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Angela Merkel’s Political Life in Pictures: The End of an Era

BERLIN — When Angela Merkel became chancellor 16 years ago, George W. Bush was in the White House and Tony Blair was prime minister of Britain. There was no Twitter and no iPhone. Liberal democracy was in seemingly irreversible expansion, with the Orange Revolution having swept Ukraine.

On Wednesday, as Olaf Scholz, Ms. Merkel’s successor, takes over as chancellor, Twitter is a veritable tool of diplomacy, Russian troops are gathering on a divided Ukraine’s border, and democracy itself seems far less certain around the world.

In the intervening years, Ms. Merkel has stood up to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia (even when he tried to intimidate her with his dog). She bonded with Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and scolded President Donald J. Trump. She became an icon of hope for refugees and an object of scorn for populists the world over.

It was a long journey that started behind the Iron Curtain. Born in the western port city of Hamburg, Ms. Merkel grew up as the daughter of a Protestant pastor in the former Communist East in a small town north of Berlin.

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Ms. Merkel left behind a career in scientific research to throw herself into politics, winning a seat in Parliament in Germany’s first reunified elections. Before she became chancellor, she several multiple ministerial posts and served as leader of her conservative party, after ousting her political mentor, Helmut Kohl, in a ruthless display of power by publicly calling for his removal. She remained head of the Christian Democratic Union until 2018, when she decided to step down, a move that rendered her a lame duck for the final, challenging years of her chancellorship.

Now, at 67, Ms. Merkel’s long political life appears to be coming to a close (what will follow is uncertain). She was always clear that she wanted to leave office on her own terms and in her own time. “I want at some point to find the right time to quit politics,” she told Herlinde Koelbl, a German photographer, in 1998. “I don’t want to be a half-dead wreck.”

She kept this promise to herself. The first chancellor of modern Germany to leave office rather than be voted out either by lawmakers or the public, Ms. Merkel is walking out of the chancellery as her country’s most popular politician.

Her political career, which began in an era of hope after the Berlin Wall came down, is ending at a time of great uncertainty. It is a journey from the end of history and back.

Ms. Merkel, right, and Joachim Sauer, who would become her husband, in Poland in 1989.Credit…Bogumil Jeziorski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ms. Merkel, then 36, was sworn in as the minister for women and youth in 1991.Credit…Martin Gerten/Picture-Alliance, via Associated Press
Ms. Merkel with students at an International Youth Festival in 1992, when she was the government minister for family affairs.Credit…Stefan Kiefer/DPA, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The chancellor and Christian Democrat leader Helmut Kohl, with Ms. Merkel at a conference in 1991. Once known as “Kohl’s girl,” she was not expected to last as chancellor in her first term.Credit…Thomas Imo/Photothek, via Getty Images
A campaign rally for Ms. Merkel in 2005, before she became chancellor for the first time.Credit…Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Ms. Merkel with President George W. Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, in 2007.Credit…Matthew Cavanaugh/EPA, via Shutterstock
The chancellor with President Barack Obama in Berlin in 2016. The two struck up a friendly bond.Credit…Alexander Koerner/Getty Images
Ms. Merkel with President Donald J. Trump and other leaders at a Group of 7 meeting in Canada in 2018. She and Mr. Trump had a notably frosty relationship.Credit…Jesco Denzel/German Federal Government, via Reuters
The chancellor and President Emmanuel Macron of France in 2018, in a replica of the wagon where the World War I armistice was signed in 1918.Credit…Philippe Wojazer/REUTERS, via Associated Press
An asylum seeker from Syria with a picture of Ms. Merkel as he and others arrived in Munich in 2015 at the height of the migrant crisis.Credit…Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Ms. Merkel in Ethiopia in 2007, at a school for street children supported by a German charity. Credit…Axel Schmidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
A protest in Athens against austerity measures, which Ms. Merkel pushed for, in 2012. Even today many in southern Europe have yet to forgive her.Credit…Angelos Tzortzinis for The New York Times
Touring a German Navy frigate in 2006.Credit…Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia brought his dog to a 2007 meeting in Sochi, Russia, with Ms. Merkel, who is known to be afraid of dogs.Credit…Axel Schmidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
With President Xi Jinping of China in front of the Brandenburg Gate in 2017.Credit…Guido Bergmann/German Federal Government, via Reuters
In Saudi Arabia in 2010.Credit…Pool photo by Guido Bergmann
Meeting President Biden at a G7 summit in Britain this year.Credit…Sandra Steins/Bundesregierung, via Getty Images
The chancellor and Mr. Obama at a G7 meeting in Germany in 2015.Credit…Pool photo by Michael Kappeler
Cheering for the German national soccer team at the World Cup in 2014.Credit…Pixathlon/SIPA, via Getty Images
Feeding Australian lorikeets at Marlow Bird Park in Marlow, Germany, this year. Credit…Georg Wendt/DPA, via Associated Press
Her successor as chancellor, Olaf Scholz, with Ms. Merkel at Parliament in Berlin last month.Credit…John Macdougall/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Ms. Merkel leaving a military ceremony hosted for her by the Bundeswehr last week in Berlin.Credit…Pool photo by Clemens Bilan

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