Merkel's political departure marked with punk, hymn and military honours

After 16 years in office, German chancellor will hand over to Social Democrat Olaf Scholz next week

Departing Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Germans to stand up to hatred, at a military ceremony on Thursday marking her departure after 16 years in office.

Mrs Merkel was honoured with a traditional military musical performance and march 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 from the fact that wherever hatred and violence are seen as a legitimate means of pursuing one’s interests, our tolerance as democrats has to find its limit,” she said before the ceremony.

The event, which was held at the Defence Ministry rather than in a more public setting because of pandemic constraints, involved a parade and a brass band playing three songs of Mrs Merkel’s choice.

The first piece was You Forgot the Colour Film, released in 1974 by East German-born punk singer Nina Hagen.

In it, the singer recounts a young woman’s lament that her boyfriend failed to take colour pictures of their beach holiday.

Hagen, like Mrs Merkel, grew up in East Germany, officially named the German Democratic Republic, but moved to the West in 1976 after clashing with the communist country’s authorities.

Mrs Merkel said the song was “a highlight of my youth, which is known to have taken place in the GDR".

“By chance, [the song] is also set in a region that was in my former constituency” on the Baltic Sea, she said. “As such, it all fits together.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends the military grand tattoo in her honour at the defence ministry in Berlin. EPA

Her second choice was a popular chanson by German singer Hildegard Knef, called It Shall Rain Red Roses for me. She was presented with a bouquet of the flowers.

The final piece chosen by the daughter of a Protestant pastor was an 18th century Christian hymn, Holy God, we Praise thy Name.

Mrs Merkel remains caretaker chancellor until her successor, the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, is sworn in next week.

She wished Mr Scholz and his centre-left government “all the best, good luck and much success".

Mrs Merkel also urged her audience to “always see the world through the eyes of others, too” and work “with joy in your hearts".

Updated: December 3rd 2021, 8:34 AM