Angela Merkel Biography
Angela Merkel as a child
Angela Dorothea Kasner was born on July 17th, 1954 in Hamburg, Germany. She is the oldest of Horst and Herlind Kasner’s three children and has a brother, Marcus, and a sister, Irene.
She was raised in the small, country side town of Templin, roughly 50 miles north of Berlin, in the German Democratic Republic (also known as East Germany). Living in the GDR meant that she was a part of the socialist-led Free German Youth movement. Through this organization she showed her leadership skills at a young age becoming a district board representative and secretary of Agitprop – the agitation and propaganda campaign of the youth movement. Merkel did not however, “take part in the secular coming of age ceremony Jugendweihe” * which was very popular in East Germany.
Her family, led by her father who was a Lutheran pastor, had “sympathetic” views towards the communist regime of the GDR because they were given freedoms typically denied to Christian pastors – such as easily crossing from West Germany to East Germany, and owning two cars.
After being educated in Templin, Merkel attended the University of Leipzig, where she studied physics from 1973 to 1978, earning her doctorate in 1978. She then worked at the “Central Institute for Physical Chemistry of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin-Adlershof from 1978 to 1990.” *
In 1977, Angela Kasner married physicist Ulrich Merkel, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1982. Merkel remarried in 1998 to Joachim Sauer, a Chemistry professor from Berlin who she has been married to since.
* "Angela Merkel Biography" (Biography.com)
Angela Merkel and former Chancellor Helmut Kohl
Merkel first entered the political world in 1989, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. She joined East Germany’s new democratic party, Demokratischer Aufbruchfirst, and in the first and only democratic elections held in East Germany, Merkel was elected to be the deputy spokesperson for the new government led by Lothar de Maizière.
After the unification of East and West Germany, her party (Demokratischer Aufbruchfirst) merged with the Christian Democratic Union Party (CDU), and in the first post-unification democratic elections Merkel was elected to the Bundestag (the German parliament). Shortly after her election, she was appointed by Helmut Kohl’s, the then Chancellor and CDU party leader, to his cabinet as the Minister for Women and Youth. “In 1994, she was [appointed by Kohl to be the] Minister for the Environment and Reactor Safety, the post which served as foundation of her political career.” †
When Kohl’s government was defeated in the 1998 elections, Merkel became the CDU’s Secretary-General; and after a financial scandal in 1999, she was elected as the CDU’s first female chairperson and took hold of the position on April 10th, 2000.
Merkel represented a dramatic change in the CDU party, which before her election was primarily “a male-dominated, socially conservative party with deep Catholic roots, and…strongholds in western and southern Germany.”ᶱ Merkel, on the other hand, was a Protestant woman, who had a strong base of constituents in Northern Germany. For these reasons, she was very popular amongst the German population and was considered the favorite to be the candidate for Chancellor for the CDU and its sister party, the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), in the 2002 general elections.
Those elections however turned out to be less than favorable. Merkel lost the candidacy primarily due to lack of support from her own party. She was politically undermined by the CSU party leader, Edmund Stoiber who won the candidacy for the CDU/CSU ticket, but lost the Chancellorship to Gerhard Schröder.
After Stoiber lost the elections, in addition to being the CDU’s chairperson, “Merkel became leader of the conservative opposition in the lower house of the…Bundestag.”ᶱ During her time as leader of the conservative opposition, Merkel advocated for many policy changes regarding the German economic system (such deregulation policies which seemed extremely pro-market even for her own conservative party) and supported a strong German – United States relationship and supported the United States invading Iraq, even despite public opposition.
Although her policies were sometimes unfavored by the German population, her popularity never lessened and in the 2005 general elections, not only did Merkel win the candidacy for the CDU/CSU ticket, she also beat out former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, becoming Germany’s first female (and East German) Chancellor.
Chancellor Angela Merkel
Since being sworn in as chancellor on November 22nd, 2005, Merkel has led a Grand coalition consisting of the CDU, CSU, and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), while also continuing her free-market economic agenda and relationship with the United States. She has also been focusing on redesigning the German health care system and tax reform.
† "Angela Merkel Biography" (Lifestyle Lounge)
ᶱ "Angela Merkel Biography (Monsters and Critics)