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Narrator: From two World Wars... ♪ (dramatic music) ♪ to the inhumanities of the Holocaust, to enduring Communist aggression, Germany's history is one to be reckoned with.
But at a time when the country was facing an uncertain future, one woman would emerge intent on creating a new Germany.
A country free of the shadows of the past and a steadfast vision of a moral and principled future.
Angela Merkel: Letting go of the old, is part of the new beginning.
Narrator: Her formative years were spent locked behind the Iron Curtain.
Flula Borg: East Germany was a very different place from West Germany.
Jennifer Jenkins: The Stasi is the East German secret police.
George W. Bush: It was a very secretive life.
Her mother would say to her, don't speak in public for fear of the Stasi.
Narrator: A quantum chemist covertly studying Western politics from inside the Eastern Bloc.
Stefan Kornelius: : Angela Merkel basically had two lives, a person who knew how to handle secrets, and a person who sucked in everything she could get from Western democracy.
(crowd shouting and cheering) Narrator: But when the Wall would fall, the scientist was set free.
Kati Marton: She took off her lab coat!
Hillary Clinton: She wanted to help build a new Germany.
Narrator: Liberated, she would climb the ranks of German government.
Jenkins: She's like a master chess player, she's shrewd and strategic.
She's constantly underestimated, which in a way becomes like her superpower.
(crowd chanting) Angie!
Narrator: Angela Merkel took on the male dominated establishment to become the country's first woman Chancellor.
Merkel: Openness always involves risks.
Surprise yourself with what is possible.
Narrator: During her nearly two decade run, she saw her homeland endure countless crises.
Refugee: We are human, just like you!
Narrator: But no matter how heavy the burden, Merkel remained methodical, composed and restrained.
Jenkins: She gives this impression of being very quiet, but there's a roaring engine in there.
Bush: She was a value-laden politician who also had the capacity to solve problems.
Narrator: Angela Merkel evolved into one of the world's most respected leaders, a powerful woman who quietly and cautiously, chipped away at the glass ceiling, until she shattered it, like no other.
Merkel: Nothing can be taken for granted, everything is possible.
(applause) ♪ (dramatic music) ♪ ♪ ♪ (crowd shouting) H. Clinton: It was astounding when the Wall fell.
(crowd cheering) I'm not sure many people thought that they would see such a total collapse of the Soviet Union.
(crowd cheering) And the freeing of East Germany and all the rest of what we used to call the countries behind the Iron Curtain.
It was a moment of real exhilaration.
(crowd cheering) G.W.
Bush: All of a sudden, freedom became available to all of Germany.
Borg: I think we were just so pumped and it felt like a very exciting time of possibility and friendship.
Jenkins: When the Wall comes down, a lot of people rush to this incredible happening, they dance on top of the Wall.
(crowd cheering) Angela Merkel doesn't go.
It's really interesting that she's not in that crowd.
Kornelius: She decided to go to bed.
Marton: That is part of the complex story that shaped Angela Merkel.
And it all starts in her extraordinary childhood.
Christoph Heusgen: Angela Merkel was born in Hamburg, in West Germany.
Her father was a protestant pastor, but then was asked by the Church to go and serve in East Germany.
H. Clinton: But, East Germany was under Soviet Communist oppression.
Borg: East Germany was a very different place from West Germany, it was dark and gray.
The buildings were frozen in time.
Jenkins: The existence of the East and West German states is a result of the defeat of Nazi Germany, ♪ (dramatic music) ♪ (artillery fire) which then created some opposing German states, one in the West Bloc, one in the East Bloc.
Bush: There was two different political systems, one that was open and free, and one that was closed and suspicious.
Borg: Looking at East Germany, and I did go a few times as a child, it is like if you have been to a restaurant and they show you the desserts, and they are the desserts they made in the morning, that they have hair-sprayed to preserve themselves.
That is what East Germany looked like to me.
You go and everything is like, 'oh, this is 1955,' it's just perfectly preserved, the signs, the walls, everything, nothing has been touched.
