HELMUT JOSEF MICHAEL KOHL (German: ; 3 April 1930 – 16 June 2017)
was a German statesman who served as Chancellor of
Germany from 1982
to 1998 (of
West Germany 1982–1990 and of the reunited Germany
1990–1998) and as the chairman of the Christian Democratic Union
(CDU) from 1973 to 1998. From 1969 to 1976, Kohl was minister
president of the state
Rhineland-Palatinate . Kohl chaired the Group
of Seven in 1985 and 1992.
Kohl was born in
Ludwigshafen to a
Roman Catholic family, and joined
the Christian Democratic Union in 1946 at the age of 16. He earned a
PhD in history at
Heidelberg University in 1958 and worked as a
business executive before becoming a full-time politician. He was
elected as the youngest member of the Parliament of
Rhineland-Palatinate in 1959 and became Minister-President of his home
state in 1969. Viewed during the 1960s and the early 1970s as a
progressive within the CDU, he was elected national chairman of the
party in 1973. In the 1976 federal election his party performed well,
but the government of social democrat
Helmut Schmidt was able to
remain in power. In 1982 Kohl was elected Chancellor after the liberal
Free Democratic Party had switched sides to support the CDU. After he
became party leader, Kohl was increasingly seen as a more conservative
As Chancellor Kohl was strongly committed to
European integration and
French–German cooperation in particular; he was also a steadfast
ally of the
United States and supported Reagan\'s more aggressive
policies in order to weaken the
Soviet Union . Kohl's 16-year tenure
was the longest of any German Chancellor since
Otto von Bismarck . He
oversaw the end of the
Cold War and is widely regarded as the
German reunification . Together with French President
François Mitterrand , Kohl was the architect of the Maastricht Treaty
, which established the
European Union (EU) and the euro currency.
Kohl was also a central figure in the eastern enlargement of the
European Union , and his government led the effort to push for
international recognition of
Slovenia and Bosnia and
Herzegovina when the states declared independence. He played an
instrumental role in solving the
Bosnian War . Domestically, Kohl's
policies focused on economic reforms and later also on the process of
integrating the former East
Germany into the reunited Germany, and he
moved the federal capital from the "provisional capital"
Bonn back to
Berlin . Kohl also greatly increased federal spending on arts and
culture. After his chancellorship, Kohl's reputation suffered
domestically because of his role in the
CDU donations scandal , but it
was largely rehabilitated in later years. The later Chancellor Angela
Merkel started her political career as Kohl's protegée.
Kohl was described as "the greatest European leader of the second
half of the 20th century" by U.S. Presidents
George H. W. Bush and
Bill Clinton . Kohl received the
Charlemagne Prize in 1988 with
François Mitterrand; in 1998 Kohl became the second person to be
Honorary Citizen of Europe by the European heads of state or
government . Following his death , Kohl was honored with the first
ever European Act of State in
Strasbourg . Kohl was married to
Hannelore Kohl during his entire political career, and they had two
Walter Kohl and
Peter Kohl .
* 1 Life
* 1.1 Youth and education
* 1.2 Life before politics
* 1.3 Early political career
* 1.4 Minister-President of
* 1.5 Federal party level, election as chairman of the CDU
* 1.6 First candidacy for the chancellorship and the 1976 Bundestag
* 1.7 Leader of the opposition
* 2 Chancellor of
* 2.1 Rise to power
* 2.2 Second cabinet
* 2.3 Domestic policies
* 2.4 Third cabinet
* 2.5 Road to reunification
* 3 Chancellor of reunified
* 4 Retirement
* 4.1 CDU finance affair
* 4.2 Life after politics
* 5 Political views
* 6 Personality and media portrayals
* 7 Personal life
* 7.1 Family of
* 7.2 Controversial second marriage (2008–2017)
* 8 Honors and awards
* 9 Death, European act of state and funeral
* 9.1 Tributes
* 10 See also
* 11 References
* 12 Bibliography
* 13 Further reading
* 14 External links
YOUTH AND EDUCATION
Helmut Kohl was born on 3 April 1930 in
Ludwigshafen am Rhein (then
in Bavaria, now in Rhineland-Palatinate). He was the third child of
Hans Kohl (6 January 1887 – 20 October 1975), an imperial army
veteran and civil servant, and his wife, Cäcilie (née Schnur; 17
November 1891 – 2 August 1979).
