Telling the story of Angela Merkel is not an easy task.
She is like a quiet sculpture, she rarely talks about herself and rarely analyzes her heart. What people often see is prudence, calmness, restraint, and the supremacy of reason. These are the characteristics of her 16 years in charge of Germany. But the process of shaping and carving her is so complicated: the life experience of East Germany, the logical training of physicists, the empathy and flexibility of the priest’s daughter, the conservative blood of the German nation…Finally, they are all made together and become one of its own. .
Merkel has drawn a clear line between public life and the private world. Since she entered politics in the early 1990s, people have been curious and confused: What does the real Merkel look like? Now, more than 30 years have passed, and the time to say goodbye is approaching. Many scholars, journalists, and ordinary people who have followed Merkel have a similar feeling: politicians always have multiple faces, but Merkel shows This side may be a result of being loyal to yourself, perhaps more real than imagined.
“Silence is a beautiful thing to me”
”Merkeln” is a verb invented by Germans for Merkel, which means to say nothing, do nothing, or publish any attitude, in order to summarize Merkel’s political style and personality. In China, some people translate this as “silent words and silent actions”.
”Taking words and deeds” sends a stable signal, something that many Germans have been longing for since the end of World War II. Her short golden brown hair hasn’t changed much. Her clothes are always colorful and she is wearing black trousers. Her hands and five fingers are often facing each other, posing a “Merkel diamond” in front of her. She often goes shopping alone in Berlin’s supermarkets, and every holiday she goes to the same place in South Tyrol, Italy for excursions.
She advocates the virtue of silence: “Silence is a beautiful thing for me.” “In our society, everyone is too unwilling to remain silent.” Merkel once said in a TV program: “As a society, we It’s too noisy.”
Gradually, the people and the Prime Minister formed a tacit understanding, and the government could talk less. In 2006, Platzek, then chairman of the Social Democratic Party, told Merkel in a research report that the German people did not like to listen to too many arguments about policies. Since then, she rarely talks about similar details and does not make it lightly. promise. In 2013, when she and her main rival, former German Finance Minister Steinbrück, had a televised debate, she only used one sentence to tell voters why they chose her: “You know me.” It couldn’t be more concise.
Even anger is silent. The people in the Chancellery knew that when Merkel was quiet, it would be dangerous. If she gets quieter and quieter, it means she is about to explode, and the way to express her anger is indifferent. In a meeting, Merkel didn’t know much about some figures and facts, so she asked an official, and Merkel was very dissatisfied with the official’s inconsequential answer. “What a great comment.” Merkel sneered. After the meeting, she calmly “pacified” the gray-faced opponent: “You answered correctly, but it didn’t help me.”
Merkel often goes shopping alone in Berlin’s supermarkets.
The “Merkel diamond” on the CDU campaign poster.
Public speaking and lyricism are Merkel’s weaknesses, and the atmosphere when she speaks is always dull. She is wary of those talented orators who are eloquent. When Obama, who was still a US senator, visited Berlin and gave an enthusiastic speech, she told her staff: “I want to see if he can act.”
Of course she is not a robot. She likes Wagner, and she and her husband Sauer will enter the lights-out opera hall and sit quietly, enjoying the sad melody. She is a frequent visitor to the locker room of the German football team, and in the stands she can raise her arms and shout with excitement. She has a high demand for humor. She is a master of cold humor. She also laughed a lot because of the small things that poke a smile… But similar details will not appear in the reports at the time, and her rules are not to disclose or record. , Keep silent to the public.
In the personal world, when encountering important turning points and making major decisions, Merkel is usually silent. For example, November 9, 1989, the day the Berlin Wall opened. Merkel was 35 years old that year and was a physicist living in East Berlin. She saw the news, but did not immediately follow the ecstatic crowd toward the Berlin Wall. Instead, she went to the sauna peacefully, which was her usual practice every Thursday. After washing the sauna, she walked to the checkpoint closest to her and decided to visit West Berlin. She wandered freely with the crowd, drank a few glasses of beer in a household, and then went home, on the grounds that she had to go to work the next day.
Later, many people laughed at Merkel’s performance that night and criticized her for lack of enthusiasm. But Merkel’s enthusiasm is never so superficial. A month later, the young East German woman walked directly into the office of the “Democratic Awakening” party, sat there and started typing, and soon became the party’s news spokesperson, starting her second life.
From a scientist to a politician, Merkel’s performance is like changing an ordinary job. So far no one knows how she repeatedly considered and made decisions. And such a quiet and prudent way of thinking and decision-making is what Merkel learned from her childhood in East Germany. Carl Feldmeyer of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung once said: “The GDR (East Germany) has shaped Merkel in a powerful way. This is how anyone who grew up in the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) unbelievable.”
