6 Surprising Facts About Angela Merkel

On Wednesday morning, TIME magazine revealed on TODAY that it had chosen Angela Merkel as its Person of The Year for 2015. In a year plagued by some of the worst terrorism attacks the world has seen, a crippling economic crisis in Europe, and the worst refugee crisis since World War II, the German chancellor exhibited remarkable leadership, grace, and empathy. Though these are the reasons TIME will highlight in its piece on Merkel, there are a slew of other facts about the German leader that paint an even more colorful portrait. As if being the most powerful woman in the world weren't impressive enough, several surprising facts about Angela Merkel make her deeply fascinating, too.

Among her many accomplishments in the past year, perhaps the most noteworthy has been her uncompromising stance on accepting refugees. In the last year, she has allowed almost one million refugees into Germany, standing out as a shining example in mitigating the refugee crisis. In addition, Merkel has played an instrumental role in bailing Greece out of its economic crisis, which threatened to kick the country out of the Eurozone.

Speaking on the Today show, TIME's Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs explained why the publication's choice was a clear one:

In a year where world leaders were tested all through the year, no one was tested the way she was, over and over again.

Ultimately, Gibbs said, Merkel was chosen "for asking more of her country than most politicians would dare, for standing firm against tyranny as well as expedience and for providing steadfast moral leadership in a world where it is in short supply."

That's a pretty solid reason, but there are others that the magazine perhaps did not take into consideration. She may be TIME's Person of the Year, but here are six unexpected, eye-opening facts about Merkel that make her one of the most interesting people of every year.

She's Terrified Of Dogs

Man's best friend is perhaps the only thing Merkel is afraid of, and in 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin took advantage of this fear by bringing his black Lab into a meeting with her. A photo of the stunt shows the chancellor noticeably uncomfortable as Putin grins like a schoolyard bully. Later on, Merkel wiped that grin off his face by telling reporters:

I understand why he has to do this — to prove he's a man. He's afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this.

She Has A Doctorate In Physical Chemistry


Merkel studied physics at the University of Leipzig from 1973 to 1978 and was awarded a doctorate in physical chemistry. Afterwards, Merkel studied and worked as a physicist at the Central Institute for Physical Chemistry of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin-Adlershof.

There Is A Barbie Doll Modeled After Her

For its 50th anniversary celebration, Mattel launched a special series of Barbies, including a doll modeled after Merkel. A Mattel spokesperson said of the doll, "She's simply a good role model for girls around the world."

She Might Be A Judo Expert

Adam Berry/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Though this fact has never been confirmed, several sources have cited Merkel as a judo practitioner, but a Der Spiegel article from 2005 uses judo as a metaphor for her political prowess.

The NSA May Have Tapped Her Phone


According to WikiLeaks, the NSA spied on Merkel and her staff for years by tapping their phone conversations. Amid the claims, Merkel preached some timeless wisdom at a summit of EU leaders in 2013:

Spying among friends is never acceptable.

She Was Helmut Kohl's "Girl"


German Chancellor Helmut Kohl regularly referred to Merkel as "mein Mädchen" ("my girl") while she served on his cabinet as Minister for Women and Youth.