Kohl's family was conservative and Roman Catholic, and remained loyal
to the Catholic Centre Party before and after 1933. His elder brother
World War II
World War II as a teenage soldier. At the age of ten, Kohl was
obliged, like every child in
Germany at the time, to join the
Deutsches Jungvolk _, a section of the
Hitler Youth . Aged 15, on 20
April 1945, Kohl was sworn into the
Hitler Youth by leader Artur
Berchtesgaden , just days before the end of the war, as
membership was mandatory for all boys of his age. Kohl was also
drafted for military service in 1945; he was not involved in any
combat, a fact he later referred to as the "mercy of late birth"
(German: _Gnade der späten Geburt_).
Kohl attended the Ruprecht Elementary School, and continued at the
Max-Planck-Gymnasium. After graduating in 1950, Kohl began to study
Frankfurt am Main, spending two semesters commuting between
Ludwigshafen and Frankfurt. Here, Kohl heard lectures from Carlo
Walter Hallstein , among others. In 1951, Kohl switched to
Heidelberg University , where he studied history and political science
. Kohl was the first in his family to attend university.
LIFE BEFORE POLITICS
After graduating in 1956, Kohl became a fellow at the Alfred Weber
Heidelberg University under
Dolf Sternberger where he
was an active member of the student society
AIESEC . In 1958, Kohl
received his doctorate degree in history for his dissertation _Die
politische Entwicklung in der Pfalz und das Wiedererstehen der
Parteien nach 1945_ ("The Political Developments in the Palatinate and
the Reconstruction of Political Parties after 1945"), under the
supervision of the historian Walther Peter Fuchs . After that, Kohl
entered business, first as an assistant to the director of a foundry
in Ludwigshafen, then, in April 1960, as a manager for the Industrial
Union for Chemistry in Ludwigshafen.
EARLY POLITICAL CAREER
In 1946, Kohl joined the recently founded CDU , becoming a full
member once he turned 18 in 1948. In 1947, Kohl was one of the
co-founders of the
Junge Union -branch in Ludwigshafen, the CDU youth
organisation. In 1953, Kohl joined the board of the Palatinate branch
of the CDU. In 1954, Kohl became vice-chair of the
Junge Union in
Rhineland-Palatinate , being a member of the board until 1961.
In January 1955, Kohl ran for a seat on the board of the
Rhineland-Palatinate CDU, losing just narrowly to the state's Minister
of Family Affairs, Franz-Josef Wuermeling . Kohl was still able to
take up a seat on the board, being sent there by his local party
branch as a delegate. During his early years in the party, Kohl aimed
to open it towards the young generation, turning away from a close
relationship with the churches. Kohl as the CDU
Rhineland-Palatinate state party chairman
In early 1959, Kohl was elected chairman of the
branch of the CDU, as well as candidate for the upcoming state
elections. On 19 April 1959, Kohl was elected as the youngest member
of the state diet, the Landtag of
Rhineland-Palatinate . In 1960, he
was also elected into the municipal council of
Ludwigshafen where he
served as leader of the CDU party until 1969. When the chairman of
the CDU parliamentary group in the Landtag,
Wilhelm Boden , died in
late 1961, Kohl moved up into a deputy position. Following the next
state election in 1963, he took over as chairman, a position he held
until he became Minister-President in 1969. In 1966, Kohl and the
incumbent minister-president and state party chairman, Peter Altmeier
, agreed to share duties. In March 1966, Kohl was elected as chairman
of the party in Rhineland-Palatinate, while Altmeier once again ran
for minister-president in the state elections in 1967, agreeing to
hand the post over to Kohl after two years, halfway into the
MINISTER-PRESIDENT OF RHINELAND-PALATINATE
Helmut Kohl, 1969
On 19 May 1969, Kohl was elected minister-president of
Rhineland-Palatinate , as the successor to
Peter Altmeier . As of
2017, he is the youngest person ever to be elected as head of
government in a German _Bundesland_. Just a few days after his
election as minister-president, Kohl also became vice-chair of the
federal CDU party. While in office, Kohl acted as a reformer,
focusing on school and education. His government abolished school
corporal punishment and the parochial school , topics that had been
controversial with the conservative wing of his party. During his
term, Kohl founded the University of Trier-Kaiserslautern . He also
finalised a territorial reform of the state, standardising codes of
law and re-aligning districts, an act that he had already pursued
under Altmeier's tenure, taking the chairmanship of the Landtag's
committee on the reform. After taking office, Kohl established two
new ministries, one for economy and transportation and one for social
matters, with the latter going to
Heiner Geißler , who would work
closely with Kohl for the next twenty years.