It's a very strange thing.
And then you look left and it's 'oh, capitalism, hi.'
Marton: It was a dictatorship, it was an authoritarian government, it was a surveillance state.
Jenkins: Angela Merkel was just three months old when they moved to a parish about 50 kilometers north of Berlin.
♪ (soft dramatic music) ♪ Marton: The crucial pieces that shaped Angela Merkel are the fact that she was the daughter of a pastor in an atheist state, where religion was basically illegal.
Kornelius: Their church was a hotbed for opposition movement, for uprising against the system.
So Angela's family were watched by the East German secret police.
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ Jenkins: The Stasi is the East German secret police.
East Germany has in the Stasi these things called the IM's.
And the IM's are the informal collaborators.
And there are hundreds of thousands of these.
So, you were not on the payroll of the Stasi, but you informed... the people you worked with, you informed on your neighbors, on your family members.
Heusgen: You become very careful.
You look twice before you do something.
You also look twice at people that you get to know to see, can I trust the person or not?
Bush: She used to tell me that her mother would say to her, 'don't speak in public for fear of the Stasi learning things they shouldn't know about our family.'
In other words, it was a very secretive life.
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ ♪ ♪ Kornelius: One time, the Stasi approached her and wanted to recruit her as an informal informant.
♪ ♪ Marton: Merkel was trained from her earliest childhood to be ready for the Stasi to try to recruit her, and so she had her lines ready.
♪ ♪ She told them that she was a chatterbox.
♪ ♪ Kornelius: The attempt to recruit her didn't work, she told the Stasi that she couldn't keep a secret and that really deterred that.
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ George Packer: In 1953, there was an uprising of East German workers, and it was brutally repressed by the East German state.
♪ ♪ And it was a message to East Germans that there would not be any room for political opposition, for freedom.
And that precipitated a move, a migration of East Germans out of the country and to the West.
♪ ♪ Jenkins: Around three and-a-half million people moved from East to West between 1949 and 1961.
♪ ♪ People thought they had better professional opportunities in West Germany, but also the freedom to travel, the freedom of expression.
♪ ♪ But then it was clear that this labor drain was too much and that it was young people and skilled people.
It was a problem for the state.
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ ♪ ♪ The Wall goes up overnight.
♪ ♪ That morning, the people who are looking out their windows, trying to see, are waving at people on the other side of the street.
It went up very suddenly, very dramatically, and very definitively.
It cut the city apart.
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ Merkel: I lived near the Berlin Wall.
I walked towards it every day.
Behind it laid West Berlin, freedom.
And every day when I was very close to the wall, every day I had to turn away from freedom at the last minute.
I don't know how often I thought that I just couldn't take it anymore.
Kornelius: Angela Merkel basically had two lives she lived in, one was physically being in East Germany, being a citizen of that repressive state, on the other side, being a free mind.
She could listen to West German radio, listened to debates of West German parliament.
She sucked in everything she could get from basically the Western system, democracy.
♪ (joyful music) ♪ ♪ ♪ Merkel: There was one thing that this wall could not do during all those years... ♪ ♪ It couldn't impose limits on my inner thoughts.
♪ ♪ My personality, my imagination, my dreams and desires.
Prohibitions or coercion couldn't limit any of that.
Kornelius: Angela Merkel was an extremely good student.
She was the best of her entire age group in East Germany in several subjects.
Mostly mathematics and Russian.
Marton: She was brilliant, she could have chosen any number of fields, but she chose physics.
♪ (energetic music) ♪ ♪ ♪ Jenkins: Angela Merkel goes to university in Leipzig and also meets her first husband there.
Heusgen: Angela Merkel's husband, professor, and was able to participate in scientific conferences in the West.
Packer: She traveled around West Germany on the trains a bit, and saw how efficient and new and modern and rich West Germany had become.
♪ (hopeful music) ♪ ♪ ♪ Ronald Reagan: Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
(crowd cheering) (crowd chanting) Free Choice!
Journalist: The demands for reform are pouring out.
