1. Exterior of Berlin detention facility where Egon Krenz was held
2. Shot of Krenz through window of office
3. Krenz with his lawyer walking out of facility
4. SOUNDBITE (German): Egon Krenz, former East German head of state:
"I'm happy that I can be home on the twenty-fourth. On Christmas Eve it would have been my fourth anniversary here. I would have spent four years here. Now I can celebrate this evening (Christmas Eve) with my family. My wife was waiting forty-two years for the moment I would
have more to time to spend with her. Now she can expect me to take more care of the family."
5. Medium shot of Krenz
6. Side-on shot of Krenz
7. SOUNDBITE (German): Egon Krenz, former East German head of state:
"We could have prevented deaths and injuries to German people at the inter-German border. They happened because of the circumstances of the Cold War. I always gave my apologies and feelings to the relatives of the victims. Therefore I didn't need a trial, nor four years in prison. I was certain the deaths were unnecessary, even during the times when we made policy and lived in the GDR (German Democratic Republic). But the former GDR was not the only one responsible for the rules of the Cold War."
Egon Krenz, East Germany's last Stalinist leader who allowed the historic opening of the Berlin Wall during a brief seven weeks in power, was released from jail on Thursday after serving nearly four years for the shooting deaths of East Germans trying to flee to the West during the Cold War.
An unsmiling Krenz, 66, emerged from the Ploetzensee Prison - where he has been serving a six-and-a-half year sentence on a manslaughter conviction - to a media crush but no protests at the early release of the highest former East German official convicted of crimes by the regime.
Although the last Wall death occurred months before Krenz took power, he was held partly responsible for border deaths because, as a longtime member of the communist Politburo, he condoned the shoot-to-kill orders.
Krenz has long maintained his innocence, arguing all the way to the European Court of Human Rights that stopping citizens from fleeing the communist country broke no East German law. His arguments were rejected in 2001.
"Contrary to what has been said, I have always said it was a personal defeat for me that we were not in a position to prevent deaths and injuries at the border," Krenz said as he left prison, clutching a black overnight bag.
He added that "those were the circumstances of the Cold War. I have always expressed my sympathy and regret to relatives of the victims on this question. But I didn't need a trial for that. I didn't need four years."
About one-thousand people were killed trying to cross the Berlin Wall and other heavily fortified stretches of Germany's east-west border between 1961 and the 1989 fall of the Wall. The last person killed was 20-year-old Chris Gueffroy, who was shot in February 1989 as tried to reach West Berlin.
Hundreds of former East German border guards and officials have been convicted since German reunification in 1990 for shootings along the former border. Most received suspended sentences.
Krenz's sentence allowed him to leave jail to work during the day as an economic adviser at a German start-up airline, but he had to return to his cell every night. He was paroled because he had served nearly two-thirds of his sentence, as allowed under German law, and has behaved well in prison, according to Berlin justice spokeswoman Annette Grabbe.
Krenz said he intended to return to a home in the town of Ribnitz-Damgarten on the Baltic coast near Rostock, where he would spend Christmas with his family and begin work on his memoirs.
Under the communist regime, Krenz served in a succession of senior posts from 1973 until shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989.
He served for only 49 days as East Germany's leader after replacing the long-serving Erich Honecker, who was ousted amid mounting demonstrations demanding reforms and freedom to travel.
Krenz's hardline Politburo was replaced in December 1989 by a reform-oriented caretaker government led by Hans Modrow, a moderate communist, which paved the way for the country's first democratic elections in March 1990.