German Language Blog

How was a German lockdown announced AND revoked within one day? Posted by on Mar 25, 2021 in Culture, Holidays, Language, News, Politics, Vocabulary

It was a tough week for Bundeskanzlerin (f, Federal Chancellor) Angela Merkel. Due to the announced lockdown for Ostern (Easter), everyone went hart ins Gericht (“hard into court”) with her. With rising coronavirus cases, the planned Lockerungen (f, relaxations) of the COVID rules fielen ins Wasser (“fell in the water”). But what actually happened?

A “knallharter Lockdown

Coronavirus Lockdown Osterruhe

Photo by Sweet Amaryllis on Unsplash

On Monday, Merkel and the prime ministers of the German Bundesländer (Federal states) sat together to decide the next corona rules. While the planned Lockerungen from March 1 slowly started rolling out after a long lockdown since December have the new cases steadily increased. The Bundesregierung (f, federal government) is now concerned that a dritte Welle (f, third wave) cannot be stopped.

This was why on Monday, it was decided to put a so-called Osterruhe (f, Easter rest) in place for the Easter days from April 1 to 5. So what does this mean?

Because in Germany, Karfreitag (m, Good Friday), Ostersonntag (m, Easter Sunday) and Ostermontag (m, Easter Monday) are all Feiertage (m, holidays), it seemed like a good idea to bundle Gründonnerstag (m, Maundy Thursday) and the Saturday in between together for a full 5-day holiday. A lockdown, essentially, because this meant that supermarkets would have had more limited opening times and the Einzelhandel (m, retail) had to close down completely. Furthermore, fewer people would be allowed to see each other. That’s quite a big deal for a holiday that revolves around getting together. And for a holiday that is so important for businesses. After the flopped Weihnachtsgeschäft (n, Christmas sales) with a lockdown that started two weeks before Christmas and inconsistent aid for businesses, they didn’t want this either. Finally, many Germans go on Urlaub (m, holiday) for the Easter days. Especially after this long lockdown. It was just too much.


Immediately after this Oster-Lockdown (m, Easter lockdown) was announced, the Regierung (f, government), and especially Merkel, got a lot of Gegenwind (m, resistance, backlash). The media, citizens, businesses, everybody went hart ins Gericht (hard on somebody) with Merkel.

Also Mirko from the excellent YouTube channel MrWissen2Go, who is usually a rather neutral presenter, gave a clear negative opinion about the handling of the coronavirus by the Regierung, including this Osterruhe with a video titled: Corona: Unsere Politiker versagen! (Corona: Our politicians are failing!)

And then, within a day of the announcement, Merkel made the following announcement.

Merkel entschuldigt sich für den Oster-Lockdown

Merkel made an announcement in which she admitted that the idea for an Osterruhe was a Fehler (mistake). Even more so, she took personal responsibility, called it explicitly mein Fehler (my mistake). She defended the intention to stop a third wave of COVID. But she conceded that “…dennoch war die Idee der sogenannten Osterruhe ein Fehler. Sie […] war in der Kürze der Zeit nicht gut umsetzbar…” (…yet the idea for a so-called Easter rest was a mistake. It […] could not possibly have been executed properly in such a short time…). She made it klipp und klar (in no uncertain manner) that it was “mein Fehler” (my mistake).

So the biggest issue was that this additional Feiertag was announced just a week before, allegedly way too short for any business to properly prepare.

While Merkel received praise for taking responsibility for the mistake, the criticism was loud and clear. So the Osterruhe fällt ins Wasser (Easter rest “falls in the water”, i.e. is cancelled).

A lot of the criticism falls on the way that the Bund-Ländertreffen (federal-state meetings) are held – deep into the night, behind closed doors and without (prior) consultation with the parliament or enough other relevant parties. That’s how this idea of the Osterruhe came to be.

Do you want to know more about those Ausdrücke? Next week we will discuss them in a post on German idioms!

What do you think of this situation? Have there been situations like this in your country? Let me know in the comments below!

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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.


  1. Peter:

    Even when she gets it wrong, she gets it right! The contrast with the UK Prime Minister Johnson could not be more stark!