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  The Fateful Chancellor: What the end of the Merkel era means for the world
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ContributorIndyGeorgia 
Last EditedIndyGeorgia  Nov 24, 2021 08:37pm
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CategoryAnalysis
AuthorJeremy Cliffe
News DateWednesday, September 15, 2021 06:00:00 PM UTC0:0
DescriptionThere are moments when history stands still, and moments when its wheels start turning. The night of 9 November 1989 was one of the latter. At 8pm Günter Schabowski, a spokesman for the struggling, protest-beset East German regime, fumbled an answer in a press conference and implied that the borders to the West would open “with immediate effect”. East Berliners rushed to the checkpoints. One, a 35-year-old quantum physicist and a creature of habit, initially resisted and kept her regular Thursday evening sauna appointment. But afterwards Angela Merkel skipped her post-sauna beer and joined the crowds pouring across the now-open crossing on the Bornholmer Strasse. “I met a few people, and at some point, we were all sitting in the apartment of a happy West German family,” she later recalled of that “fateful day”. The young Merkel took it all in, then hurried home. The next day would be an early start.


One month later Merkel joined the new party Democratic Awakening, which merged with the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in August 1990. In December that year she ran for and won the Bundestag seat for a north-eastern coastal constituency (which she would represent for the next 31 years). Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who patronisingly referred to her as “mein Mädchen” (“my girl”), made her minister for women and youth and then minister for the environment. When election defeat in 1998 and a party funding scandal consumed Kohl and his crown prince, Wolfgang Schäuble, Merkel manoeuvred to become first the CDU’s general secretary in 1998, its leader in 2000 and German chancellor in 2005.
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