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No other country memorializes its conquerors on the walls of its most important official building. Germany’s crimes were unique, and so is its way of reckoning with the history contained in the Reichstag. By integrating the slogans of victorious Russian soldiers into its parliament building, Germany shows that it has learned essential lessons from its past (ones that the Russians themselves missed). By confronting the twentieth century head on, Germans embrace a narrative of liberating themselves from the worst of their history.

Germans call the Chancellor Mutti, or Mommy. The nickname was first applied by Merkel’s rivals in the Christian Democratic Union as an insult, and she didn’t like it, but after Mutti caught on with the public Merkel embraced it.

A longtime political associate of Merkel’s traces her drive to those early years in Templin. “She decided, ‘O.K., you don’t fuck me? I will fuck you with my weapons,’ ” the political associate told me. “And those weapons were intelligence and will and power.”

People who have followed her career point to Merkel’s scientific habit of mind as a key to her political success. “She is about the best analyst of any given situation that I could imagine,” a senior official in her government said. “She looks at various vectors, extrapolates, and says, ‘This is where I think it’s going.’

In 2002, Merkel found herself on the verge of losing a Party vote that would determine the C.D.U.’s candidate for Chancellor in elections that fall. She hastily arranged a breakfast with her rival, the Bavarian leader Edmund Stoiber, in his home town. Disciplined enough to control her own ambitions, Merkel told Stoiber that she was withdrawing in his favor. Schlöndorff sent her a note saying, in effect, “Smart move.” By averting a loss that would have damaged her future within the Party, Merkel ended up in a stronger position. Stoiber lost to Schröder, and Merkel went on to outmaneuver a series of male heavyweights from the West, waiting for them to make a mistake or eat one another up, before getting rid of each with a little shove.

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