Tuesday 23 January 2018

Father of German reunification, Helmut Kohl, dies aged 87

Mourned: Helmut Kohl. Photo: AP
Mourned: Helmut Kohl. Photo: AP

Jorg Graumann in Berlin

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the architect of German reunification, died yesterday, 'Bild' newspaper reported. He was 87.

Bild said Mr Kohl died in the morning in his home in Ludwigshafen, in western Germany.

"We mourn," Mr Kohl's Christian Democratic Union party (CDU) tweeted with a picture of the former chancellor.

Germany's longest serving post-war chancellor from 1982 to 1998, Mr Kohl was a driving force behind the introduction of the euro currency, convincing sceptical Germans to give up their cherished deutsche mark.

An imposing figure who formed a close relationship with French president François Mitterrand in pushing for closer European integration, Mr Kohl had been frail and wheelchair-bound since suffering a bad fall in 2008.

At home, he is celebrated above all as the father of German reunification, which he achieved after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall despite resistance from partners such as then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

He won voters in communist East Germany by promising them "flourishing landscapes".

Shortly after leaving office, Mr Kohl's reputation was tarnished by a financing scandal in his centre-right party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), now led by Chancellor Angela Merkel. Mr Kohl mentored Ms Merkel early in her career, appointing her to her first ministerial post.

Until his death, Mr Kohl refused to identify the donors, saying he had given them his word.

Once viewed as a provincial bumbler, Mr Kohl combined an understanding of the worries of ordinary Germans with a hunger for power, getting elected four times.

"Voters do not like Kohl, but they trust him," Rita Suessmuth, a former speaker of parliament, once said.

Irish Independent

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