FEDERAL PARTY LEVEL, ELECTION AS CHAIRMAN OF THE CDU
Kohl moved up into the federal board (_Vorstand_) of the CDU in 1964.
Two years later, shortly before his election as chairman of the party
in Rhineland-Palatinate, he failed at an attempt to be voted into the
executive committee (_Präsidium_) of the party. After the CDU lost
its involvement in the federal government for the first time since the
World War II
World War II in the 1969 election , Kohl was elected into the
committee. While former chancellor
Kurt Georg Kiesinger remained
chairman of the CDU until 1971, it was now parliamentary chairmen
Rainer Barzel who led the opposition against the newly formed
social-liberal coalition of
Willy Brandt .
As a member of the board and the executive committee, Kohl pushed
towards a party reform, supporting liberal stances in education and
social policies, including employee participation. When a proposal by
the board was put to vote at a party convention in early 1971 in
Düsseldorf , Kohl was unable to prevail against protest coming from
the conservative wing of the party around
Alfred Dregger and the
sister party CSU , costing him support at the liberal wing of the
party. To make matters worse, in a mistake during the voting process,
Kohl himself voted against the proposal, further angering his
supporters, such as party treasurer
Walther Leisler Kiep . Kohl
at the CDU national party convention in
Hamburg in 1973
Nevertheless, when Kiesinger stepped down as party chairman in 1971,
Kohl was a candidate for his succession. He was unsuccessful, losing
the vote to Barzel 344 to 174. In April 1972, in the light of
Ostpolitik _, the CDU aimed to depose Brandt and his
government in a constructive vote of no confidence , replacing him
with Barzel. The attempt failed, as two members of the opposition
voted against Barzel. After Barzel also lost the general election
later that year , the path was free for Kohl to take over. After
Barzel announced on 10 May 1973 that he would not run for the post of
party chairman again, Kohl succeeded him at a party convention in Bonn
on 12 June 1973, amassing 520 of 600 votes, with him as the only
candidate. Facing stiff opposition from the left wing of the party,
Kohl initially expected only to serve as chairman for a couple of
months, as his critics planned to replace him at another convention
set for November in
Hamburg . Kohl received the support of his party
and remained in office, not least due to the lauded work of Kurt
Biedenkopf , whom Kohl had brought in as Secretary General of the CDU.
Kohl remained chairman until 1998.
When chancellor Brandt stepped down in May 1974 following the
unraveling of the
Guillaume Affair , Kohl urged his party to restrain
Schadenfreude _ and not to use the position of their political
opponent for "cheap polemics". In June, Kohl campaigned during the
state elections in
Lower Saxony for his party colleague Wilfried
Hasselmann , leading the CDU to a strong result of 48.8% of the vote,
even though it proved not enough to prevent a continuation of the
social-liberal coalition in the state.