Free elections, multi-political party freedom, and more democracy.
(crowd chanting) Germany!
H. Clinton: I'm not sure many people thought that they would see such a total collapse of the Soviet Union, and the freeing of East Germany and all the rest of the countries behind the Iron Curtain.
Journalist: Protests for democracy have not been seen on this scale in Prague for more than 20 years.
(crowd shouting) George Bush Sr.: Gorbachev talks about a common home.
Our objective is a Europe, whole and free.
♪ Jenkins: It's really interesting that she's not in that crowd.
Things were really very chaotic, it wasn't clear what was going to happen next.
Maybe the Stasi was going to be there, And there was a lot of uncertainty.
(crowd cheering) Packer: On the Thursday night when the crowds began to cross, go over the Wall, she went back home to get a good night's sleep before waking up and resuming her job at the East German Academy of Sciences.
These are the actions of a woman who is not going to be overwhelmed by emotion and led to do things that she might later think were unwise.
♪ (suspenseful music) ♪ ♪ ♪ H. Clinton: When the wall fell, her world abruptly changed.
♪ And Angela realized that she wanted to help build a new Germany.
Marton: She became ferociously ambitious.
♪ Kornelius: Politics was a newly emerging field and she was drawn to it because she liked free speech and she liked the honesty of debate.
♪ H. Clinton: She is solid, steady, responsible, and empathetic.
♪ Marton: She took off her lab coat, and started exploring the new political parties that were coming up like mushrooms after rain in East Germany.
♪ Kornelius: When the Wall came down, there was a choice of about five, six newly developed and emerging parties, and in the end she chose probably the most promising one which was the Democratic Awakening.
(fireworks exploding) (church bells sounding) Jenkins: It's affiliated with the Christian Democratic Party which is the party of Helmut Kohl.
♪ Kornelius: After Germany was unified, after the treaties were signed, after both governments had agreed on the path to unification, Helmut Kohl formed a government of unity.
That cabinet had members from the East and the West, and Angela Merkel, as a young female conservative from the north east of Germany, was chosen as one of the cabinet members.
Helmut Kohl always called Angela Merkel "das Mädchen--the girl," ♪ That's belittling, it's a macho word, and Angela Merkel played along.
♪ Marton: She was a woman and therefore not deemed to be a threat, and was given a token portfolio in Kohl's cabinet as Minister for Women and Children.
But you know, she was willing to bide her time and shield her ambition.
Jenkins: She's constantly underestimated, which in a way becomes like her superpower.
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ She's like a master chess player.
She's shrewd and strategic.
She gives this impression of being very quiet, but there's kind of a roaring engine in there.
Marton: She was slowly, slowly climbing up the German political ladder.
Deceiving, fooling... all the big shots in her party.
♪ Packer: As one observer said to me, there's a whole series of alpha males, who underestimated her and all of them are now in other walks of life.
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ ♪ ♪ Jenkins: By 1998, she becomes the General Secretary of the Christian Democratic Union, so she has a very important position inside of the party.
Then the CDU enters a period of real crisis and real scandal.
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ This was a scandal over illegal donations, over slush funds, over covert bank accounts, that Chancellor Helmut Kohl had been involved with.
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ Marton: Angela Merkel wrote an opinion piece in Germany's most read newspaper, saying, 'it's the end of the Kohl era, we have to restart our party.'
Kornelius: So she basically prepared a declaration of separation.
She divorced herself from Helmut Kohl publicly, which was unheard of.
And she put the party on a different path.
Marton: She, in effect, committed patricide, when she turned on her mentor, Helmut Kohl.
And, she positioned herself as the heir to the CDU.
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ Merkel: The decision for Germany is obvious... We continue like it is with Green or Red/Green parties, or Germany goes for a new beginning with the CDU.
(crowd chanting) Angie!
Announcer: Angela Merkel!
(crowd cheering) Supporter: She is very strong, and she will be a wonderful Chancellor.
♪ (clock ticking) Packer: There are really three things about Angela Merkel that make her extraordinary as a German politician.
