BERLIN. During the farewell ceremony marking the end of her 16-year tenure as chancellor, Angela Merkel left the Germans on Thursday with a final message: Trust each other.
Less than a week before Ms. Merkel officially hands over power to her successor, Olaf Scholz, she received her country’s top military awards, including a traditional parade of soldiers with torches and a marching band.
In her short address, just hours after she chaired her last emergency meeting on the pandemic and announced partial isolation for those who refuse to get vaccinated, Ms Merkel warned that trust is one of the most important components of democracy. …
“The last two years of this pandemic have shown how important trust in politics, science and public discourse is – but also how fragile it can be,” she told a small masked audience and socially distanced guests. Democracy, she said, “depends on solidarity and trust, including trust in facts.”
Ms Merkel advised to be vigilant.
“Wherever scientific understanding is denied and conspiracy theories and hatred are spread, we must resist,” she said. “Our democracy also depends on the fact that where hatred and violence are seen as legitimate means to overcome certain interests, our tolerance as democrats must find its limits.”
Ms Merkel noted the symbolic location of the ceremony: the courtyard of the Bendlerblock, a building that is now part of the Ministry of Defense but was once the headquarters of a group of resistance officers who plotted against Adolf Hitler in 1944. and were executed.
The ceremony, televised live and hosted by the Minister of Defense, lasted about an hour and was packed with military choreography and rituals. Known as the Grosser Zapfenstreich, or Grand Tattoo, it dates from the 16th century and is the highest honor the military can bestow on civilians. It was the official farewell to the outgoing Chancellors following the reunification of Germany.
The highlight of the event was the military band, which performed three songs selected by the chancellor. Her predecessors, Helmut Kohl and Gerhard Schroeder, asked for Beethoven and Frank Sinatra among other common dishes. But one of the options chosen by Ms Merkel intrigued many.
There was a Christian hymn – a small surprise for the daughter of a Protestant pastor – and a fairly common cabaret song by the German actress and singer Hildegard Knef.
It was Ms Merkel’s third pick to spark the German Twittersphere. The Chancellor chose “Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen” or “You Forgotten a Color Film” – the hit of the communist East of the 1970s by Nina Hagen, who later emigrated to the West and became the idol of punk rock in Germany in the 1980s.
Until recently, Ms Merkel rarely spoke of her East German origins. But on Thursday, she was more open when asked about a song that tells the story of a couple going on vacation to an island in the Baltic Sea.
“This song was a highlight of my youth, which, as everyone knows, took place in the GDR,” said Ms Merkel, referring to the German Democratic Republic, the official name of communist East Germany. “The song came from the GDR, and as it turned out, it also takes place in a region that was in my former constituency. And that’s how it all fits together. “
Compared to her predecessors, Ms Merkel has invited relatively few guests due to the pandemic. Mr. Scholz was in the crowd, as were many of the 52 ministers who served in her government for more than four terms.
Sometimes the usually stoic chancellor had a hint of emotion on his face.
“If I stand in front of you today, I feel first of all gratitude and humility,” said Ms Merkel. “16 years as chancellor have been busy and often difficult years. They challenged me politically and personally, and at the same time they always carried me out. “
At the very end of her speech, the Chancellor addressed her successor, Mr. Scholz, a Social Democrat who had served as her finance minister for the past four years.
“Now the next government must find answers to the challenges ahead and shape our future,” said Ms Merkel. “For this, I wish you, dear Olaf Scholz, and the government you will be leading, all the best, a lucky hand and great success.”