Postcard from... Berlin


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The Independent Online


It took many west Germans some time to accept that their first female leader was once a citizen of the despised former communist East Germany. Angela Merkel, neé Kasner, was born in West German Hamburg but her Protestant vicar father opted to go east with his family in the late-1950s to take up a church post.

But after German reunification in 1990, there were suggestions that instead of opposing communism, the young Angela had actively played along with the system.

Now more details about her family's past have emerged which complicate the Merkel story further. A new biography has revealed that the German Chancellor has Polish roots. Her grandfather was a Pole called Kazmierczack who moved to Berlin with his family after the Great War. Merkel's Polish roots have not aroused much interest in Germany, where attitudes to the neighbours can be condescending. But in Poland the news has been treated as a sensation: "At last we know why Angela Merkel speaks in such a heartfelt way about Poland," wrote the liberal Warsaw daily Gazeta Wyborcza.

But Angela Merkel was highly regarded in Poland before this latest revelation – a poll last year found she was Poland's most liked foreign politician.