Nancy Gibbs, in her introductory essay to her magazine’s profile of Angela Merkel, writes that the German chancellor, in responding to the euro and migrant crises, “brandished a different set of values—humanity, generosity, tolerance—to demonstrate how Germany’s great strength could be used to save, rather than destroy.” But this characterization of Merkel as a leader who has saved Europe, and asked much of Germans to do so, may come as news to Greece and other countries on the European periphery, which understandably see Merkel as their chief tormentor, locking the continent in an austerity-driven hell worse than the Great Depression.
The unemployment rate in Greece is 25 percent. In Spain, it is 23 percent. In Italy, 12 percent. These numbers would be unthinkable in the United States some seven years after the recession struck, and they are largely a result of a cold, punitive policy driven by Germany. A whole generation of young workers is coming up in an age of mass joblessness. They see a distant political power that controls their fate and does not respect their democratic voice. And for better or worse, this is also the work of Angela Merkel.