Former Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the chancellor of German reunification and pioneer of the European Union, is dead. The CDU Chairman of many years has died at the age of 87 years.
According to official statements, Kohl died at his house in Ludwigshafen during the morning of 16 June 2017. Following a fall and traumatic brain injury in 2008, he had been seriously ill. He had been confined to a wheelchair and could only speak with difficulty. By 2015 his condition had deteriorated significantly. He spent months in hospital following operations. In autumn 2015, however, he returned to his house in Ludwigshafen-Oggersheim, where he was able to receive Hungary’s Prime Viktor Orban in April 2016.
Moving words from Angela Merkel
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel received the news of Kohl’s death during a journey to Rome. She acknowledged her predecessor in office as a great European and the chancellor of reunification. She said people would long admire how decisively he and his staff seized the opportunity for German reunification. “That was the supreme art of statesmanship in the service of people and peace,” said Merkel. “Helmut Kohl thus became a godsend for us Germans.” Kohl had also had a decisive impact on her life. “I am very personally grateful that he lived.”
On Kohl’s death, former US President George H. W. Bush wrote: “He is the man I consider one of the greatest leaders in post-war Europe.” Bush was one of the US presidents in the White House during Kohl’s time in office. Both politicians are regarded as fathers of German reunification.
Record-breaking chancellor and the chancellor of reunification
Kohl governed Germany as Federal Chancellor from 1982 to 1998 – a total of 16 years, longer than anyone before or since. He was an energetic supporter of the EU and a common currency.
However, German reunification is considered his greatest success. Following the peaceful revolution in the GDR in 1989, Kohl recognised that the window for German reunification would only be open for a short time. Putting all of his energy into the project, he negotiated the terms of reunification with the heads of state and government of the USA, the Soviet Union, Great Britain and France and the leaders of the European Union.
Kohl was a man who set political records: he was CDU Chairman from 1973 to 1998 – a 25-year period in office is unlikely to be achieved again in the party.
Mentor of Angela Merkel
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel has led the Christian Democrats for 17 years. At the beginning of the 1990s Kohl was her mentor in the Federal Government and the party. At the end of the 1990s, when she was CDU General Secretary, however, she was the person who appealed for the party to distance itself from its father figure because of a donations scandal in which Kohl was closely involved. The relationship between the two politicians remained fraught until recently.
The born Ludwigshafener was a parliamentarian for over 40 years, initially in the Landtag in Mainz, the State Parliament of Rhineland-Palatinate, and from 1976 onwards in the Bundestag, the Federal Parliament. Kohl was Minister President of Rhineland-Palatinate for seven years – from 1969 to 1976.
In 1960, he married the interpreter Hannelore Renner. The couple had two sons – Walter and Peter. Hannelore Kohl suffered from a painful photo allergy and committed suicide in 2001. Seven years later, Kohl married his second wife, Maike Richter, a government director 34 years his junior.