Merkel shrugs aside new book on communist-era past

AP, Tuesday 14 May 2013

German Chancellor Angela Merkel denies she may have been closer to East Germany's communist system than previously thought

The First Life of Angela M.
Book Cover

The 58-year-old Angela Merkel grew up in East Germany and entered politics as communism crumbled in 1989.

It has long been known that, like many people, she joined the communist youth organization, and she has said in the past that "politically I lived an assimilated life. If I had always said what I thought, then my life would have been very different."

A book being published this week revives questions about whether Merkel was a propaganda secretary for the youth organization, which she has denied. The book also says she was an active labor union official. At that time, there were only state-approved unions in East Germany.

"What is important to me is that I have never hidden anything," Merkel said late Sunday after attending the screening of an old East German film in Berlin.

"I can only rely on my memory," she said. If other things emerge, "one can live with that too," she said.

"Perhaps I have not talked about other things because no one has ever asked me about them," Merkel said. She cited her membership of East Germany's union organization as an example, news agency dpa reported.

Merkel — the daughter of a Protestant pastor who moved his family from West Germany to the East in the 1950s — has said that she joined the Free German Youth, the communist youth organization, largely for social reasons.

The latest in a long line of books about Merkel is titled "The First Life of Angela M." It was written by two German journalists, Guenther Lachmann and Ralf Georg Reuth. So far, it has generated no real political controversy, although it comes as the popular chancellor prepares to seek a third term in September elections.

Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Monday that the chancellor has over the years answered questions about her communist-era past "always openly and always on the basis of her honest memory ... that stands for itself."

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