Angela Merkel has been called in many ways during her 16 years as German Chancellor. Soft and cuddly were rarely in the mix. But now, as Merkel prepares to step down, a German toy company has unveiled a commemorative teddy bear that is exactly that.
Hermann-Spielwaren – a century-old family toy maker based in Coburg, Germany – started selling the 500 limited edition bears in August. They sold out this week, days before the Germans went to the polls on Sunday to choose their new leader.
Measuring around 15 inches, the bear sports a blonde wig in the style of the Chancellor, a pearl necklace in the colors of the German flag and a slight smile. It is made of mohair in the traditional style, said Martin Hermann, the owner of the company. The bear’s paws are positioned in the “Merkel-Raute” – the diamond shape considered to be Merkel’s hand gesture.
“This special form of holding hands has become really, really famous here in Germany, and we thought the bear must have this style of hand,” said Hermann.
Hermann said the company’s teddy bears, some of which have won international design awards, are produced entirely in Germany. Its collection includes similar tributes to world leaders, including President Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth II.
This latest addition is not the first Merkel bear produced by Hermann-Spielwaren – it paid a furious tribute to Merkel when she became Germany’s first female Chancellor in 2005. The company decided about a year ago to issue another bear to squeeze the books of the Merkel era, a period characterized by what her supporters hailed as her skillful navigation through several global crises.
The bear’s release generated a “very, very big hype” in Germany, Hermann said, and the Germans and others around the world quickly took hold of them. Thirteen bears were sold at two locations in the United States: a toy store in Cleveland and another in Richmond.
Hermann, a fan of Merkel, interprets the rush to buy the bear, priced at around $ 221, as a reflection of Merkel’s popularity and the wish of many Germans that she decided to represent herself rather than take his retirement.
“She’s done a great job here in Germany with all the crises we’ve had – the 2008 financial crisis, or the pandemic we have now, or the water problems we have,” Hermann said, referring to the floods that devastated parts of Germany. this summer.
Merkel leaves behind a complicated legacy, her critics citing a lack of bold leadership in the face of Russia and China and a wave of nationalist sentiment under her watch.
She herself will receive one of the bears at a ceremony after Sunday’s election, Hermann said. At the bottom of her foot will be embroidered the number 16, the number of years she has led Europe’s largest economy.