One is that she's a woman.
There have been no women at the top of German politics throughout German history.
Two, that she was a quantum chemist, theoretical chemistry, a very abstract, difficult branch of science.
And three, that she was an East German, the first East German to become a leading politician in reunified Germany.
♪ (upbeat music) ♪ And I think all three of those things together, equipped her perfectly, to be the politician Germans wanted and needed at the time she assumed power as Chancellor.
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ Marton: She broke the greatest glass ceiling in the world, to be Chancellor of this very male dominant political culture that never had a queen.
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ Cem Özdemir: I tell you, she's very, very good with negotiating through the night without getting tired, she's famous for that, at finding a compromise at 4:30, at 5 o'clock in the morning, and then at 7 o'clock, 8 o'clock, explaining that in front of the cameras, that she just had one and-a-half hours in between to sleep, so that's really amazing.
Marton: There were days when the only way she could tell whether it was morning or night was whether they were serving bread and jam or roast.
And she overwhelms the man-- it's always a man-- across the table.
She does not leave, until she has a deal.
Packer: She was doing everything in a kind of even-handed cool, calm way that let Germans feel as if their business was being taken care of by someone else, so that they didn't have to exert themselves too much.
So she was able to, in a sense, be a colorless, quiet, analytical, calm politician, and keep everything on an even keel.
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ ♪ (soft music) ♪ ♪ ♪ Kornelius: She wants to foster alliances.
She wants to strengthen the European Union, the Transatlantic Alliance, NATO, the bonds with the United States.
That's the core of her foreign policy belief.
Heusgen: For her, the relationship with the United States was always key.
Bush: I think Angela really appreciated the fact that America supported a Germany that was whole and free.
Hillary Clinton There was a connection going back to the Cold War era and who was really standing up for the people under Soviet Communist oppression.
JFK: All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin.
And therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words, 'Ich bin ein Berliner!'
(crowd cheering) Jenkins: The relationship with the United States has been central to Germany.
And so with every U.S. President that comes, she has to build that relationship.
♪ ♪ G.W.
Bush: My dad was a part of this to help integrate Germany as a whole.
And I think she appreciated it a lot.
Plus she's a person who believes in the values inherent in a democratic society, free speech, free religion, protests in the public square, free press.
And so, as a result, she became a good partner because, the best alliances are based upon shared values.
♪ ♪ (soft music) ♪ ♪ (helicopter blades whirring) G.W.
Bush: Laura and I are thrilled to welcome the Chancellor and Professor Sauer here to our place.
In Texas, when you invite somebody to your home, it...it's an expression of warmth and respect.
And, that's how I feel about Chancellor Merkel.
♪ ♪ It was a symbol of friendship.
It just meant a lot to Laura and me to be able to share it with friends.
In Angela's case, just informal dinners, nothing fancy.
She didn't particularly care about fancy, which is what I appreciated.
The chance for two friends, who had a lot of pressure on 'em to be able to relax and discuss matters of import and matters that weren't so important.
Merkel: Okay, thank you.
H. Clinton: She did have a good relationship with George W. He sort of fit her understanding of what an American President was like.
She didn't quite know what to make of Barack Obama.
She was incredibly impressed by his political and oratorical skills, but she wasn't quite sure how she should relate to him.
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ We were together in Europe when she asked to see me, we went for a walk on the outskirts of the big convention center where this NATO meeting was being held, because she wanted some hints about what I could tell her that would help her better understand and relate to President Obama.
It was typical of Angela.
She wanted to learn, she wanted to be prepared, she wanted to know what kind of person he was, what he was interested in, how best to approach him and talk with him.
Interviewer: What was your advice on how to connect?
H. Clinton: Oh, I can't...
I can't tell you that!
(laughter) ♪ ♪ Marton: Obama actually loved her.
I mean, that was the word that Ben Rhodes used to describe the relationship between Obama and Merkel, that it came close to love.
♪ ♪ (upbeat music) ♪ Heusgen: When you live in the daily life of a communist country, like the chancellor did, you become very careful.
