German Merkel at farewell ceremony: don’t tolerate hatred

Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Germans to oppose hatred, in military ceremony bidding her farewell after 16 years in power

BERLIN – Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Germans to oppose hatred in a military ceremony on Thursday, bidding farewell after 16 years in power.

Merkel was honored with a traditional military musical performance and paraded in front of almost all of the country’s political elite – except for the far-right Alternative for Germany, which was not invited.

“Our democracy also lives by the fact that wherever hatred and violence are seen as a legitimate means of defending its interests, our tolerance as democrats must find its limits,” said in a speech delivered before the ceremony.

The event, which was held at the Defense Ministry rather than a more public setting due to pandemic constraints, involved a parade and a marching band playing three songs of Merkel’s choice.

The first track was “You Forgot the Color Film” released in 1974 by East German punk singer Nina Hagen. In it, the singer recounts a young woman’s complaint that her boyfriend failed to take color photos of their beach vacation.

Hagen, like Merkel, grew up in East Germany, but emigrated to the West in 1976 after clashing with the authorities in the Communist country.

Merkel explained that the song was “a highlight of my youth, which is known to have taken place in the GDR”. East Germany was officially known as the German Democratic Republic.

“Luckily, (the song) is also set in an area that was in my old constituency” on the Baltic Sea, she added. “As such, it all fits together.”

Her second choice was a popular song by German singer Hildegard Knef called “It Shall Rain Red Roses for Me”. He was offered a bouquet of flowers.

The last piece chosen by the daughter of a Protestant pastor was an 18th century Christian hymn, “Holy God, we praise your name”.

Merkel remains interim chancellor until her successor, Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, is sworn in next week. She wished him and his new center-left government “all the best, good luck and much success”.

The longtime leader also urged her audience to “always see the world through the eyes of others too” and to work “with joy in my heart”.

Ahead of Thursday night’s ceremony, she met with other federal and state leaders to agree on new measures to tackle coronavirus infections in Germany.

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