The evening of December 2nd saw the end of the era of Chancellor Angela Merkel, which was celebrated with a Großer Zapfenstreich or Grand Tattoo.
For many, it was a reminder of how she remained somewhat enigmatic to all. The Grand Tattoo is a rare honor and an event the person being honored can influence by choosing three pieces of music. Her choices kept everyone busy. They were exceptional enough to make it necessary to arrange two of the songs as they had never been performed by a military band.
One was a song by Nina Hagen who, just like Angela Merkel, started her career in Eastern Germany and was part of the funk and new wave movements. Another choice was a ballade by Hildegard Knef who was an actress born in Western Germany and had great success as a singer on Broadway. Journalists were challenged by these choices as they were not sure how to make sense of them. It was palpable that not being able to name a meaning made them feel insecure. This is most certainly why most regrouped around her third choice. As it was the Christian hymn “Großer Gott wir loben Dich” they could relate it to her being the daughter of a priest. It was no coincidence that they used that attribute to describe her more often than usual during the Grand Tattoo.
Sher herself didn’t seem to care too much about being mysterious. It was part of her continuity. It was also part of how she succeeded to deal with a large lot of crises, remain trusted enough to be reelected four times, and decide not to run for a fifth election.
Her speech gave a small insight into how she did it. She spoke of the “Fröhlichkeit im Herzen” that always accompanied her. As so often, the translation “Happiness in heart” might not convey the whole meaning. In the way she showed it, “Fröhlichkeit im Herzen”, had something of quiet confidence.
It’s the ability to trust herself and her ability to adjust to reality as it presents itself.
It’s also the ability to know that it’s less important to be understood by everyone than to lead the country. She trusted that the results would speak for themselves.