So a certain dose of skepticism is there.
She'll continue to have this during her professional life.
When you look at her advisors, they all stayed for years and years and years.
♪ Marton: I've spent a lot of time getting to know her really very small inner circle.
♪ You know, three or four people.
Her team is that loyal, that protective of her.
There has not been a single leak nor a single tell-all memoir or biography, nothing.
♪ Packer: There's a kind of emphasis on privacy in Germany that's pretty powerful and you can imagine why it would matter to Angela Merkel, growing up in a system where everyone you knew might be an informer.
♪ Privacy might be something, that you cherish.
♪ Kornelius: Angela Merkel herself never invited people to her home.
Nobody knows how she lives.
She never lets anybody in her private life.
What kind of furniture she has, whether she has friends, whether she has pets.
No, nobody knows.
Packer: I know almost nothing about her marriages.
She doesn't say anything about them.
Her first husband was another scientist named Ulrich Merkel.
They separated in the early 80's.
And by then she had already met Joachim Sauer, another scientist with whom she shared a passion for... classical music.
They married in '88 and he is almost entirely unknown.
If she's colorless, he's invisible.
Kornelius: Angela Merkel's husband never ever gave an interview in his entire life, he's shielded off.
♪ Borg: In Germany, the First Lady or First Gentlemen does not organize parades, or rose garden things or tell everyone to 'be best' or have a food pyramid.
This is, this man does not understand these things.
He's busy being a quantum chemist.
Marton: One of Angela Merkel's great challenges was appearance.
Plays a big role in politics.
♪ (low dramatic music) ♪ ♪ She had to put up with terrible articles about how awful she looked.
She would grouse that, 'Gee, it's okay for a man to wear the same boring blue suit for 400 days in a row, nobody complains, but if they see me twice in a row in the same outfit, I get terrible letters from people.'
Merkel is often compared to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was the other historic woman leader of contemporary times.
It's very sexist because, really what do they have in common, other than that they're both women?
I studied the profiles of the two and the differences are glaring because Thatcher was ultra-feminine, and had this helmet of shiny, well-coiffed hair and always with the jewelry and the little handbag.
And by the way, her bodyguards, in addition to their sidearms, carried her stiletto heels in their pockets.
You will never see Merkel's bodyguards with her stiletto heels, simply because she doesn't wear stiletto heels.
H. Clinton: I was standing with Angela at her office in Berlin and a German newspaper cut our heads off, and they just showed the bodies of two women wearing pantsuits.
♪ And basically said, 'Can you tell which one's Hillary and which one's Angela?'
♪ And so when she came for the state visit, she brought a framed copy of that newspaper page, and she presented it to me as her gift to me, and it just caused us both to break up.
Because, you know, she usually wears a pantsuit, and I usually wear a pantsuit.
I think that the German newspaper was kind of tweaking both of us, but we got a huge laugh out of it.
Angela Merkel (translator): --which is very fitting gift, because it's a gift that is only made possible by the fact that women now have also their say in politics.
(audience applause) It's actually revealed at the back so that Hillary is not unduly confused.
(audience laughter/applause) Kornelius: Most people probably don't know that she's extremely funny.
Packer: In private, she's quite different from the public face.
She makes fun of world leaders who she meets.
She imitates Nicolas Sarkozy, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Al Gore.
And she's just savagely good at it.
Marton: She also has this killer dry wit.
(thump) Reporter: Oh!
Thank you very much!
♪ On a visit to German troops in Afghanistan... ...suddenly the plane starts shaking like crazy and the lights go off and the reporters and the diplomats on the plane are all, you know, saying their last goodbyes.
Cool as a cucumber, when the all-clear is sounded, Merkel turns to the general, who's commanding the mission and says, 'So, uh, got any other entertainment for me?'
So that shows you two things.
She's got a great wit and she's very chill.
♪ ♪ (tense dramatic music) ♪ Kornelius: Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin led parallel lives.
They're almost the same age.
