Fascination With German Leader’s More Private Side

BERLIN — Throughout Angela Merkel’s rise to power and tenure as German chancellor, she has kept a tight lid on her personal life to an extent hard to conjure in the modern social media age. But every four years, the election cycle cracks the door open, and one finds Ms. Merkel regaling small groups — and, by extension, millions of German voters — with tales of tending bar or hunting for goods in the sparsely stocked stores of the Communist East where she grew up, or summoning up tales from her first trip to the United States.

Early this month, the often stern chancellor joined a group hosted by the women’s magazine Brigitte, where she kicked back, dropped the poker face she so often adopts in public and showed off her dry wit and self-deprecating humor.

Last week, she was at a Berlin movie theater for a screening she had requested of the classic East German film “The Legend of Paul and Paula,” a 1973 movie that, with phantasmagorical scenes and rock music amid East German drabness, gave hope back then to Ms. Merkel’s generation that something might change in their bleak society.

“If you only saw the system, then you really couldn’t laugh,” she recalled for the audience afterward.

One of the raft of new books that have hit German bookstores in this election year — Ms. Merkel is seeking a third four-year term in September — claims that the future chancellor once was a “secretary for agitation and propaganda” in the Communist youth organization of East Germany.

The chancellor, who has waved away the assertion, has always insisted that she never hid any elements of her past.

But the flap around her political roots reflects the untiring fascination with the inner workings of a woman who has risen to the top of Europe’s leading country by maintaining an image of deep personal integrity and a guarded private life.

Letting that guard drop almost seems part of the self-control for which she is noted. So, at the Brigitte discussion, she suddenly became the young woman from the lake-speckled Uckermark region northeast of Berlin, fascinated by the overwhelming friendliness she encountered on her first trip to the United States after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

Ms. Merkel beamed as she recalled a San Diego sales clerk asking “How are you?” with such cheerful insistence that she simply had to abandon her normal mumbled response.

“I was forced out of my Uckermärkische stubbornness to come up with a happy ‘Great!”’ she said, to howls of laughter and applause.

Although she frequently gives interviews, and there are several dozen biographies and articles documenting her rise to power and two terms in office, Ms. Merkel guards her privacy.

So paparazzi photos from her Easter vacation in Italy, showing her in her bathing suit, or helping her step-grandchild to climb a rock — the equivalent of images released by the White House of President Barack Obama with his family on the beaches of Hawaii — instantly became headline news in Germany.

Government officials insisted that Ms. Merkel and her rarely seen husband, the scientist Joachim Sauer, were aghast at this invasion of privacy.

Yet, with less than six months until the vote, Ms. Merkel, who heads the center-right Christian Democratic Union, is suddenly spending as much time telling tales of mixing cherry juice with vodka as a barmaid at university parties, as she is meeting European leaders or grappling with domestic issues of Germany’s aging population or energy transformation.

Indeed, even the exchanges with European leaders have acquired a family touch — with Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain invited to bring not only his wife, Samantha, but also their children for a country weekend with Ms. Merkel and her husband.

Ms. Merkel is one of Germany’s most beloved public figures, with an overall approval rating of 65 percent. She is often praised for her common-sense approach to life, which comes across in her politics. Accordingly, when asked during the meeting hosted by Brigitte about her habit of standing with her thumbs and forefingers pressed together — a position the German press has dubbed “the chancellor rhombus” — Ms. Merkel brushed aside any idea that she had thought about it, or consulted someone else.

“It came from the question of what to do with the arms” when posing for a photograph, Ms. Merkel said. “Although it does, perhaps, reveal a certain love of symmetry.”

A half-dozen books analyzing the chancellor’s career have hit the German market recently. One, “The Chancellor and Her World,” seeks to examine the chancellor through her foreign policies, delving into the history of her Polish grandfather; another, “The Wavering Artist,” professes to give an insider’s look at how she really functions.

BERLIN — Throughout Angela Merkel’s rise to power and tenure as German chancellor, she has kept a tight lid on her personal life to an extent hard to conjure in the modern social media age. But every four years, the election cycle cracks the door open, and one finds Ms. Merkel regaling small groups — and, by extension, millions of German voters — with tales of tending bar or hunting for goods in the sparsely stocked stores of the Communist East where she grew up, or summoning up tales from her first trip to the United States.

Early this month, the often stern chancellor joined a group hosted by the women’s magazine Brigitte, where she kicked back, dropped the poker face she so often adopts in public and showed off her dry wit and self-deprecating humor.

Last week, she was at a Berlin movie theater for a screening she had requested of the classic East German film “The Legend of Paul and Paula,” a 1973 movie that, with phantasmagorical scenes and rock music amid East German drabness, gave hope back then to Ms. Merkel’s generation that something might change in their bleak society.

