunity and for the next few days Germany celebrated an impromptu national holiday. The gates stayed open, and more and more of them opened as the year drew to a close. Krenz was himself supplanted by Hans Modrow, long regarded as one of the leading reformers in the Party.
Under Modrow, arrangements were made for the first free and fair elections in the history of the German Democratic Republic. These took place in March 1990, with the Eastern branch of the CDU surprising many by coming out as the largest single party. The CDU-led coalition then set out to close shop on the DDR. The two Germanys moved towards unification with what some considered breakneck speed, and on 3 October 1990, the 41-year division of Germany came to an end. The Federal Republic of Germany had 5 new states on its eastern flank, as well as a mountain of new problems.