Helmut Kohl, who reunited Germany, dies

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Helmut Kohl, the chancellor who led the reunification of Germany and the drive towards the euro, has died aged 87.

“We are in sorrow. #RIP #HelmutKohl,” his Christian Democratic Union Party posted on Twitter.

Germany’s Bild newspaper reported Mr Kohl died at his home in Ludwigshafen, the Rhineland city where he was born in April 1930.

Mr Kohl was the country’s longest-serving post-war chancellor, leading Germany for 16 years from 1982 to 1998.

He is fondly remembered as the man who brought East and West Germany together after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The Berlin Wall is torn down in 1989
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The Berlin Wall is torn down in 1989

Despite the misgivings of allies about the danger posed by a reunited Germany, Mr Kohl drove forward with plans to bring together the two halves of the nation, split in two after the Second World War.

In 1990, East and West Germany and the four Second World War allies (Britain, France, USA and USSR) signed the “two-plus-four” agreement, sanctioning German reunification.

Later, he persuaded a sceptical public to adopt the euro currency, convincing Germans to give up their beloved deutschemark.

Mr Kohl formed a close alliance with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
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Mr Kohl formed a close alliance with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Mr Kohl was a huge figure in European politics and formed close alliances with other world leaders, notably French President Francois Mitterrand, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and US President George HW Bush.

Mr Bush was one of the first to pay tribute to Mr Kohl, mourning “the loss of a true friend of freedom, and the man I consider one of the greatest leaders in post-war Europe…Helmut was a rock”.

Mr Bush’s successor, Bill Clinton said he was “deeply saddened” by the death of “my dear friend” who “made possible the reunification of a strong, prosperous Germany”.

Helmut Kohl pictured at an event in April 2015
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Helmut Kohl pictured at an event in April 2015

“I will never forget walking with him through the Brandenburg Gate in 1994 for a large rally on the eastern side, and seeing genuine hope in the eyes of tens of thousands of young people,” he said.

Former Prime Minister Sir John Major led British tributes, calling Mr Kohl “a towering figure in German and European history”.

“He entrenched Germany in a wider Europe, in the hope of achieving a unity and peace that the continent had never known before. This required great political strength and courage – both of which qualities Helmut had in abundance,” he added.

Preparing to release a dove at the Brandeburg Gate after the fall of the Berlin Wall
Image:
Preparing to release a dove at the Brandenburg Gate after the fall of the Berlin Wall

Later, he was mentor to Germany’s current chancellor, Angela Merkel, handing her her first ministerial post in 1991 and referring to her as his ‘mädchen’ or girl.

But the pair’s relationship deteriorated when Merkel denounced his role in a party funding scandal in 1999.

A spokesman for Ms Merkel expressed her “deep sorrow over a great German and a great European”.

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