FIRST CANDIDACY FOR THE CHANCELLORSHIP AND THE 1976 BUNDESTAG ELECTION
On 9 March 1975, Kohl and the CDU faced re-election in
Rhineland-Palatinate. What placed Kohl, who intended to run for
chancellor, under increased pressure was the fact that the sister
parties of CDU and CSU were set to decide upon their leading candidate
for the upcoming federal elections in mid-1975. CSU chairman Franz
Josef Strauß had ambitions to run and publicly put Kohl under
pressure over what a result would be acceptable in the state
elections. On election day, the CDU achieved a result of 53.9 per
cent, the highest ever result in the state, consolidating Kohl's
position. Strauß' bid for the chancellorship was further put into
jeopardy when in March 1975 the magazine _
Der Spiegel _ published a
transcript of a speech held in November 1974, in which Strauß claimed
Red Army Faction , a West German armed struggle group
responsible for multiple attacks at the time, had sympathizers in the
ranks of the SPD and FDP. The scandal deeply unsettled the public and
effectively ruled out Strauß for the candidacy. On 12 May 1975, the
federal board of the CDU unanimously nominated Kohl as the candidate
for the general elections, without consulting their Bavarian sister
party beforehand. In reaction, the CSU nominated Strauß and only a
mediation by former chancellor Kiesinger was able to resolve the issue
and confirm Kohl as the candidate for both parties. In June 1975,
Kohl was also re-elected as party chairman, achieving a result of
98.44 per cent. Kohl in
Berlin at a campaign event for the 1976
West German federal election
Strauß took the discord as a starting point to evaluate chances of
expanding the CSU on the federal level, such as having separate
electoral lists in the states of
North Rhine-Westphalia , Lower
Saxony, Hamburg, and Bremen . He hoped to draw away right-wing voters
from the FDP towards the CSU and went as far as having private
meetings with industrialists in North Rhine-Westphalia. These attempts
led to discomfort within the membership base of the CDU and hampered
both parties' chances in the upcoming elections. Kohl himself remained
silent during these tensions, which some interpreted as a lack of
leadership, while others such as future president Karl Carstens
praised him for seeking a consensus at the centre of the party.
In the 1976 federal election, the
CDU/CSU coalition performed very
well, winning 48.6% of the vote. They were kept out of government by
the center-left cabinet formed by the Social Democratic Party of
Germany and Free Democratic Party , led by Social Democrat Helmut
Schmidt . Kohl then retired as minister-president of
Rhineland-Palatinate to become the leader of the
CDU/CSU in the
Bundestag . He was succeeded by Bernhard Vogel.
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
In the 1980 federal elections , Kohl had to play second fiddle, when
Franz Josef Strauß became the CDU/CSU's candidate for
chancellor. Strauß was also unable to defeat the coalition of the
Social Democratic Party of
Germany (SPD) and the Free Democratic Party
(FDP). Unlike Kohl, Strauß did not want to continue as the leader of
CDU/CSU and remained Minister-President of
Bavaria . Kohl remained
as leader of the opposition, under the third Schmidt cabinet
(1980–82). On 17 September 1982, a conflict of economic policy
occurred between the governing SPD/FDP coalition partners. The FDP
wanted to radically liberalise the labour market, while the SPD
preferred greater job security. The FDP began talks with the CDU/CSU
to form a new government.
CHANCELLOR OF WEST GERMANY
RISE TO POWER
Kohl at a campaign event for the 1983 West German federal
On 1 October 1982, the CDU proposed a constructive vote of no
confidence which was supported by the FDP. The motion carried. Three
days later, the
Bundestag voted in a new CDU/CSU-FDP coalition cabinet
, with Kohl as chancellor. Many of the important details of the new
coalition had been hammered out on 20 September, though minor details
were reportedly still being hammered out as the vote took place.
Though Kohl's election was done according to the Basic Law , it came
amid some controversy. The FDP had fought its 1980 campaign on the
side of the SPD and even placed Chancellor Schmidt on some of their
campaign posters. There were also doubts that the new government had
the support of a majority of the people. In answer, the new government
aimed at new elections at the earliest possible date. Polls suggested
that a clear majority was indeed in reach. As the Basic Law only
allows the dissolution of parliament after an unsuccessful confidence
motion, Kohl had to take another controversial move: he called for a
confidence vote only a month after being sworn in, which he
intentionally lost because the members of his coalition abstained.
