Berlin, 29 September 2013. Angela Merkel is re-elected Chancellor in an unprecedented landslide. “The girl who saved Germany” stars at a rally of supporters in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate.

Not since the Berlin Wall came down have there been scenes like it. Merkelmania. There is no doubt about what has brought this transformation in her fortunes, those of her party, and those of Germany. After a few words of thanks, and in an unusually showy gesture, Chancellor Merkel picks out of her jacket pocket a 100 New Mark note. She waves it to the crowd. They scream approval. Everyone understands the message. Their euro nightmare is over. It had ended just over two years before.

The events of 16 September 2011, “the day the euro died”, could hardly have had a less dramatic start. For the final blow to the euro’s credibility came not from another day of turmoil or some grand summit, but from a panel of judges in the German constitutional court in Karlsruhe.

In an airless conference room decorated only with a German flag, three middle-aged German jurists executed the European single currency as casually as if they had been asked to strike down a new law on dangerous dogs. Translated from German and legalese, the force of the court’s ruling was plain, and unchallengeable short of recasting Germany’s constitution. Chancellor Merkel had made it clear for months she was unwilling to do so. “It is up to the judges,” she always replied to reporters’ shouted questions.

Now the judges spoke. It was “unconstitutional” for the German government to carry on bankrolling the rest of Europe: “The monetisation of extraterritorial debt instruments violates the Basic Law of the Federal Republic.” The euro was over. Read full article in the Independent...