A bouquet of red roses and the music of Nina Hagen they marked the farewell offered by the German army to Chancellor Angela Merkel, who in a week will leave office and who opted for a musical farewell as unconventional as her leadership style has been.
The night parade of soldiers carrying torches, the ‘Tattoo’ o ‘Toque de retreta’, reflected in the courtyard of the Ministry of Defense the “end of the Merkel era.” Their 16 years in power they will end next Wednesday, with the inauguration of the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, the vice chancellor of his last grand coalition.
“I want to thank all those who have faced the pandemic with all their strength,” he said, addressing medical personnel and soldiers. He then criticized, in what will surely be his last speech as chancellor, “to those who deny scientific evidence and spread hatred.”
Merkel, who will have been 5,860 days in place – ten days less than the patriarch Helmut Kohl, record of permanence in power -, went from the rigor of that last message to the ironic tone in the musical and fidelity to the origins.
Sitting next to the Minister of Defense, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the leader listened with knowing smiles ‘Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen’ -‘You forgot the color film’-, by Nina Hagen. The former punk queen premiered that song in 1974, the lyrics of which reproached a boyfriend -Micha- who only took black and white photos of her because he forgot the color film.
Hagen was then, like Merkel, a citizen of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Two years later, after moving to the western side, the singer gave her piece and her life a punk twist.
The question remains whether Merkel, like other East Germans, was already listening to Hagen’s success from the other side of the Wall. ‘You forgot the color film’ It was “a success of my youth”, “also coming from the GDR”, the chancellor limited himself to explaining, in a previous appearance before the media.
The next piece was ‘Für mich soll’s rote Rose regnen’ -‘Red roses will rain for me’-. A ballad of the great lady of German song Hildegard Knef, A woman with a deep voice who, as an actress, caused a scandal in 1951 with a fleeting nude in a German film -‘Die Sünderin ‘,’ The Sinner’-.
His selection was completed by the 18th century religious song, ‘Grosse Gott, wir loben dich’ -‘Lord, we praise you’-, presumably alluding to her past as the daughter of the Protestant pastor Horst Kasner.
Controversial military honor
The ‘Zapfenstreich’ is the highest military honor, intended to dismiss senior officials in Germany and is reserved for foreign ministers, federal presidents, defense ministers or the highest ranking military.
It dates from 1838 and was consolidated in Prussian times, but its survival is not without controversy, since Adolf Hitler adopted it and some continue to identify the parade of torches with the Nazism.
Despite this, the ceremony has accompanied the farewell of successive leaders of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). Each of them has printed their personal seal in the choice of musical pieces to be performed by the band, between the military marches and the national anthem.
De Schröder a Von der Leyen
The selection of honorees has often been peppered with ironies. The Social Democrat Gerhard Schröder, chose for his farewell, in 2005, the ‘My Way’, a piece very consistent with the personality of a politician who always wanted to mark his own path.
The conservative Ursula von der Leyen said goodbye in 2019 as Defense Minister, before going on to chair the European Commission (EC), to the rhythm of the ‘Wind of Changes’ of Scorpions.
The honor of the military farewell was also given to the Bavarian Social Christian Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who in 2011 left Defense for the scandal a plagiarism in his doctorate and who chose the ‘Smoke on the Water’ by Deep Purple. President Christian Wulff, who left office on suspicions of corruption, in 2012, opted for Judy Garland’s ‘Over the Rainbow’.