Angela Merkel speaks Russian fluently.
Vladimir Putin speaks German fluently.
He spent time as a KGB agent in East Germany.
Actually, when the Wall came down.
When he experienced the worst moment in his political life, the loss of the Soviet empire, she rose in politics.
She decided to go into a democratic path and this is where their paths diverted and in the end, brought them together as opponents.
♪ ♪ (dramatic music) ♪ When they first met, both in power, he as a President, she as a Chancellor, one of the first trips led her to Sochi, where his summer residence is.
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ ♪ ♪ Heusgen: Before the visit, I talked to my colleague in the Kremlin, told him, 'well, it would be good if there would not be a dog.'
A few years before, she had an accident, she was bitten by a dog.
(camera shutters clicking) So, what did Putin do?
♪ ♪ H. Clinton: Vladimir Putin delights in trying to, you know, gain the upper hand with anyone.
He's always looking for some kind of advantage to throw the other person off balance.
And he knew very well that bringing a big dog to a meeting with Angela Merkel was a sign of just naked aggression.
♪ ♪ Vladimir Putin is a misogynistic bully, among other things.
(Merkel talking with reporter) Heusgen: The Chancellor just was there, very firm, not that she expected it, but she was ready for this kind of situation, and she handled it marvelously.
H. Clinton: This man is a really dangerous character and Angela understands that, he's an old... ...communist KGB official, she knows that, and she knows she can't flinch, and she knows she can't back down.
Bush: He's an interesting character.
And the fact that he would, you know, expose Angela to his dog really speaks to, you know, how he uses power.
I introduced Putin to Barney, our Scottish Terrier, and, uh, he kinda dissed Barney.
His body language basically said 'you call that thing a dog?'
And y'know I love Barney, and anyway a year later, we go visit Putin and he, he said you wanna meet my dog?
And I said, 'yeah I'd like to meet your dog.'
I forgot about the Barney diss.
And out bounds this huge Russian hound and he looks at me and says bigger and stronger and faster than Barney.
And uh, y'know, I didn't say anything, as a matter of fact, it was unbelievably insightful.
Um-- To me it said, y'know, he had a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, to say 'my dog's bigger than your dog.'
She had a different relationship with Russia than we did, of course.
It's important for the U.S. President to understand that.
Packer: Afterward, privately, Merkel told the traveling press with her, 'I understand why he did that.
He has to show me he's a man.
Because he's so insecure, and he's insecure because his country has no economy, their politics is just him.
He knows that they don't measure up, and this is how he's going to make himself feel like my equal.'
She was immediately showing not quite empathy, but just understanding.
And that's how she has not just survived, but thrived in the hard world of power politics.
♪ ♪ (dramatic music) ♪ Reporter: For Germany's Angela Merkel, the G20 summit is proving to be a lonely place.
Despite pressure from around the globe, she is insisting on doing things her way.
♪ ♪ Jenkins: Greece had a debt issue, so did Spain and Italy.
♪ ♪ Packer: Germany had the strongest economy in Europe by far.
And so at that point, it became clear that the leader of Europe was the chancellor of Germany.
It was really going to be her decisions about what to do with German taxpayer money in terms of bailing out Greece and other indebted European countries.
She was caught between her attachment to Europe, which was real and strong, she knew that Germany needed Europe, and her desire not to be at odds with German public opinion, which was 'why should our tax dollars go to the Greeks?'
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ ♪ ♪ Merkel: The crisis of the Euro means more Europe, not less Europe.
Politician: The Euro is here to stay, and that we all mean it.
H. Clinton: One can agree or not with the stance that Germany under her leadership took, but she was the leader.
She was making the tough calls.
Her decision-making in the face of crisis, has elevated her stature beyond just being the Chancellor of Germany.
She carried Europe on her shoulders, in the face of the Great Recession.
Packer: Throughout that period, her approval ratings were like 75%, just unheard of for any Western politician.
(crowd shouting) Jenkins: The migrant crisis, really the, the background for that is the Syrian civil war.
