Merkel was born Angela Dorothea Kasner in 1954, in Hamburg, West Germany.
In 1977, at the age of 23, Merkel, then Angela Kasner, married physics student Ulrich Merkel (born 1953) and took his surname.
Merkel was educated at Karl Marx University, Leipzig, where she studied physics from 1973 to 1978.
The first marriage ended in divorce in 1982.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 served as the catalyst for Merkel's political career. Although she did not participate in the crowd celebrations the night the wall came down, one month later Merkel became involved in the growing democracy movement, joining the new party Democratic Awakening.Following the first (and only) multi-party election in East Germany, she became the deputy spokesperson of the new pre-unification caretaker government under Lothar de Maizière.
In the German federal election of 1990, the first to be held following reunification, Merkel successfully stood for election to the Bundestag in the parliamentary constituency of Stralsund – Nordvorpommern – Rügen in north Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. She has won re-election from this constituency at the seven federal elections held since then.Almost immediately following her entry into parliament, Merkel was appointed by Chancellor Helmut Kohl to serve as Minister for Women and Youth in the federal cabinet.
In 1994, she was promoted to the position of Minister for the Environment and Nuclear Safety, which gave her greater political visibility and a platform on which to build her personal political career. As one of Kohl's protégées and his youngest Cabinet Minister, she was frequently referred to by Kohl as "mein Mädchen" ("my girl").
After the Kohl Government was defeated at the 1998 election, Merkel was appointed Secretary-General of the CDU, a key position as the party was no longer part of the federal government.
Her second and current husband is quantum chemist and professor Joachim Sauer, who has largely remained out of the media spotlight. They first met in 1981, became a couple later and married privately on 30 December 1998.
She was subsequently elected to replace Schäuble, becoming the first female leader of a German party on 10 April 2000. Her election surprised many observers, as her personality offered a contrast to the party she had been elected to lead; Merkel is a centrist Protestant originating from predominantly Protestant northern Germany, while the CDU is a male-dominated, socially conservative party with strongholds in western and southern Germany, and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, has deep Catholic roots.
On 30 May 2005, Merkel won the CDU/CSU nomination as challenger to Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of the SPD in the 2005 national elections.
On 18 September 2005, Merkel's CDU/CSU and Schröder's SPD went head-to-head in the national elections, with the CDU/CSU winning 35.2% (CDU 27.8%/CSU 7.5%) of the second votes to the SPD's 34.2%. The result was so close, both Schröder and Merkel claimed victory. Neither the SPD-Green coalition nor the CDU/CSU and its preferred coalition partners, the Free Democratic Party, held enough seats to form a majority in the Bundestag. A grand coalition between the CDU/CSU and SPD faced the challenge that both parties demanded the chancellorship. However, after three weeks of negotiations, the two parties reached a deal whereby Merkel would become Chancellor and the SPD would hold 8 of the 16 seats in the cabinet.
On 22 November 2005, Merkel assumed the office of Chancellor of Germany following a stalemate election that resulted in a grand coalition with the SPD. The coalition deal was approved by both parties at party conferences on 14 November 2005. Merkel was elected Chancellor by the majority of delegates (397 to 217) in the newly assembled Bundestag on 22 November 2005, but 51 members of the governing coalition voted against her.
Her party was re-elected in 2009 with an increased number of seats, and could form a governing coalition with the FDP. This term was overshadowed by the European debt crisis. Conscription in Germany was abolished and the Bundeswehr became a Volunteer military. Unemployment sank below the mark of 3 million unemployed people.
In the election of September 2013 the CDU/CSU parties emerged as winners, but formed another grand coalition with the SPD due to the FDP's failure to obtain the minimum of 5% of votes required to enter parliament.
On 26 March 2014, Merkel became the longest-serving incumbent head of government in the European Union.
In the 2017 election, Merkel led her party to victory for the fourth time. Both CDU/CSU and SPD received a significantly lower proportion of the vote than they did in the 2013 election, and attempted to form a coalition with the FDP and Greens. The collapse of these talks led to stalemate. The German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier subsequently appealed successfully to the SPD to change their hard stance and to agree a 3rd grand coalition with the CDU/CSU.