“If you only saw the system, then you really couldn’t laugh,” she recalled for the audience afterward.

One of the raft of new books that have hit German bookstores in this election year — Ms. Merkel is seeking a third four-year term in September — claims that the future chancellor once was a “secretary for agitation and propaganda” in the Communist youth organization of East Germany.

The chancellor, who has waved away the assertion, has always insisted that she never hid any elements of her past.

But the flap around her political roots reflects the untiring fascination with the inner workings of a woman who has risen to the top of Europe’s leading country by maintaining an image of deep personal integrity and a guarded private life.

Letting that guard drop almost seems part of the self-control for which she is noted. So, at the Brigitte discussion, she suddenly became the young woman from the lake-speckled Uckermark region northeast of Berlin, fascinated by the overwhelming friendliness she encountered on her first trip to the United States after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

Ms. Merkel beamed as she recalled a San Diego sales clerk asking “How are you?” with such cheerful insistence that she simply had to abandon her normal mumbled response.

“I was forced out of my Uckermärkische stubbornness to come up with a happy ‘Great!”’ she said, to howls of laughter and applause.

Although she frequently gives interviews, and there are several dozen biographies and articles documenting her rise to power and two terms in office, Ms. Merkel guards her privacy.

So paparazzi photos from her Easter vacation in Italy, showing her in her bathing suit, or helping her step-grandchild to climb a rock — the equivalent of images released by the White House of President Barack Obama with his family on the beaches of Hawaii — instantly became headline news in Germany.

Government officials insisted that Ms. Merkel and her rarely seen husband, the scientist Joachim Sauer, were aghast at this invasion of privacy.

Yet, with less than six months until the vote, Ms. Merkel, who heads the center-right Christian Democratic Union, is suddenly spending as much time telling tales of mixing cherry juice with vodka as a barmaid at university parties, as she is meeting European leaders or grappling with domestic issues of Germany’s aging population or energy transformation.

Indeed, even the exchanges with European leaders have acquired a family touch — with Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain invited to bring not only his wife, Samantha, but also their children for a country weekend with Ms. Merkel and her husband.

Ms. Merkel is one of Germany’s most beloved public figures, with an overall approval rating of 65 percent. She is often praised for her common-sense approach to life, which comes across in her politics. Accordingly, when asked during the meeting hosted by Brigitte about her habit of standing with her thumbs and forefingers pressed together — a position the German press has dubbed “the chancellor rhombus” — Ms. Merkel brushed aside any idea that she had thought about it, or consulted someone else.

“It came from the question of what to do with the arms” when posing for a photograph, Ms. Merkel said. “Although it does, perhaps, reveal a certain love of symmetry.”

A half-dozen books analyzing the chancellor’s career have hit the German market recently. One, “The Chancellor and Her World,” seeks to examine the chancellor through her foreign policies, delving into the history of her Polish grandfather; another, “The Wavering Artist,” professes to give an insider’s look at how she really functions.

BERLIN — Throughout Angela Merkel’s rise to power and tenure as German chancellor, she has kept a tight lid on her personal life to an extent hard to conjure in the modern social media age. But every four years, the election cycle cracks the door open, and one finds Ms. Merkel regaling small groups — and, by extension, millions of German voters — with tales of tending bar or hunting for goods in the sparsely stocked stores of the Communist East where she grew up, or summoning up tales from her first trip to the United States.

Early this month, the often stern chancellor joined a group hosted by the women’s magazine Brigitte, where she kicked back, dropped the poker face she so often adopts in public and showed off her dry wit and self-deprecating humor.

Last week, she was at a Berlin movie theater for a screening she had requested of the classic East German film “The Legend of Paul and Paula,” a 1973 movie that, with phantasmagorical scenes and rock music amid East German drabness, gave hope back then to Ms. Merkel’s generation that something might change in their bleak society.

“If you only saw the system, then you really couldn’t laugh,” she recalled for the audience afterward.

One of the raft of new books that have hit German bookstores in this election year — Ms. Merkel is seeking a third four-year term in September — claims that the future chancellor once was a “secretary for agitation and propaganda” in the Communist youth organization of East Germany.

The chancellor, who has waved away the assertion, has always insisted that she never hid any elements of her past.

But the flap around her political roots reflects the untiring fascination with the inner workings of a woman who has risen to the top of Europe’s leading country by maintaining an image of deep personal integrity and a guarded private life.

Letting that guard drop almost seems part of the self-control for which she is noted. So, at the Brigitte discussion, she suddenly became the young woman from the lake-speckled Uckermark region northeast of Berlin, fascinated by the overwhelming friendliness she encountered on her first trip to the United States after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

Ms. Merkel beamed as she recalled a San Diego sales clerk asking “How are you?” with such cheerful insistence that she simply had to abandon her normal mumbled response.

