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Merkel Says She Never Hid Communist Past as Book Questions Role

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May 13 (Bloomberg) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she “never concealed anything” about her Communist affiliations in former East Germany as a book suggested she hadn’t been forthright.

The book by two German journalists cites an allegation that Merkel, who is running for a third term in Sept. 22 elections, had an “agitation and propaganda” role in a Communist Party youth organization. She has said she was responsible for cultural affairs and can’t recall doing party propaganda.

“I can only rely on memory,” Merkel, 58, said in Berlin late yesterday after a gala screening of an East German movie from 1973. “Maybe there are other things that I haven’t talked about because nobody asked me about them.”

Merkel’s role in East Germany’s Free German Youth has been a topic in previous books and interviews, reflecting lingering questions about Germany’s first woman chancellor and the first from the formerly communist east. “I have never concealed anything,” she said on stage after yesterday’s screening, responding to a German reporter’s question.

When the host, German film director Andreas Dresen, tried to cut off the question, Merkel said, “Let him ask the question. Otherwise, they’ll say we’re suppressing this. I can handle it.”

She suggested that her membership in the Free German Youth, something she has talked about openly for years, “looks different” to western Germans than to someone like her who grew up under a Communist dictatorship.

“I also was a member of the FDGB” -- the East German labor union federation -- “and in the German-Soviet Friendship Society,” Merkel said. Yet, “you really have to put that into its context.”

The book by Ralf Georg Reuth and Guenter Lachmann cites Gunter Walther, who worked with Merkel at an East German physics institute in Berlin before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, as saying she was “secretary for agitation and propaganda” at the institute’s Free German Youth cell, according to a preview in the Bild newspaper today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Czuczka in Berlin at aczuczka@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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