Although she is being compared with Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel’s past bears few similarities to the Iron Lady of the 1980’s, only perhaps her academic background as a scientist. In fact she was once a member of the communist youth in former East Germany.
She spent her formative years growing up in the ex-German Democratic Republic. Merkel is the daughter of a Lutheran Pastor who had a parish outside east Berlin. She shot to prominence after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 when she was an aide to Lothar de Maziere, the last prime minister of the rapidly collapsing GDR
. In the run up to unification she joined the Christian Democrats. Merkel was immediately talent spotted by Chancellor Helmut Kohl. After Germany became reunited, Kohl brought her into his government as minister for women and youth, and later environment minister. At this time the German media began to take notice of her potential – she was dubbed “Kohl’s young girl”.
Merkel’s time in government during the mid 90s enabled her to learn the rules of the political game in Germany. Her image as an outsider, lacking the baggage of the party’s old guard, has been useful during her political advancement. When the scandal of the so-called “black boxes” brought Kohl down in 1999, she had the job of CDU
party manager. Seizing her chance, she wielded the political knife, which put an end to her mentor’s career.
Merkel wrote in a newspaper that a new start was needed, she was in the right place at the right time. The Christian Democrats had little choice but to elect her chairman. Entering the limelight, it was time to brush up her presentation.The German press is constantly trying to stick new labels on the woman theycall Angie: unfeminine, unconcerned by fashion – although tough when it matters.
Merkel is unusual in being outside the male-dominated brotherhood of German party politics. There is only one man who shares her secrets: her husband, the academic Joachim Sauer.