“I was forced out of my Uckermärkische stubbornness to come up with a happy ‘Great!”’ she said, to howls of laughter and applause.

Although she frequently gives interviews, and there are several dozen biographies and articles documenting her rise to power and two terms in office, Ms. Merkel guards her privacy.

So paparazzi photos from her Easter vacation in Italy, showing her in her bathing suit, or helping her step-grandchild to climb a rock — the equivalent of images released by the White House of President Barack Obama with his family on the beaches of Hawaii — instantly became headline news in Germany.

Government officials insisted that Ms. Merkel and her rarely seen husband, the scientist Joachim Sauer, were aghast at this invasion of privacy.

Yet, with less than six months until the vote, Ms. Merkel, who heads the center-right Christian Democratic Union, is suddenly spending as much time telling tales of mixing cherry juice with vodka as a barmaid at university parties, as she is meeting European leaders or grappling with domestic issues of Germany’s aging population or energy transformation.

Indeed, even the exchanges with European leaders have acquired a family touch — with Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain invited to bring not only his wife, Samantha, but also their children for a country weekend with Ms. Merkel and her husband.

Ms. Merkel is one of Germany’s most beloved public figures, with an overall approval rating of 65 percent. She is often praised for her common-sense approach to life, which comes across in her politics. Accordingly, when asked during the meeting hosted by Brigitte about her habit of standing with her thumbs and forefingers pressed together — a position the German press has dubbed “the chancellor rhombus” — Ms. Merkel brushed aside any idea that she had thought about it, or consulted someone else.

“It came from the question of what to do with the arms” when posing for a photograph, Ms. Merkel said. “Although it does, perhaps, reveal a certain love of symmetry.”

A half-dozen books analyzing the chancellor’s career have hit the German market recently. One, “The Chancellor and Her World,” seeks to examine the chancellor through her foreign policies, delving into the history of her Polish grandfather; another, “The Wavering Artist,” professes to give an insider’s look at how she really functions.

BERLIN — Throughout Angela Merkel’s rise to power and tenure as German chancellor, she has kept a tight lid on her personal life to an extent hard to conjure in the modern social media age. But every four years, the election cycle cracks the door open, and one finds Ms. Merkel regaling small groups — and, by extension, millions of German voters — with tales of tending bar or hunting for goods in the sparsely stocked stores of the Communist East where she grew up, or summoning up tales from her first trip to the United States.

Early this month, the often stern chancellor joined a group hosted by the women’s magazine Brigitte, where she kicked back, dropped the poker face she so often adopts in public and showed off her dry wit and self-deprecating humor.

Last week, she was at a Berlin movie theater for a screening she had requested of the classic East German film “The Legend of Paul and Paula,” a 1973 movie that, with phantasmagorical scenes and rock music amid East German drabness, gave hope back then to Ms. Merkel’s generation that something might change in their bleak society.

“If you only saw the system, then you really couldn’t laugh,” she recalled for the audience afterward.

One of the raft of new books that have hit German bookstores in this election year — Ms. Merkel is seeking a third four-year term in September — claims that the future chancellor once was a “secretary for agitation and propaganda” in the Communist youth organization of East Germany.

The chancellor, who has waved away the assertion, has always insisted that she never hid any elements of her past.

But the flap around her political roots reflects the untiring fascination with the inner workings of a woman who has risen to the top of Europe’s leading country by maintaining an image of deep personal integrity and a guarded private life.

Letting that guard drop almost seems part of the self-control for which she is noted. So, at the Brigitte discussion, she suddenly became the young woman from the lake-speckled Uckermark region northeast of Berlin, fascinated by the overwhelming friendliness she encountered on her first trip to the United States after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

Ms. Merkel beamed as she recalled a San Diego sales clerk asking “How are you?” with such cheerful insistence that she simply had to abandon her normal mumbled response.

“I was forced out of my Uckermärkische stubbornness to come up with a happy ‘Great!”’ she said, to howls of laughter and applause.

Although she frequently gives interviews, and there are several dozen biographies and articles documenting her rise to power and two terms in office, Ms. Merkel guards her privacy.

So paparazzi photos from her Easter vacation in Italy, showing her in her bathing suit, or helping her step-grandchild to climb a rock — the equivalent of images released by the White House of President Barack Obama with his family on the beaches of Hawaii — instantly became headline news in Germany.

Government officials insisted that Ms. Merkel and her rarely seen husband, the scientist Joachim Sauer, were aghast at this invasion of privacy.

Yet, with less than six months until the vote, Ms. Merkel, who heads the center-right Christian Democratic Union, is suddenly spending as much time telling tales of mixing cherry juice with vodka as a barmaid at university parties, as she is meeting European leaders or grappling with domestic issues of Germany’s aging population or energy transformation.