So, they are coming mainly from Syria, but not only from Syria, also from Iraq, from Afghanistan, from Libya, taking what's called the 'Balkan route' from Turkey, then crossing over into Greece and then coming up through the Balkans.
They wanted to get to Germany.
Kornelius: Those thousands, flocking the highways, sitting in trains and buses, people in deep, deep troubles, Germany was the country with the best conditions for them to apply for asylum and to be taken care of physically and economically.
Jenkins: In September of 2015, countries on the Balkan route were starting to close their doors.
And Hungary was literally putting up barbed wire.
Kornelius: They were basically stopped in Hungary and couldn't make it further.
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ Refugee: We are human, just like you.
♪ Just like everybody, in Hungary and all over, America and everywhere.
We are human.
Heusgen: For the Chancellor, it was clear, 'I don't want these kind of images of Europe go around the world.'
This is not the Europe that I want to build.
Merkel: I am convinced that in particular, Germany, the strongest economy in Europe, has to accept a special responsibility in these times.
Özdemir: She had to make a decision in a very short period of time.
♪ ♪ In an ideal world, she would have assembled European leaders, and take a joint decision.
♪ ♪ Angela Merkel, who always was extremely careful not to show emotions, here took a quick decision, showed emotions.
Merkel: Germany is a strong country.
The motivation behind our approach to these things must be: we have achieved so much-- we can do this!
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ ♪ ♪ H. Clinton: When other leaders were throwing up their hands and closing their borders and playing the, you know, immigrant scapegoat card, she was standing up for, you know, the 'better angels' of our, our nature.
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ Özdemir: She reminded that the name of her party is Christian Democrats.
Christian values are not the values of, you know, watching people dying at your borders, or starving at your borders, but helping.
Merkel: We want to show that Germany is an open country, with a constitution that we are proud of, and which has a good reputation in the world.
H. Clinton: Angela Merkel carried Europe on her shoulders.
She was the leader.
Özdemir: Which was cheered and applauded by many people outside Germany.
Kornelius: The Germans were first overwhelmed with sharing the desire to help, but the mood changed very quickly.
(crowd shouting) People were basically afraid that their lifestyle, their habits, their traditions were endangered.
Marton: Henry Kissinger said to her very bluntly, 'To give one person shelter is a humanitarian act.
To give 1 million people shelter, it risks German civilization.'
She didn't pay sufficient attention to the sense of grievance of many East Germans who have now, many of them, joined the first extreme right wing party in Germany since 1945, the Alternative for Deutschland.
And that is a direct result of this sense of 'what about us?'
Crowd (chanting): Resistance!
♪ (soft dramatic music) ♪ Özdemir: The price was that we now have the extreme right-wing populist racist party, both in state parliaments, as well as in the national parliament, in the Bundestag-- The rise of right-wing xenophobia and racism.
So she became the symbol of everything that these people hate.
Jenkins: She got a lot of criticism for her handling of the migrant crisis.
But she also has incredible tenacity and incredible endurance to just keep moving forward, and to do so in this very powerful way.
Angela Merkel said that because of Germany's history, it is really vital that Germany show a different face to the world, to be welcoming, and to welcome people who are fleeing persecution, who are seeking asylum.
We must be a country of welcome, because of our history.
♪ (soft music) ♪ In the space of a year, around a million migrants came to Germany.
Kornelius: Angela Merkel saw in those people their desire to escape harm and hardship, to get into freedom, to find a new life.
♪ ♪ Germany's historic guilt is one of the leading themes in Merkel's political life.
♪ She thinks that Germany can never escape from that.
♪ (soft dramatic music) ♪ She has developed extremely good ties with the Jewish community, is shown regularly at Jewish events, trying to publicly make clear, that Jewish life is an integral part of German life.
♪ (soft music) ♪ ♪ ♪ She's going to synagogues, she's participating in Torah events.
Visiting former concentration camps.
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Merkel: I am filled with deep shame in the face of the barbaric crimes that were committed here by Germans.
♪ Crimes that cross the boundaries of everything tangible.
