Merkel Mused


Angela Merkel in a CDU campaign poster, 1995 (CC)


Her new office looks a lot like her old one, just smaller. It feels a bit like a doll house built especially for Angela Merkel so that she – after 16 years in the Chancellery – doesn’t feel so alien in the austere administrative building at the Brandenburg Gate. The Adenauer painting from Oskar Kokoschka is again hanging behind her desk, but it looks quite a bit bigger because the ceiling is so much lower. The four chess figures that made it over here from the Chancellery also seem to have grown larger. She cut a branch from the Adansonia tree in her old office and has placed it in the window. There are the flags and the sculpture of Kairos, from the Rostock artist Thomas Jastram, standing here in a completely new context, just like Merkel herself. Kairos is a Greek god, the personification of favorable moments. He has long held his protective hand over her.

Oskar Kokoschka, Konrad Adenauer, 1966 (detail reproduced here under fair use)

This used to be the office of ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Before that, back when the Berlin Wall still ran by outside the window, it was used by East German National Education Minister Margot Honecker. When Merkel heard about this for the first time, her reported response was: “Oh, shit.”

She was still chancellor at the time, but likely had a foreboding that such historical baggage could weigh heavy.

Almost exactly a year ago, Angela Merkel left the Chancellery as a heroine of the free world. The last images of her as Germany’s leader showed a woman in a heavy overcoat against the icy cold at the Bendlerblock – the Defense Ministry in Berlin where Claus von Stauffenberg and his accomplices were hanged following their unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler – listening to the German military band playing a folk-pop song by Nina Hagen, who is from East Berlin, though left for the West and even became famous as a punk singer in New York. A song from Hildegard Knef followed, a singer who injected a bit of rebelliousness into stolid postwar Germany.

They were the song requests of a confident German woman. The first to ever hold the office, the first eastern German, the first scientist.

“A Year with Ex-Chancellor Angela Merkel: “You’re Done with Power Politics””, Alexander Osang, DER SPIEGEL

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