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Postcard from... Berlin



The face of a juvenile and  shockingly slim Angela Merkel stares out from the front cover of the latest tome on the  German Chancellor.

The First Life of Angela M which hit the bookstands this week, attempts to provide fresh insights into the role played by Germany’s first woman leader when she was growing up  in communist East Germany. The advance publicity made the intriguing assertion that the Merkel family was far more in cahoots with the communists that had been assumed and that her biography had been doctored to fit the requirements of the conservative Christian Democratic Party she leads.

The daughter of a protestant pastor, the young Angela, was certainly no firebrand anti-communist dissident. Instead, she studied hard at physics and enrolled at east Berlin’s main science academy. There she is alleged to have taken the post of Communist Party youth secretary for “agitation and propaganda”. But she was also a firm supporter of the kind of reform communism, then espoused by Mikhail Gorbachev, but loathed by the East German regime.

This being an election year in Germany, the authors had clearly wished to embark on a bit of political mudslinging. But in this respect, the book appears to have backfired. It has given Angela another chance to regale audiences with cosy anecdotes: as a youth club barmaid she loved to play Beatles records and fix vodka and cherry juice cocktails. The “agitation and propaganda” job? “I have to live with the fact that different versions of my past sometimes come to light,” she told an audience this week.