Filled with the horror and shock when confronted with the crimes and horrors inflicted upon women, men, and children in this very place, one actually has to fall silent.
For words could not justify the grief for all the many people who were degraded, tormented, and murdered here.
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ ♪ ♪ Charlotte Knobloch: She could have forgotten about all of it but she didn't.
♪ That is her way.
We should give her tremendous credit for that.
Marton: So Merkel has really transformed her country, the birthplace of the Third Reich, into the world's number one refugee destination.
♪ (dramatic music) ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Barack Obama: Michelle and I are honored to welcome you as we host Chancellor Merkel, the first East German to lead a United Germany, the first woman Chancellor in German history, and an eloquent voice for human rights and dignity around the world.
Kornelius: I remember sitting at Blair House, the official guest house opposite the White House, the morning of the ceremony.
(audience clapping) I never saw Angela Merkel being so personally moved, because she thought, well, this is an award.
This is something which is extremely meant seriously, and which is honorable.
And she thought she's now rewarded as a democratic person, as Western person.
She's basically part of that Western and part of the American world.
Merkel: Neither the chains of dictatorship, nor the fetters of oppression, can keep down the forces of freedom for long.
This is my firm conviction that shall continue to guide me.
In this, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, shall serve to spur me on and to encourage me.
(applause) ♪ ♪ Heusgen: I still remember November, 2016, President Trump was elected and Susan Rice called me and asked that, well, don't be surprised, but the president was thinking, my last trip, actually I want to visit the one head of government I had the best relationship with, and so President Obama in November of 2016, visited the Chancellor for his farewell visit.
And it was a wonderful relationship that had developed over the years between the Chancellor and President Obama.
♪ Kornelius: Democrats or Republicans, she always found common ground dealing with these Presidents on the basis of shared values of democratic beliefs, of Western beliefs.
♪ ♪ (soft dramatic music) ♪ ♪ Nobody really knows what Angela Merkel wants to do next.
She never talks about it.
She just told sort of funnily, well, I just go to sleep.
And when I wake up, I'll think about it.
H. Clinton: She's smart enough to decide to retire rather than being retired.
Being at the highest levels of politics is incredibly demanding.
I think she's ready to step out of the arena, and more power to her!
Bush: Angela realizes that power and fame are not what's important in life.
She is not so egotistically bound that the absence of power will ruin her life.
It won't, it'll enhance her life.
Kornelius: There's a lot of rumors.
She might go into science, she might run her own foundation, she might do public appearances, give talks.
She definitely will not seek for another political job.
♪ (soft music) ♪ Herlinde Koelbl: Every year, I photograph Angela Merkel.
In the beginning, she was shy, a shy person and a bit awkward.
But, even so, she was already strong-minded and determined.
The big difference, how she looks here, and how she looks here, and all of the body language is totally different.
Very straight forward.
When I asked her, is it difficult to be a woman in politics?
She says, 'No, it's neither an advantage or a disadvantage to be a woman.
It's how you assert yourself.
When you see the pictures, you see her as a human being.
You see her in a different way.
Özdemir: My children are now 15 and 11 years old.
For them, it's hard to imagine that somebody else than Angela Merkel is representing Germany.
They grew up with Angela Merkel.
For them, it will be a new experience that a man can become Chancellor in this country.
(loud applause) Merkel: During these months thirty years ago, I experienced first hand that nothing has to stay the way it is.
♪ (soft dramatic music) ♪ Protestors: Down with the wall!
Merkel: Anything that seems to be set in stone, or inalterable, can indeed be changed.
(crowd shouting/cheering) If we break down the walls that hem us in, if we step out into the open and have the courage to embrace new beginnings, ♪ everything is possible.
♪ (uplifting music) ♪ Don't forget that freedom is never something that can be taken for granted.
(audience applause) (audience applause) (loud applause) ♪ (uplifting music) ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Announcer: To order In Their Own Words, Season 2 on DVD, visit shop PBS, or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.
This program is also available on Amazon Prime video.