Chancellor Merkel, Heidi Klum, Seal and the Holocaust

It was a moment that spoke volumes.

On Wednesday, April 14, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa hosted a luncheon for German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Getty Museum.  The agenda of the event was no more than a eet and greet, a chance for the Chancellor, whom Forbes named as the world’s most powerful women, to interact with leaders of the entertainment community, promiment LA-based Germans, officials and benefactors. 

The guests gathered for the noon luncheon right on time, mindful of the vaunted German punctuality.  Among those in attendance: producers Arthur Cohn and Sid Ganis, businessman and philanthropists Haim and Cheryl Saban, Stewart Resnick and Eli Broad, CAA agent Chris Andrews, entrepreneur Jay Penske, film critic Kevin Thomas, attorney E. Randol Schoenberg, Fox studio’s Jim Gianopolous and German Consul General Wolfgang Drautz.

It was an hour before the Chancellor herself arrived.  She swept in wearing a bright orange-red dress, setting off her ginger hair and deep blue eyes. The chancellor moved through the rather chaotic press of guests, stopping to chat for a moment with each one.

When I pushed myself into the throng to introduce myself, I happened to be carrying that week’s Jewish Journal, which I had brought to give to a friend there.  The chancellor took it from my hand—she assumed it was a gift for her.  She looked down and unfolded it to see the gates of Auschwitz and the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” on the cover.

“It’s our Yom HaShoah issue,” I explained.  I immediately doubted she knew the Hebrew, so I fumbled a quick translation. “It’s Holocaust Week.”

She looked up at me quizzically—a whole week?

(I know, Yom HaShoah means Holocaust Day, but… we’;re a weekly… never mind.)

Still, how remarkable:  a chancellor that has no equal in Europe in reaching out to Israel and on behalf of Israel, 70 years after her father’s generation tried to kill every last Jew, and almost succeeded, now outspoken in recognizing Germany’s great crime, and in repairing relations with the Jews… an she was holding The Jewish Journal.

For a moment: then she passed it to an aid, and asked me questions about the Jewish community in LA.  The mayor, who guided her, jumped in with answers—few politicians know more Jews than him.

After a bit, the singer Seal and his model wife Heidi Klum appeared, and sucked every bit of energy into a vortex of beauty and charisma.

At lunch (delicious, by the way), the mayor toasted the chancellor and the chancellor toasted the mayor and LA. Then it was on to Warner Bros., where a different kind of magic gets made.

A full report on her itinerary comes from the German consular web site:

Chancellor Merkel arrived in Los Angeles Tuesday evening on the second leg of her five-day trip to the United States. Prior to her arrival, Merkel had attended the 47-country Nuclear Security Summit hosted by US President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. Obama had assembled the leaders and heads of state to secure that nuclear materials not get in the hands of terrorists.

Having long ago extended an invitation to Merkel to visit California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger finally had a chance to welcome her to the state. The governor and his wife, Maria Shriver, greeted her at the airport upon her arrival in Los Angeles. The next morning, Schwarzenegger and Merkel met for breakfast to discuss economic affairs and mutual cooperation.

After the breakfast meeting, Merkel moderated and participated in a panel discussion with representatives from trade, industry and science as well as think tanks at the residence of Consul General Wolfgang Drautz.

The next stop on the whirlwind schedule was the Getty Center, where Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa hosted a luncheon in Merkel’s honor. At the obligatory photo-op, prior to the luncheon, Merkel and Villaraigosa encountered elementary students visiting the Center on a field trip. Asked by Merkel, if they knew where Germany was, one student spoke-up and said, “Europe.” The chancellor beamed with pleasure.

At the luncheon, she had the opportunity to meet with leading entertainment executives, business leaders and scientists as well as experience a bit of the Hollywood celebrity factor. In attendance were German top model Heidi Klum and her husband, singer, Seal, German talk show-meister Thomas Gottschalk, and Eric Braeden, the German-born actor starring in the daytime soap opera, “The Young and the Restless.”

A Touch of Hollywood: Warner Bros. Studios Tour

Merkel’s final stop in Hollywood was Warner Bros. Studios, where she met with Chairman and CEO Barry M. Meyer and other leading executives, before touring the studios. One of the highlights of the tour, was a visit on the set of “The Mentalist,” where she met star Simon Baker. Intrigued by the building facades, she was curious to find out if there really wasn’t anything behind one of the shop’s doors. “Let’s go see, “Baker said, as he lead Merkel over to the door to check it out for herself.

The chancellor was also fascinated watching foley artists at work in one of the sound studios. These artists create many of the natural, everyday sound effects in a film. The term foley artist is named after Jack Foley, one of the earliest and best-known Hollywood practitioners of the art.

With her visit to Los Angeles concluded, the chancellor departed for San Francisco, where she was scheduled to address students at Stanford University before returning home Friday.

Helmut Kohl was the last German chancellor to visit Los Angeles in September 15, 1991.

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