The fact that Angela Merkel grew up in East Germany has often been seen as a flaw. In the first TV interview after her term in office, the ex-Chancellor vehemently defends herself against this. The most important statements at a glance.
The most important things at a glance
Angela Merkel has been no longer Chancellor for almost two years. The CDU politician has withdrawn and rarely appears in public. But on German Unity Day on October 3rd, she appeared in front of the camera for a TV interview for the first time since the end of her term in office.
As part of the ZDF documentary “On the Pulse with Mitri Sirin,” Merkel talks about growing up in the GDR, dissatisfaction from the East and her lack of understanding for AfD voters. An overview of the most important statements.
GDR past as “ballast”?
The conversation started immediately in person. After moderator Mitri Sirin asked why Merkel had chosen the topic of East Germany for the interview, the former Chancellor recalled one of her last speeches in office – which is still considered one of her most personal to this day. In October 2021 in Halle, on German Unity Day, Merkel sharply criticized the fact that her GDR biography was described as “ballast” in a book published by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
Now the 69-year-old explains in an interview with ZDF what this rating did to her: “It was like a little punch in the stomach, I have to say quite honestly. (…) I somehow didn’t get it right at first can believe (…).” She felt “gutted” by this statement. “Because everything that defines me was, of course, my biography, growing up in the GDR,” said Merkel. “So I was flabbergasted. You have to figure it out first.”
“I sorted it out a lot with myself.”
The former Chancellor also explained why she became so personal at the time: because it was nearing the end of her term in office. She “probably wouldn’t have done that before. Because I always saw myself as the chancellor of all Germans.” She therefore wanted to avoid being stigmatized. “Now she’s coming back with her East Germany,” it would have been said, said Merkel on ZDF.
“I discussed it a lot with myself or talked about it in the constituency, but I didn’t carry it in front of me like a monstrance as Chancellor.” But she always talked about the fact that there was a difference “between the GDR state, the overcoming of which we all enthusiastically celebrated, and a personal life, which in every country is more than the state structure – thank God,” said Merkel . She remembered her childhood and youth: “We had friends, we celebrated, we went on vacation with our parents.”
At the same time, there were formative experiences through the state, explained Merkel. “The presence of freedom shapes people, but the absence of freedom also shapes them,” she said about life in the GDR.
was born on July 17, 1954 in Hamburg, but grew up in the GDR. She was the first female chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from November 22, 2005 to December 8, 2021. She was both the first person from East Germany to serve as Chancellor and the first person born after the founding of the Federal Republic.
Discontent from the East
When asked about the displeasure of many East Germans that she encountered during her time in office, she justified herself: “There were some people who were very angry with me.” The situation became polarized “when a lot of refugees came to us.” “But I have always won in my constituency,” emphasized Merkel.
“It’s not like the majority of people in the new federal states shouted at me, but there was a part and a very radical and also loud and intolerant group.” The loudest one leaves the last impression. Many people who are quiet and defend themselves against intolerance are much less likely to have their say. That’s not okay.