The key to Angela Merkel’s extraordinary political achievements lies in her beginnings. The first half of her life was spent in East Germany, where she withstood the pressures of a police state. She learned that freedom of thought and action cannot be taken for granted. As the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, Merkel also believed in the importance of love as expressed by deeds, not just words, and in serving others. Although she became a brilliant physicist, she had wide interests and was quietly ambitious. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, she welcomed the chance to pursue politics in a united Germany.
In The Chancellor: The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Merkel, former NPR and ABC News reporter Kati Marton explores the public and very private life of the woman who served for 16 years as the head of the German state, which now generally reflects Merkel herself: stable, moderate and civil. Marton, who spent her childhood in Hungary during the Cold War under a totalitarian regime, is a perfect choice to write Merkel’s biography.
Merkel’s rise was spurred on by a combination of self-control, strategic thinking, passive aggression and luck. In 1991, she assumed a cabinet position in Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s newly unified Federal Republic of Germany. In 1998, however, after a political scandal, she publicly opposed his continuing in office. When she became chancellor in 2005, she did not bring specific policies to the office. Instead, she brought a belief in Germany’s permanent debt to the Jews; precise, evidence-based decision-making; and a loathing for dictators who imprison their own people.
At an event for volunteers who had helped with refugee settlement, Marton asked Merkel which single quality sustained her during her long political life. Merkel responded, “Endurance.” Marton’s beautifully written, balanced and insightful biography should be enjoyed by anyone interested in global politics or a fascinating life story.