Indeed, even the exchanges with European leaders have acquired a family touch — with Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain invited to bring not only his wife, Samantha, but also their children for a country weekend with Ms. Merkel and her husband.

Ms. Merkel is one of Germany’s most beloved public figures, with an overall approval rating of 65 percent. She is often praised for her common-sense approach to life, which comes across in her politics. Accordingly, when asked during the meeting hosted by Brigitte about her habit of standing with her thumbs and forefingers pressed together — a position the German press has dubbed “the chancellor rhombus” — Ms. Merkel brushed aside any idea that she had thought about it, or consulted someone else.

“It came from the question of what to do with the arms” when posing for a photograph, Ms. Merkel said. “Although it does, perhaps, reveal a certain love of symmetry.”

A half-dozen books analyzing the chancellor’s career have hit the German market recently. One, “The Chancellor and Her World,” seeks to examine the chancellor through her foreign policies, delving into the history of her Polish grandfather; another, “The Wavering Artist,” professes to give an insider’s look at how she really functions.

BERLIN — Throughout Angela Merkel’s rise to power and tenure as German chancellor, she has kept a tight lid on her personal life to an extent hard to conjure in the modern social media age. But every four years, the election cycle cracks the door open, and one finds Ms. Merkel regaling small groups — and, by extension, millions of German voters — with tales of tending bar or hunting for goods in the sparsely stocked stores of the Communist East where she grew up, or summoning up tales from her first trip to the United States.

Early this month, the often stern chancellor joined a group hosted by the women’s magazine Brigitte, where she kicked back, dropped the poker face she so often adopts in public and showed off her dry wit and self-deprecating humor.

Last week, she was at a Berlin movie theater for a screening she had requested of the classic East German film “The Legend of Paul and Paula,” a 1973 movie that, with phantasmagorical scenes and rock music amid East German drabness, gave hope back then to Ms. Merkel’s generation that something might change in their bleak society.

“If you only saw the system, then you really couldn’t laugh,” she recalled for the audience afterward.

One of the raft of new books that have hit German bookstores in this election year — Ms. Merkel is seeking a third four-year term in September — claims that the future chancellor once was a “secretary for agitation and propaganda” in the Communist youth organization of East Germany.

The chancellor, who has waved away the assertion, has always insisted that she never hid any elements of her past.

But the flap around her political roots reflects the untiring fascination with the inner workings of a woman who has risen to the top of Europe’s leading country by maintaining an image of deep personal integrity and a guarded private life.

Letting that guard drop almost seems part of the self-control for which she is noted. So, at the Brigitte discussion, she suddenly became the young woman from the lake-speckled Uckermark region northeast of Berlin, fascinated by the overwhelming friendliness she encountered on her first trip to the United States after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

Ms. Merkel beamed as she recalled a San Diego sales clerk asking “How are you?” with such cheerful insistence that she simply had to abandon her normal mumbled response.

“I was forced out of my Uckermärkische stubbornness to come up with a happy ‘Great!”’ she said, to howls of laughter and applause.

Although she frequently gives interviews, and there are several dozen biographies and articles documenting her rise to power and two terms in office, Ms. Merkel guards her privacy.

So paparazzi photos from her Easter vacation in Italy, showing her in her bathing suit, or helping her step-grandchild to climb a rock — the equivalent of images released by the White House of President Barack Obama with his family on the beaches of Hawaii — instantly became headline news in Germany.

Government officials insisted that Ms. Merkel and her rarely seen husband, the scientist Joachim Sauer, were aghast at this invasion of privacy.

Yet, with less than six months until the vote, Ms. Merkel, who heads the center-right Christian Democratic Union, is suddenly spending as much time telling tales of mixing cherry juice with vodka as a barmaid at university parties, as she is meeting European leaders or grappling with domestic issues of Germany’s aging population or energy transformation.

Indeed, even the exchanges with European leaders have acquired a family touch — with Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain invited to bring not only his wife, Samantha, but also their children for a country weekend with Ms. Merkel and her husband.

Ms. Merkel is one of Germany’s most beloved public figures, with an overall approval rating of 65 percent. She is often praised for her common-sense approach to life, which comes across in her politics. Accordingly, when asked during the meeting hosted by Brigitte about her habit of standing with her thumbs and forefingers pressed together — a position the German press has dubbed “the chancellor rhombus” — Ms. Merkel brushed aside any idea that she had thought about it, or consulted someone else.

“It came from the question of what to do with the arms” when posing for a photograph, Ms. Merkel said. “Although it does, perhaps, reveal a certain love of symmetry.”

A half-dozen books analyzing the chancellor’s career have hit the German market recently. One, “The Chancellor and Her World,” seeks to examine the chancellor through her foreign policies, delving into the history of her Polish grandfather; another, “The Wavering Artist,” professes to give an insider’s look at how she really functions.