Letter to Angela Merkel | Press

Mrs Merkel,
Or should I use your maiden name instead of your first husband’s? Mrs. Kasner.

Posted on Sep 26, 2021 at 6:00 am

On Sunday you will leave the Federal Chancellery after 16 years. I’m one of those who will have a stab in the heart. Germany and the European Union lose their captain. The one who had both hands on the helm in these troubled times. The one who has managed to escape the abyss despite the waves of extremes that are visibly growing in the political ocean.

* * *

I have always been fascinated by your trip. She, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, who was born in West Germany, nine years after the end of the Second World War.

While Germany was the front line of an emerging Cold War when your compatriots in the east fled the Soviet yoke to the west, your family took the reverse route and settled in Templin north of Berlin in the ill-named German Democratic Republic.

You have been patient with your pain for 35 years, you have chosen the path of science. It is said that you are the PhD in quantum chemistry who counted the days between your retirement in 2014. A wall got stuck on your way to your destiny.

In 1989, when the same wall came down, you didn’t waste a second. The very next day you took the first step in your political career by knocking on the door of Democratic Renewal, a party that would quickly be swallowed up by the CDU.

* * *

A year later you won your first choice. The then Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who called you the “little girl”, appointed you minister. Fifteen years later, you put this old truck on the service route and, against all odds, took over the reins of the federal government.

JOHN MACDOUGALL PHOTO, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS ARCHIVES

Inauguration of Angela Merkel in the Federal Chancellery, November 22, 2005, in the presence of her predecessor Gerhard Schröder

You, the woman whose lack of sheen, monotonous tone and dubious hairstyle was denounced, you had all the rivals you underestimated combed down to the bar.

Since then you haven’t stopped breaking macho on your way, in Germany, but also internationally. They stood up against Vladimir Putin and his dog, as well as Donald Trump and his handshake. Apart from brief appearances by Theresa May from the UK, you alone have distorted the photos of the Boyclub, the circle of leaders of the G8, which has become G7 again. And only when you leave your post do you finally admit that you are a feminist.

And it can be a little late. Even if you have built a network of day care centers and paid maternity leave in your country, Germany – Europe’s economic giant – ranks 12th on the continent in terms of gender equality.

* * *

No, Ms. Merkel, you haven’t always impressed me. I have long tried to see the humanity behind your stoicism.

I screamed in my living room when you embarrassedly tried to comfort 14-year-old Palestinian teenager Reem Sahwil in July 2015. She had just told you – in German – that her family was threatened with deportation.

I will never forget your words. Cold. “I understand what you are saying, but politics is tough sometimes. There are thousands upon thousands of Palestinian refugees in the camps in Lebanon and when we tell them, “Come on, everyone” […], we won’t be able to handle it. The teenager had cried. You patted her on the shoulder. That day I really thought you were ice cream.

But obviously this episode touched you too. When a month later several European countries wanted to close their doors to Syrian refugees, they opened Germany’s doors with the words: “We can do it! “(We’ll get there!). Quite a turnaround.

You, who have always governed and cared about what your fellow citizens think, went against the grain of German public opinion. A million refugees have come to your home and are still there. You took a huge risk.

Some will say that this election contributed to the rise of the extreme right in your country. I think this political movement has just found new scapegoats. Germany has long been a country of unrecognized diversity. A country that cast out several ancient demons without ever completely exterminating them.

Those who think you only listened to your heart are wrong. Your country and its aging population need relief. You recruited them while offering asylum to hundreds of thousands of families, including Reem Sahwil’s. Some of your fellow citizens are still throwing the stretchers, but I think history will one day prove you right.

PHOTO TOBIAS SCHWARZ, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE ARCHIVE

The Merkel diamond, a position of the Federal Chancellor that has become her trademark over time

* * *

However, the latter will not always be gentle with you. Your tough handling of the euro crisis has not met with unanimous support and has caused a lot of suffering, but it has nevertheless helped to keep the European Union afloat.

A hundred years from now, you will be remembered above all as Chancellor for stability and prosperity, two qualities that your country desperately needed after reunification. Your intimate knowledge of East Germans will no doubt have contributed to your success.

Good luck, Captain Merkel! Thanks to you, we know that it is possible to become the most powerful woman in the world without ever being in fashion. Without ever fitting the shape.

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