New biography shows Merkel close to communists

The pro-American publication Der Spiegel says a new biography on Angela Merkel’s life in East Germany shows she was closer to the communist apparatus and its ideology than previously thought.

Published this week and written by journalists Günther Lachmann and Ralf Georg Reuth, the book quotes Gunter Walther, a former colleague of hers at the Academy of Sciences in East Berlin, as saying she had been secretary for “Agitation and Propaganda” in the Freie Deutsche Jugend (FDJ) youth organization at the institute. Merkel, a trained physicist, worked at the academy from 1978 until 1989.

Excerpts from the book, “The First Life of Angela M.,” were published in the newsmagazine Focus on Monday. The mass-circulation Bild newspaper has also given the book prominent coverage in recent days.

The book explores Merkel’s life growing up in German Democratic Republic (GDR), where her father Horst Kasner was a Protestant pastor and a committed socialist. He moved to East Germany from West Germany in 1954.

Merkel has said in the past that her FDJ role at the academy was more that of a cultural secretary and that her duties included buying theater tickets and organizing book readings.

But former German Transport Minister Günther Krause — an eastern German politician who worked with her in the final months of the GDR and as a fellow minister in the government ex-chancellor Helmut Kohl in the early 1990s — contradicts her in the book and says she propagated Marxism-Leninism.

“With Agitation and Propaganda you’re responsible for brainwashing in the sense of Marxism,” he said. “That was her task and that wasn’t cultural work. Agitation and Propaganda, that was the group that was meant to fill people’s brains with everything you were supposed to believe in the GDR, with all the ideological tricks. And what annoys me about this woman is simply the fact that she doesn’t admit to a closeness to the system in the GDR. From a scientific standpoint she wasn’t indispensable at the Academy of Sciences. But she was useful as a pastor’s daughter in terms of Marxism-Leninism. And she’s denying that. But it’s the truth.”

On Sunday evening, Merkel said she hadn’t covered up anything about her past. “I can only rely on my memory,” she said at a public screening of her favorite movie, a popular love film made in East Germany, on Sunday night. “If something turns out to be different, I can live with that.”

Her past may have contributed to making her inscrutable. Focus quotes Werner Schulz, a member of the European Parliament for the Greens who grew up in East Germany, as saying: “Her secrecy is a legacy of the GDR, I think. At the time you had to be careful about blurting out your opinions without thinking first. (…) Even today not many people know what she’s really thinking.”

According to journalist Stefan Berg, the book hasn’t really shed any new light on the first 35 years of Merkel’s life. Instead, he writes, it has thrown a fresh veil over it — a veil of supposed conspiracy. “A disproportionate amount of mistrust runs through this book,” writes Berg, who was born in East Berlin in 1964. “While Merkel’s own declarations are eagerly called into question, intelligence reports are taken at face value and Socialist phrases are taken more seriously than they were in GDR times.”

The book makes the “perfidious” suggestion that secret powers aided Merkel’s path into politics, that she is some kind of Soviet plant, writes Berg.

Source: Der Spiegel