Helmut Kohl, father of German reunification, dies at 87

Germany's longest serving post-war chancellor from 1982 to 1998, Helmut Kohl was a driving force behind the introduction of the euro currency.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Kohl is celebrated above all as the father of German reunification, which he achieved after the November 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.

Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the architect of Germany's 1990 reunification and mentor to Angela Merkel, has died at age 87, his Christian Democratic Union party (CDU) said on Friday.

The mass-selling newspaper Bild reported that Kohl died on Friday morning in his home in Ludwigshafen, in western Germany.

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

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

Tributes from around the world

Kohl changed my life decisively. Thanks to him, I, like millions of other people, could leave a life of GDR dictatorship and enter into a life of freedom. All that has happened in the past 27 years from then until today would have been unimaginable without Helmut Kohl - German Chancellor Angela Merkel

TRT World spoke to German-based journalist Ira Spitzer.

Former US President George H.W Bush said he and his wife Barbara "mourn the loss of a true friend of freedom, and the man I consider one of the greatest leaders in post-war Europe."

"Working closely with my very good friend to help achieve a peaceful end to the Cold War and the unification of Germany within NATO will remain one of the great joys of my life," he added in a statement. "Helmut was a rock."

Kohl will be remembered in Russia as a resolute supporter of friendly relations between our countries - Russian President Vladimir Putin

An architect of united Germany and Franco-German friendship: with Helmut Kohl, we have lost a great Europe - France's President Emmanuel Macron

Gerhard Schroeder, Kohl's successor as chancellor, called him a "great patriot and European...The unification of our country and our continent will be linked to his name for all time."

In Brussels, European flags were lowered to half mast in tribute.

Legacy

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

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

Shortly after leaving office, Kohl's reputation was tarnished by a financing scandal in his centre-right CDU, now led by Chancellor Merkel.

Kohl mentored Merkel early in her career, appointing her to her first ministerial post.

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

Source: 
Reuters