East German girl in jeans
Merkel’s father Horst Kasner was a Christian priest. In 1954, a few weeks after Merkel’s birth, he followed the arrangement of the Archbishop of Hamburg and moved his family to Brenner, northern Berlin, where there was no priest. The small town of Templin in the canton of Den Burg. Merkel grew up there.
”I had a wonderful childhood.” Merkel once explained, “What the West often overlooks is that life in GDR is not all about politics.”
This conclusion was reached when she was very young. Her mind There is a ruler in it for observation and comparison. “Every year when my cousin and aunt come to East Germany, I always use this opportunity to compare whether the children in the west are happier than the children in the east. They may have something I don’t have, but we have large forests and lakes. I often Say to yourself: aren’t you pretty good too.” Merkel once said in an interview.
In the tenth grade, Merkel began the “backpacker” experience. She and her friends took the train on the Central European route and traveled to Prague, Bucharest, Budapest, Sofia and other places. As an adult, she hitchhiked to Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. During the trip, she was still using the ruler to compare with the people she saw to complete a confirmation. She said: “I keep testing to see if I can be intellectually consistent with them. If I reach the same level as them, then even if I can’t go to the Mediterranean, it won’t be so uncomfortable.”
Above: On November 9, 1989, East Germany announced the opening of the border. For the first time, the Berlin Wall, which has separated East and West Berlin for 28 years, has been cut. Bottom left: Merkel as a student. Bottom right: Merkel, a newcomer to politics in 1991, and former German Chancellor Kohl.
Innate cautious personality and acquired environmental factors make her develop the habit of careful decision-making. She will not disclose how to do it until she wants to understand something. It was like a swimming class in middle school. She stood in front of the diving board for a class, and no one knew what she was thinking. It wasn’t until the last moment before get out of class that she jumped down decisively and calmly. Just like the day when the Berlin Wall opened up, according to her thinking habits, perhaps she realized that politics will be the most dynamic area of the new Germany. She may have hesitated for a moment, and directly captured the historic day with action.
In East Germany, Merkel’s achievements have been excellent since childhood. In middle school, she was a member of the school’s youth mathematics club and won prizes in both the Mathematical Olympiad and the Russian Olympiad. She was admitted to the physics department of Leipzig University with a perfect score.
But Merkel is not a nerd. She is lively and gregarious. She often wears jeans to parties and is responsible for bartending at the bar when organizing disco parties. During college, she met her first husband Ulrich Merkel, and later experienced a four-year marriage.
Upon graduation, she entered the Physical Chemistry Center of the Academy of Sciences and became a “little scholar” studying quantum chemistry. There, she met Dr. Achim Sauer, who was also her second husband.
In the 1980s, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the Polish crisis has also broken out, and unknown drastic changes are brewing. In the Academy of Sciences, Merkel’s critical views on East Germany have gradually become clear, but she has never left the impression of a fighter in her life. She later said: “I take a more intelligent action, a decision, but points transgressions, including in some cases the eyes can resist or resist, I must remain silent.”
Years Academy of Merkel’s political life has Another far-reaching influence is that the typical instrumental rationality of scientists will always be traceable in the future. “She is the best analyst.” A senior German official said in an interview with The New Yorker. During the European debt crisis, she deeply studied Greece’s complex and inefficient pension system, and then took it out one by one to discuss with the then Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. An aides who had witnessed a conference call between her and Obama described it as: “They seem to be conducting a master’s seminar.” Merkel’s cabinet ministers were afraid of her powerful ability to memorize the details of official documents.
According to Merkel’s vision at the time, she would work in the Academy of Sciences until the age of 60, that is, in 2014, when she received her pension, she would apply for a holiday in California. At that time, she would never have thought that not only did she not retire at the age of 60, but she was still in the third term of the prime minister and continued to stand on the peak of power in Germany.
“Cole’s Little Girl” is waiting for an opportunity
When a young East German female scientist entered politics, it unfolded a story of patiently waiting for the opportunity and constantly searching for territory.
When she first entered the political arena, the distinctive political labels of East Germany, women, young, Christians, and scientists have allowed Merkel to quickly break through in a short period of time, but they have also caused her to face resistance in the longer-term leap in the future.
