German word of the day: Der Schlussstrich

This word is the subject of some debate in Germany regarding historical memory of the Holocaust and World War II.

German word of the day: Der Schlussstrich
Merkel at Auschwitz in December 2019. Photo: DPA

What does it mean?

Der Schlussstrich means the “final stroke” or the “final line.” Der Schluss translates to “the conclusion, end, or close,” and Der Strich means “the line.”

The phrase “eine Schlussstrich ziehen“ means to consider the matter closed.

How is it used?

The word can be used in many contexts, but it is often associated with Germany’s remembrance of World War II and the Holocaust.

German President Walter Steinmeier and his wife attended commemoration ceremonies at Auschwitz-Birkenau on Monday, which marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the camp. Photo: DPA. 

Many voices in Germany since 1945 have insisted that a Schlussstrich must never be drawn under the past or remembrance of the Holocaust. Others have called for a Schlussstrich in regard to Germany’s culture of remembrance. 

To draw a line under the past in this context would be to suggest that it is time for Germans to distance themselves from this history.

One in favor of a Schlussstrich might suggest that Germans ought to 'move on' from their past atrocities to focus on other elements of national identity. 

The debate regarding whether or not it is necessary, or even possible, to draw a Schlussstrich under the past has been an important part of German politics and social discourse since 1945. 

75th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation

On Monday, individuals around the world remembered the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

READ ALSO: 'It should never happen again': Auschwitz survivors mark liberation 75 years on

German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the concentration camp in Poland on December 6th of last year and said: “Einen Schlussstrich kann es nicht geben,” or in English, “No line can ever be drawn under this past.”

Photos on the wall where German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke at Auschwitz in December 2019. Photo: DPA.

This call to continue remembering the Holocaust and its victims has been echoed this week by survivors and world leaders surrounding the anniversary.

 Example Sentences:

Mama will einen Schlussstrich unter die ganze Sache ziehen.

Mom wants to draw a final line under the whole thing.

Merkel sagt immer, dass es unter dem Holocaust keinen Schlussstrich geben darf.

Merkel always says that there must be no final line under the Holocaust. 


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Sleep, seaside, potato soup: What will Merkel do next?

 After 16 years in charge of Europe's biggest economy, the first thing Angela Merkel wants to do when she retires from politics is take "a little nap". But what about after that?

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes and smiles at a 2018 press conference in Berlin.
Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes at a 2018 press conference in Berlin. Aside from plans to take "a little nap" after retiring this week, she hasn't given much away about what she might do next. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

The veteran chancellor has been tight-lipped about what she will do after handing over the reins to her successor Olaf Scholz on December 8th.

During her four terms in office, 67-year-old Merkel was often described as the most powerful woman in the world — but she hinted recently that she will not miss being in charge.

“I will understand very quickly that all this is now someone else’s responsibility. And I think I’m going to like that situation a lot,” she said during a trip to Washington this summer.

Famous for her stamina and her ability to remain fresh after all-night meetings, Merkel once said she can store sleep like a camel stores water.

But when asked about her retirement in Washington, she replied: “Maybe I’ll try to read something, then my eyes will start to close because I’m tired, so I’ll take a little nap, and then we’ll see where I show up.”

READ ALSO: ‘Eternal’ chancellor: Germany’s Merkel to hand over power
READ ALSO: The Merkel-Raute: How a hand gesture became a brand

‘See what happens’
First elected as an MP in 1990, just after German reunification, Merkel recently suggested she had never had time to stop and reflect on what else she might like to do.

“I have never had a normal working day and… I have naturally stopped asking myself what interests me most outside politics,” she told an audience during a joint interview with Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“As I have reached the age of 67, I don’t have an infinite amount of time left. This means that I want to think carefully about what I want to do in the next phase of my life,” she said.

“Do I want to write, do I want to speak, do I want to go hiking, do I want to stay at home, do I want to see the world? I’ve decided to just do nothing to begin with and see what happens.”

Merkel’s predecessors have not stayed quiet for long. Helmut Schmidt, who left the chancellery in 1982, became co-editor of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and a popular commentator on political life.

Helmut Kohl set up his own consultancy firm and Gerhard Schroeder became a lobbyist, taking a controversial position as chairman of the board of the Russian oil giant Rosneft.

German writer David Safier has imagined a more eccentric future for Merkel, penning a crime novel called Miss Merkel: Mord in der Uckermark  that sees her tempted out of retirement to investigate a mysterious murder.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel forms her trademark hand gesture, the so-called “Merkel-Raute” (known in English as the Merkel rhombus, Merkel diamond or Triangle of Power). (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

Planting vegetables
Merkel may wish to spend more time with her husband Joachim Sauer in Hohenwalde, near Templin in the former East Germany where she grew up, and where she has a holiday home that she retreats to when she’s weary.

Among the leisure activities she may undertake there is vegetable, and especially, potato planting, something that she once told Bunte magazine in an interview in 2013 that she enjoyed doing.

She is also known to be a fan of the volcanic island of D’Ischia, especially the remote seaside village of Sant’Angelo.

Merkel was captured on a smartphone video this week browsing the footwear in a Berlin sportswear store, leading to speculation that she may be planning something active.

Or the former scientist could embark on a speaking tour of the countless universities from Seoul to Tel Aviv that have awarded her honorary doctorates.

Merkel is set to receive a monthly pension of around 15,000 euros ($16,900) in her retirement, according to a calculation by the German Taxpayers’ Association.

But she has never been one for lavish spending, living in a fourth-floor apartment in Berlin and often doing her own grocery shopping.

In 2014, she even took Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to her favourite supermarket in Berlin after a bilateral meeting.

So perhaps she will simply spend some quiet nights in sipping her beloved white wine and whipping up the dish she once declared as her favourite, a “really good potato soup”.