Homage to the Pastor's Daughter
During Angela Merkel’s final weeks as German chancellor, a stirring fact came out in The New York Times: immigrants have been naming their daughters Angela, and sometimes their sons also received a male version of her name.
I have been delighted to learn this about Chancellor Merkel because she has been a familiar figure in my consciousness since the 2006 World Cup, as my wife and I had a glorious time taking trains to games in bustling cities all over the modern nation.
The chancellor showed up for her country’s games, her bright jackets making her findable among the staid politicians in the VIP tribunes of the stadiums. Her soft, thoughtful face was always findable, right above the lime and yellow and red jackets, comfortable with herself. As she endured in office, I came to think of her as one of the most stable forces in a world getting meaner by the hour.
Chancellor Angela Merkel is being appraised by experts who know her best: slow to act on climate change and aggression in Europe, plus Jeopardizing her country by encouraging immigration.
But I always thought of her as the pastor’s daughter, growing up in an East Germany crawling – and I use the word advisedly – with cold-eyed officers from the old Soviet Union, like Vladimir Putin, whom she would meet again, later.
The tolerance for immigrants reflects Merkel’s open attitude toward the poor, the desperate of the world. Some countries turned immigrants away – even viciously separated parents and children, as if to punish them for their dire straits.
But there were fewer barricades for millions who came to Germany, and began, as immigrants do, to work, to make life better for their families, to fit in.
Perhaps she had heard her Lutheran pastor father, Rev. Horst Kasner, referring to the Biblical passage (Matthew 19:14): "Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'" (The word "suffer" means to allow something or tolerate an action, in earlier forms of English.)
Without preaching, she lived the words. (The other great religions surely stress compassion for the poor.)
A recent article in the Washington Post traced the stance of the Chancellor to her father:
“Germany and even its churches are dominated by economic thinking,” Pastor Kasner said in 1991. “But the Bible’s message calls on us to judge political and economic systems from the perspective of their victims.”
Perhaps in retirement, Mrs. Merkel will elaborate on the sources of her views.
For now, she is the kind face of world politics.
I also think of the published photos of her with some of the male “leaders” she met.
In tribute to Angela Merkel, I have borrowed a few from the world’s archives.
I never had to use a word of German, not one, in a month of trains, hotels, stadiums and restaurants during the World Cup of 2006, so, may I say:
Danke, Kanzlerin Merkel
Here's my NYT column from a stay in Essen during the 2006 World Cup, when I tried to trace the last steps of my Belgian-Irish aunt in 1944; and realized how carefully Germany acknowledges those days:
Hoping you can open these fine strories:
A current appraisal of the Merkel regime:
Andrew L. Tansey
9/27/2021 08:51:40 am
Thanks, George. To me a source of great good in the world, and I hope an enduring influence to outweigh some of the scary signs emerging over the past six years or so in the Whitest areas of Europe (not to mention USA). Rumor has it that Angela Merkel majored in physics. What began as a student exchange program for one of my Stanner daughters led to a physics masters degree at the University in Bremen. It cost nothing except the premium for health insurance, required there. Free education and mandatory health insurance. What a thought!
9/27/2021 05:02:46 pm
Andy, as the son of another immigrant (my mom, from England), I thank you for your tourism tips. We did the same with our three little kids on our first family trip to Italy a long time ago. I taught our oldest to say "gelato" (ice cream) and she would escort her kid sister (8 and 6, they were) down the street while my wife and I had coffee. We also taught them "gabinetto" -- toilet.
9/27/2021 11:29:04 am
9/27/2021 01:18:57 pm
Bruce, I hope to make it north of the border here someday, and I promise to learn a few key phrases of Canadian.
9/27/2021 01:46:05 pm
9/27/2021 01:10:19 pm
Thank you for the most important words. Germany has always been a conundrum for Jewish people . Do we dwell on pre-war Germany? Fortunately, Angela Merkel has given us ample evidence that we can have faith in a Germany in a modern world.
9/27/2021 05:14:49 pm
Dear Judy and Sheldon: Great to hear from you. I deliberately did not "go there" in the piece, but figured somebody would. Thanks. I agree. I carried around a lot of bitterness (my mom's cousin was sent to perish in Bergen-Belsen, not Jewish but a member of the Belgian Resistance...and we all came to know more about the Holocaust as we were growing up. In 1977, I took the family to the Burgundy area, where I wrote about an ecumenical religious gathering each summer, (a young rabbi friend of mine had told me about it) and happened to be in a group with a Christian theologian and her family....and I realized, these people would be my friends in NY or anywhere.So Idecided it was time to park a good bit of my own prejudice. Years later, this allowed us to have a wonderful time wandering around Germany. Judy, imagine, your mom and my mom in Jamaica High in the late 1920s...and we are in touch via the Web in these early 2020s....G
9/27/2021 01:11:25 pm
She was, for a time, the real leader of "the free world".
9/27/2021 01:32:56 pm
Edwin W Martin Jr
9/27/2021 02:36:15 pm
John McDermott captured my thought, when he wrote she was the leader of the free world. Thanks to the US president lacking the wisdom, character, to be even in the leadeship group. GV’s photo tells the whole story. In the 80s Peggy and traveled to Europe a number of times, often for a meeting of an Internatiinal Special Education group where made friends from East and Western Europe.
9/27/2021 05:25:07 pm
Ed: John lives in Italy but near Germany...I'm sure a lot of the Hitler stuff is not emphasized, but I was impressed during our time in Essen in 2006. My aunt had been on trial there, so I went to a Holocaust information center, where they told me the records were in a different city...The center was in an old synagogue, with many photos in the lobby of youth groups in the late 1920s....I looked at the faces on these kids,11-12-13, looking like my junior high classmates in Rego Park, Queens --and that's when I lost it. But I must add, in several cities we saw signs on stores, indicating they were formerly owned by Jewish people.... At least it was still out there. GV
9/27/2021 05:42:55 pm
9/27/2021 06:27:37 pm
George, we had a similar experience near Prague- a children’s mueum with drawings from Concentration camps. As powerful as Yad Vashem. None should ever forget.
9/27/2021 03:35:30 pm
Thanks very much to George, for the link to his fine column, and to Bruce, for the link to the fine review essay by Serge Schmemann. I strongly recommend both.
9/27/2021 05:13:52 pm
9/27/2021 05:30:10 pm
Gene, nice to hear from you. Serge is a great guy, helped me immensely in 1986 when I covered the Goodwill Games in Moscow. He still writes with authority about Russia....and yes, his column on Merkel is knowing and layered, like all his work. GV
9/27/2021 04:32:32 pm
Maybe I should have included the links for the pieces, so you wouldn't have to go looking for them. Here they are:
9/27/2021 04:46:02 pm
In an uncertain and very trouble world, one can always count on insightful comments from George, John, Ed, Gene, Bruce and many others.
9/27/2021 05:23:10 pm
9/27/2021 08:38:25 pm
9/27/2021 09:01:54 pm
9/28/2021 06:18:31 pm
George, Alan, Ed, Bruce, Andy, Gene…. All of you guys,
9/28/2021 07:24:02 pm
9/30/2021 10:19:31 am
9/28/2021 08:29:58 pm
George: when an excellent politician is a woman, the world gets much better. Auf Wiedersehen, Angela. Be happy and that your trajectory inspires all of us.
9/30/2021 10:25:51 am
Comments are closed.
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.