It really came to the fore in 1990. This year, Merkel’s “Democracy Awakening” party merged with the organization of the CDU in East Germany, and Merkel subsequently became a member of the CDU. At the end of 1990, in the first general election after the reunification of the two Germanys, Merkel became a member of the Federal Republic. Soon, she was included in the cabinet by Helmut Kohl, the “father of the reunification of the two Germanys”. In 1991, Merkel served as the vice chairman of the CDU and at the same time the minister of the Federal Ministry of Women and Youth, becoming the youngest federal minister.
While leaping rapidly, Merkel was called the “Little Girl of Cole” and regarded as a “political vase” entirely dependent on Cole. The media also targeted her. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented that she “has no ministerial behavior at all.” “Stuttgart Daily” described Merkel as “sometimes she looks tired, prefers wide skirts and rustic shirts, and doesn’t like grease and powder. This makes men who are good at observing people quickly come to the idea of ”grey mice”. Conclusion.”
Even Cole has similar words and deeds. When visiting the United States, he often regarded Merkel as the “mascot” of the reunification of Germany and Germany. All this made Merkel both irritated and embarrassed.
At this stage, Merkel was so fragile that she cried several times. When visiting Israel in 1991, in the airport terminal, she almost shed tears because of being neglected. Another time was in a cabinet meeting where she was embarrassed to tears because of the crowding of her colleagues. On Merkel today, this is unimaginable.
For a long time, Merkel has been waiting for the opportunity while studying politics and power.
Within the department, Merkel was respected for her efficient absorption of information, and earned the nickname “Angie the Snake” for her straightforward personality. She is concerned about abortion, equality law, kindergarten education, unemployment rate and other issues. She is an energetic workaholic. She figured out a problem and immediately moved to the next topic.
In 1992, Merkel, who was then the Federal Minister of Women and Youth, attended a cabinet meeting.
In 1994, Merkel, who had served as Minister of the Environment.
In 1994, when Merkel was transferred to the Minister of the Environment, she quickly fired a pretentious senior civil servant as a sign of resolute action. In 1996, during a nuclear waste law negotiation, Gerhard Schroeder, who was two years before becoming prime minister, called her performance “regrettable.” In an interview, Merkel rarely responded sharply: “I will drive him to a dead end, just like he treats me. I still need time, but one day will come, I am already looking forward to it.”
When should we rise up against the waves and when should we change direction? In the democratic game developed by West Germany, the former East German girl slowly became a surfer. She told herself: “I have to be tough, otherwise nothing will be accomplished.”
In 1999, CDU Chairman Cole and his successor Wolfgang Schaeuble fell into the “black gold case.” Merkel, then secretary-general of the CDU saw an opportunity. She made a comment in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, decisively calling on the CDU to break with Cole.
The following year, Merkel stepped on Cole’s political legacy to move towards the position of party chairman. Later, Cole told his friends that supporting the young Merkel was the biggest mistake of his life, “I brought my killer.”
In 2005, Merkel became the candidate for prime minister of the CDU, and the then prime minister Schroeder stood in front of her. On election night, Schroeder announced that he was the winner in advance: “When Merkel said she wanted to become prime minister, do you really believe that my party will accept her? Stop dreaming.” Merkel seemed to be amused. , She only said nonchalantly: “In short, you didn’t win today.”
As she predicted, she pushed Schroeder to a dead end, and turned around and became the first female Federal Chancellor of Germany.
During Merkel’s administration, there were many female politicians with her on a global scale. Wang Yiming, a Ph.D. from the School of International Relations at Renmin University of China and a special researcher at the Globalization Think Tank, made a comparison between these female politicians.
”The biggest feature of Merkel is that she refuses to use her own female label.” Wang Yiming told the reporter of “Global People”, “Some female politicians will highlight their femininity. A political tool. But Merkel has no interest from beginning to end.”
In addition, Merkel refuses to compare, especially not want people to compare her with the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. She commented that Margaret Thatcher’s policy was “very good”, but when someone asked whether Margaret Thatcher was Merkel’s role model, Merkel replied: “No, I say that I don’t need a political role model in a narrow sense. Walk my own way, I am who I am.”
”This is also a big difference. Most female politicians are used to having a comparison object, which may come from their fathers, husbands, or female seniors. Theresa May has to keep looking back at Mrs. Thatcher to save the empire’s economy. Park Geun-hye will never forget the bullet shot at his father…This kind of imitation and comparison, whether open or dark, or with or without, brings them a lot of restraint. In Merkel’s view, there is no need to stand by another person. You can also show your own appearance even in the shadow of the sky.” Wang Yiming said.
On November 22, 2005, Berlin, Germany. Merkel, who is about to become Chancellor, at the handover ceremony of the Chancellery.
