Angela Merkel: Forged in the Old Communist East, Germany's Chancellor-in-Waiting Is Not like the Others

By Boyes, Roger | New Statesman (1996), July 25, 2005 | Go to article overview

Angela Merkel: Forged in the Old Communist East, Germany's Chancellor-in-Waiting Is Not like the Others


Boyes, Roger, New Statesman (1996)


Helmut Kohl, with typical oafishness, used to call Angela Merkel "das Madchen"--the Girl, his girl, his discovery. It was never as simple as that. Although she retained the look of a blackboard monitor deep into middle age, Merkel's girlhood was over long before Kohl became chancellor. Merkel is a product of communism; she embodies its aesthetics and its rigidities. She was 35 when East Germany was dissolved and her instincts, her distrust of men, her nose for conspiracy, had already been formed. Even her career seems to follow a very personal five-year plan.

As she moves closer to becoming the leader of Germany, with elections likely on 18 September, it is time to ask: how communist is Angela Merkel, the great white hope of Tony Blair? What did she get up to in the German Democratic Republic?

On paper, of course, Merkel's policies are new-look Continental conservative: she wants market reforms in the health system, she leans towards workfare, wants to use a hike in VAT to cut labour costs. She is suspicious of Vladimir Putin and fawning towards George W Bush. She could contemplate change in the Common Agricultural Policy. Barring a few issues, notably entry to the EU, she smacks of Blairism. Yet scratch the conservative and you find a woman who appears to yearn for a lost age and defunct state. She is neither fish nor fowl. The most dangerous politicians are always the hybrids--the mermaids and centaurs. Germans will be offered an increasingly well-packaged modern conservative. But listen to the undertones, study her preference for polit-bureaucratic decision-making, and the true Angie emerges. She has been hardened in a different way from her western colleagues.

Merkel's version of the communist years is littered with little lies or inconsistencies. The campaign biographies of Merkel are designed to celebrate the first Ossi (the first easterner) to make a serious bid for the job of chancellor. Every other high-flying politician, from Gerhard Schroder through Edmund Stoiber to Wolfgang Schauble, has been able to chart a rise from postwar deprivation and up the ladder of regional politics; love affairs and backstabbing are brushed out, naturally; the general impression is of worthiness and service, the two main vote-winning qualities for Germans. An Ossi biography has to be written, and read, differently. In Merkel's case the obvious question is quickly posed and quickly answered: no, she did not work for or collaborate with the Stasi. A few family snaps and a sheaf of school pictures show a shy girl dutifully passing through the stages of East German socialisation: as a member of the Free German Youth (FDJ), cooking on a sailing trip, an uncoordinated teenager smiling nervously at the camera during a compulsory volleyball game.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Yet Merkel was never an entirely normal Ossi. Her father, Horst Kasner, was a Lutheran pastor who had moved from the West to the East, eager to help prop up Christianity under communism. He was a daunting figure. At the Waldhof vicarage in Templin, outside Berlin, he helped train other priests. The church adjoined a centre for handicapped children, thrust out of view by the communists. Angela's problem, says her latest biographer, Gerd Langguth, was Kasner's coldness: his warmth was reserved for the trainee priests and the disabled children. From his eldest daughter he expected more and he seemed to be constantly disappointed by her. When at the end of the 1970s he visited her in her own first flat, in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin, he cast a quick eye around the place as his daughter waited anxiously for approval. "Couldn't you have done better?" he said at last, turning to go.

Angela Merkel's relationship with her father is not just a story of unrequited or inadequately expressed paternal love. That is common to many high-achieving women. It is about Horst Kasner's emotional involvement with communism. Plainly Kasner--who is still alive and who still vaguely disapproves of his daughter--tried to justify his decision to settle in the East by showing an exaggerated loyalty to the system. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Angela Merkel: Forged in the Old Communist East, Germany's Chancellor-in-Waiting Is Not like the Others
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.