Merkel talks about books and Berlin Wall with Dublin students

‘I lived for 34 years behind the wall’, says German chancellor

Angela Merkel at Trinity College yesterday, where she met and spoke to Philosophical Society members. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Angela Merkel at Trinity College yesterday, where she met and spoke to Philosophical Society members. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Sat, Mar 8, 2014, 01:16

A softer side of Angela Merkel was in evidence yesterday as the German chancellor addressed 200 students in the debating hall at Trinity College Dublin yesterday.

Sharing her views on everything from women’s equality to the books that have influenced her life, the German chancellor urged EU citizens to learn the lessons of the past.

Dr Merkel said the idea of Europe continues to hold a three-fold promise: “The promise of peace, the promise of freedom, and the promise of prosperity.”

“This year on the 9th of November we will commemorate the events of 25 years ago when the [Berlin] wall came down. I lived for 34 years behind the wall. Every day, I travelled 30 minutes by train from the Academy of Sciences to my home, along the wall. I would never have thought it possible to go behind that wall,” she said.

‘Help Ukraine’

The chancellor stressed the importance of promoting democracy and freedom, noting

countries in Europe, as well as the US, had helped East Germany’s transition to democracy, “so it is important to do everything we can to help a country such as Ukraine to embark on a road of freedom. It is so important that people of Ukraine are free to take their own decisions.”

However, she noted Europe could not afford to be complacent in the face of China’s strength in the field of innovation and economic progress. Similarly, she said she was “not yet satisfied with the current state of affairs” regarding the ongoing discussions between the EU and US on data privacy and surveillance. “We want a very strong protection of our personal and private life.”

Introducing Dr Merkel, Trinity’s deputy president, Prof Linda Hogan, outlined the strong links between Trinity College and German culture and intellectual history throughout the centuries. Some 250 German students are attending Trinity.

“Trinity has long-standing links with many fine German universities and particularly German university and research institutes, and are very well aware of the contribution German scholarship has made to European society over the centuries, ” Prof Hogan said, noting that the first chair of German at Trinity was established in 1776, acknowledged to be the oldest in the world.

Cookery books

Asked about the book that had most influenced her,

Dr Merkel replied: “The Bible has influenced my life most. There are also books you like to come back to, ” she added, such as Dostoyevsky’s novels, though cookery books were also a favourite. “Reading has influenced my life considerably . . . For me it’s very nice to get lost in books . . . in a different world, not to get lost in the day-to-day of politics.”