A turning point in the ruling career
As prime minister, Merkel’s career is composed of a series of crises. Among them, the decision-making in the refugee crisis can best glimpse the mixed side of Merkel’s mental intelligence and emotions.
In July 2015, just a few days after the third Greek debt relief negotiations ended, Merkel met with local middle school students in Rostock. Rem Saville, a 14-year-old Palestinian girl, said she was very afraid that if her family’s asylum application was rejected, she would be deported to a refugee camp in Lebanon. She told Merkel in German: “I don’t know my future. What will happen. I want to go to university and I really want to achieve this goal.”
Merkel’s answer is always calm: “We can’t simply say that you can all come, and everyone in Africa can also come, and we can deal with it. Not so many people.” People once thought this was a positive rejection.
On July 22, 2021, Merkel attended the last regular summer press conference in her prime minister’s career.
But in September, Merkel suddenly announced that based on humanitarian considerations and the spirit of the Federal Basic Law, Germany is willing to accept refugees stranded in Hungary, and the number is unlimited. This is a policy that is destined to cause endless controversy, but Merkel is very determined to ask the people: “We can do it.”
In September 2021, in an interview, Merkel again mentioned the refugee policy. She said that it was not about accepting refugees in their entirety, but in 2015, refugees were already at the door. If you were to go back to the opposite side of the Mediterranean, it would be impossible for me.
This is related to the education she received in the pastor’s family since she was a child. Her father once taught her that there is a stranger standing in front of your door in the rain, and you let him in and give him help, and don’t make a face at him when he comes in.
In addition, Merkel has always been brave enough to admit the inescapable crimes committed by Germany in the face of alien survival requests. She has repeatedly emphasized never xenophobia, and even regards the protection of Israel’s homeland security as Germany’s national obligation. . For historical reasons, Merkel could not refuse.
However, Merkel’s refugee policy eventually caused the German ruling coalition to be divided, which directly led to the rise of the far-right populist party “German Choice”, which caused a structural impact on the political arena.
This was also an important turning point in Merkel’s ruling career, which greatly consumed her political capital and caused her to issue a “double withdrawal” declaration in October 2018.
“I will leave with dignity”
On December 7, 2018, Merkel delivered a farewell speech at the CDU party congress, which opened the countdown to the end. She said: “I will leave with dignity. It’s time to turn a new page.” In
2019, it was discovered that Merkel was showing old age and fatigue. In the face of the public and the media, she trembled three times in a row and was unable to control it. The first time was during the welcoming ceremony with the visiting Ukrainian President Zelensky. The reason announced by the Chancellery was that Merkel did not drink enough water. The second time was when attending the resignation ceremony of German Minister of Justice Katerina Barry, the Chancellery explained that this was a psychological reaction. The third time was when she met Finnish Prime Minister Linne, Merkel kept repeating the phrase “I can hold on” to encourage herself to stop trembling. Although she herself said that she is in good health and there is no need for everyone to worry about it, but this still arouses public concern.
In 2020, the new crown pneumonia epidemic will sweep the world. In the video of the speech in December of that year, Merkel paused in tears when mentioning the death number. It was a rare emotional expression: “I’m sorry, I feel sorry from the bottom of my heart, but if we pay a price of 590 per day. People die, so it’s unacceptable in my opinion.” “If we have too much contact on Christmas Eve now and it turns out to be the last Christmas we spent with our grandparents, then we must have done something wrong. What, shouldn’t let this happen.”
During the epidemic, Merkel’s approval rate once soared to 82%. With the rationality of scientists, she judged this to be a huge disaster. In Germany, many decrees against the epidemic are not constitutionally under the jurisdiction of the federal government, such as closing schools and quarantine at home. But Merkel was firm: “We need the federal states to take action.”
In a public speech in January this year, she reflected on the slow response to the epidemic and the lagging digitization. In April, the cabinet passed the draft amendment, which means that Germany will add more stringent anti-epidemic restrictions and eliminate the ambiguity in the anti-epidemic regulations in various places. As the number of vaccinations continues to increase, Merkel said that Germany is getting closer and closer to “the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Now, many people are concerned about Merkel’s retirement plan. She said that she wanted to rest for a while, and in the free time she won again, she would think about what she was really interested in.
In the past 16 years, she has had little time to think about it. Merkel said: “At that time, I would try to read something, slowly closing my eyes, because I’m tired, then I will sleep for a while, and then, look at where I will appear.” In
2019, Merkel had a 90-minute dialogue with more than 200 people in Stralsund, a small coastal city in northeastern Germany. When asked what will be written in her history book 50 years from now, Merkel’s answer is to use the epitaph of former German Chancellor Willie Brandt: “I have done my best.”