Published: Tue, June 20, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

The man who united Germany: Helmut Kohl dies

Tributes are being paid to former German leader Helmut Kohl, the architect of German reunification, who has died at the age of 87.

His party, the Christian Democratic Union, confirmed on Friday that Kohl had died.

"During his [Haughey's] presidency in the first half of 1990, Ireland played a decisive role in the process, since the area of the then GDR, today's east Germany, could be smoothly integrated into the then European unity without any real big problems", said the chancellor, speaking in German.

Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, said her own life had changed markedly because of Kohl's actions, for which she was deeply grateful.

His legacy, however, was somewhat tarnished by financial scandal within his CDU party that came to light in 1999.

Kohl died peacefully in his bed at home in Ludwigshafen, in the southwestern state of Rhineland-Palatinate, said the Bild newspaper, adding that his wife Maike Kohl-Richter was by his side.

Netanyahu says he sends "condolences to the Kohl family and to the German people".

On Friday, June 16, his political party, the Christian Democratic Union, announced his passing on social media.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Kohl took a huge political and personal risk by pushing for a quick reunification of East and West Germany.

Tributes also poured in from overseas, with former U.S. president George H.W. Bush hailing "one of the greatest" post-war leaders, and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker honouring him as the "very essence of Europe".

"The Germans gave Helmut Kohl the nickname "Chancellor of German Unity".

After the Soviet Union relinquished control of Eastern Europe, Kohl launched his push for reunification, with constant reassurances to Western leaders that a united Germany posed no threat. As Merkel struggled to convince center-right lawmakers in 2011 of the wisdom of having Germany finance further bailouts of other eurozone nations, Kohl weighed in firmly.

Born in Ludwigshafen am Rhein on April 3, 1930, Helmut Kohl was drafted to the German army in 1945 but not involved in combat, with the Second World War ending that year. Only Otto von Bismarck, who first unified Germany in the 1870s, was chancellor longer, for 19 years.

NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg described him as the "embodiment of a united Germany in a united Europe".

He praised former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for her honesty, even as he recalled a confrontation with her just a few days after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Kohl was honored as an Honorary Citizen of Europe by Clinton for his contribution to the integration of Europe and was regarded as a great politician. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) called her predecessor "a stroke of luck for us Germans". They had two sons, Peter and Walter.

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