Photos with Chancellor Merkel: Two selfies, two stories

Status: 04.09.2021 10:22 a.m.

Two selfies with the Chancellor – in historic moments: in 2005 during Merkel’s first election campaign and ten years later during the refugee crisis. A snapshot makes history and changes a life.

By Katja Paysen-Petersen, BR

In the case of Jennifer Regulator, the camera was released in 2005. Angela Merkel was currently on an election campaign tour for her first candidacy for chancellor. Jennifer was a student at the time, she was 18 years old. So she was allowed to vote for the first time and hoped that Merkel would become Chancellor.

For the CSU in Bavaria, she was involved as an election campaign worker. At the CSU party congress in Nuremberg in early September 2005, she made it next to the candidate for chancellor. Both smiled, Merkel very cautiously, then released the camera. A little later Merkel became the first female Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany – and Jennifer studied medicine in Munich.

The first candidate for chancellor and an enthusiastic campaign helper – Jennifer Regulator took her selfie with Merkel in 2005.

The young Syrian and the “refugee chancellor”

In September 2015, Anas Modamani finally arrived in Berlin. The then 18-year-old fled Syria via the balcony route. On September 10th, he actually only wanted to leave his refugee shelter for a short time and go shopping. But there was a lot going on in the courtyard: journalists, police officers, bodyguards. Finally a black limousine pulled up and a woman got out in a turquoise blazer.

“I thought it might be a famous soccer player or an actress,” says the now 24-year-old, looking back. Somehow he managed to get next to her to take a selfie. They both smiled, the woman in the blazer even raised her thumb. Then Modamani pressed the shutter release on his smartphone. He only found out afterwards that the woman next to him was the German Chancellor.

A selfie for the history books – as Anas Modamani photographed herself with Angela Merkel in 2015, he did not yet know that she was the German Chancellor. (Archive image)


The selfie with Merkel makes history

A short time later, the photos of Modamani’s selfie with Merkel went around the world – and through social networks. The young Syrian is known. Berliners write to him, invite him to tea. This is how he gets to know his future host family, who take him in. He manages to get out of the refugee accommodation, learns German and begins studying business communication.

Against xenophobia – and leaving the CSU

Jennifer Regulator, who was the first to vote in 2005, was still living in Munich at the time. In autumn 2015 she saw Anas Modamani selfies with Merkel, the many thousands of refugees at Munich Central Station, the great willingness to help. Merkel and the federal government had previously decided not to close the borders to the refugees stranded in Hungary.

Jennifer Regulator was pleasantly surprised: “Merkel always seemed so aloof and aloof. I would never have thought that she would act so differently on such a point, even against the principles of her party.” She was deeply affected by the suffering of the refugees, and Regulator wanted to take a stand against xenophobia. Together with thousands of Munich residents, she greeted those arriving at the main train station with a poster: “Refugees welcome”. It was the heyday of the German welcoming culture.

But as more and more refugees arrived who had to be accommodated and integrated, warning voices were also raised. Skepticism spread: can we do it? Criticism of the Merkel course came mainly from the CSU and the party leader at the time, Horst Seehofer. The dispute over an upper limit for the admission of refugees almost divided the Union. CSU member Jennifer Regulator resigned from the party. “I didn’t want to be part of that anymore. I thought it was intense because you could see the differences, also in the values,” she says today.

Fake news on Facebook

In March 2016, Islamists carried out a terrorist attack in Brussels. 32 people died, plus three of the attackers. Suddenly, Anas Modamani’s selfie with the Chancellor appeared on the right-wing hate speech. It was claimed that “Merkel’s refugee” was the attacker in Brussels. The young Syrian tried to counter this, but the fake news spread on Facebook and other channels.

The selfie with Merkel became a curse for him. Even after the attack on the Christmas market on Berlin’s Breitscheidplatz, his photo appeared on Facebook. The Syrian took legal action against this with the help of a lawyer. He wanted to force Facebook to delete the posts, but failed in court. “But that wasn’t so important to me. It was important to me that people got to know my true story,” he says.

Anas Modamani would take the selfie with the Chancellor again anyway. “This time I would hug her, maybe even cry. The woman saved my life,” he says. And he worries what happens if Merkel is no longer Chancellor: “How will the refugee policy continue? Can I stay here?” Nobody is being deported to Syria at least at the moment, but nobody knows if and when that will change. Modamani wants to stay in Germany. At the moment he is trying to get naturalization.

And Jennifer Regulator? She became a neurologist, got married and had two children. She, too, would take the selfie with the Chancellor again: “Merkel has left her weight behind in terms of foreign policy in particular.”

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