Angela Merkel has been called many things during her 16 years as German chancellor. Soft and cuddly were rarely in the mix. But now, as Merkel prepares to leave office, a German toy company has unveiled a commemorative teddy bear that’s exactly that.
Hermann-Spielwaren — a century-old, family-owned toy manufacturer based in Coburg, Germany — began selling the 500 limited-edition bears in August. They sold out this week, days before Germans head to the polls Sunday to choose their new leader.
Roughly 15 inches tall, the bear sports a blonde wig in the chancellor’s bobbed style, a beaded necklace in the colors of the German flag and a slight smile. It is made of mohair in the traditional style, Martin Hermann, the company’s owner, said. The bear’s paws are positioned in the “Merkel-Raute” — the diamond shape considered to be Merkel’s signature hand gesture.
“This special form of holding her hands became really, really famous here in Germany, and we thought the bear has to have this hand style,” Hermann said.
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 Hermann-Spielwaren has produced — it released a furry 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 bookend the Merkel era, a period characterized by what her supporters have hailed as her skilled navigation of several global crises.
The bear’s release generated a “very, very big hype” in Germany, Hermann said, and Germans and others around the world quickly snapped them up. Thirteen bears were sold to two locations in the United States: a toy shop in Cleveland and another in Richmond.
Hermann, a Merkel fan, 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 had decided to run again rather than head into retirement.
“She has done a great job here in Germany with all the crises we had — the financial crisis in 2008, or the pandemic which we have now, or the water problems we have,” Hermann said, referring to floods that devastated parts of Germany this summer.
Merkel leaves behind a complicated legacy, with her detractors citing a lack of bold leadership in confronting Russia and China and a surge of nationalist sentiment on her watch.
She will receive one of the bears herself in a ceremony sometime after Sunday’s election, Hermann said. On the bottom of its foot will be embroidered the number 16, the number of years she led Europe’s largest economy.