Karl Carstens then dissolved the
Bundestag at Kohl's request
and called new elections. Election poster for the 1984 European
The move was controversial, as the coalition parties denied their
votes to the same man they had elected Chancellor a month before and
whom they wanted to re-elect after the parliamentary election.
However, this step was condoned by the German Federal Constitutional
Court as a legal instrument, and was again applied by SPD Chancellor
Gerhard Schröder in 2005.
In the federal elections of March 1983 , Kohl won a resounding
CDU/CSU won 48.8%, while the FDP won 7.0%. Some
opposition members of the
Bundestag asked the Federal Constitutional
Court to declare the whole proceeding unconstitutional. It denied
their claim, but did set restrictions on a similar move in the future.
The second Kohl cabinet pushed through several controversial plans,
including the stationing of
NATO midrange missiles, against major
opposition from the peace movement. Kohl and his wife Hannalore
Cologne , 1983
On 22 September 1984 Kohl met the French president François
Verdun , where the Battle of
Germany had taken place during World War I. Together, they
commemorated the deaths of both World Wars. The photograph, which
depicted their minutes long handshake became an important symbol of
French-German reconciliation. Kohl and Mitterrand developed a close
political relationship, forming an important motor for European
integration . Together, they laid the foundations for European
Arte . This French-German cooperation
also was vital for important European projects, like the Treaty of
Maastricht and the Euro.
In 1985, Kohl and U.S. President
Ronald Reagan , as part of a plan to
observe the 40th anniversary of
V-E Day , saw an opportunity to
demonstrate the strength of the friendship that existed between
Germany and its former foe. During a November 1984 visit to the White
House, Kohl appealed to Reagan to join him in symbolizing the
reconciliation of their two countries at a German military cemetery.
As Reagan visited
Germany as part of the
11th G7 summit in Bonn, the
Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on 5 May and,
controversially, the German military cemetery at Bitburg .
Helmut Kohl in 1986
Kohl's chancellorship presided over a number of innovative policy
measures. Extensions in unemployment benefit for older claimants were
introduced, while the benefit for the young unemployed was extended to
age 21. In 1986, a child-rearing allowance was introduced to benefit
parents when at least one was employed. Informal carers were offered
an attendance allowance together with tax incentives, both of which
were established with the tax reforms of 1990, and were also
guaranteed up to 25 hours a month of professional support, which was
supplemented by four weeks of annual holiday relief. In 1984, an early
retirement scheme was introduced that offered incentives to employers
to replace elderly workers with applicants off the unemployment
register. In 1989 a partial retirement plan was introduced under which
elderly employees could work half-time and receive 70% of their former
salary "and be credited with 90 per cent of the full social insurance
entitlement." In 1984, a Mother and Child Fund was established,
providing discretionary grants "to forestall abortions on grounds of
material hardship," and in 1986 a 10 Bn DM package of Erziehungsgeld
(childcare allowance) was introduced, although according to various
studies, this latter initiative was heavily counterbalanced by cuts.
In 1989, special provisions were introduced for the older unemployed.
Kohl's time as Chancellor also saw some controversial decisions in
the field of social policy. Student aid was made reimbursable to the
state while the Health Care Reform Act of 1989 introduced the concept
by which patients pay up front and are reimbursed, while increasing
patient co-payments for hospitalisation, spa visits, dental
prostheses, and prescription drugs. In addition, while a 1986
Baby-Year Pensions reform granted women born after 1921 one year of
work-credit per child, lawmakers were forced by public protest to
phase in supplementary pension benefits for mothers who were born
before the cut-off year.
Chancellor Kohl at a 1987
European Council meeting with vice
chancellor and foreign minister
After the federal elections of 1987 Kohl won a slightly reduced
majority and formed his third cabinet . The SPD's candidate for
chancellor was the Minister-President of
North Rhine-Westphalia ,
Johannes Rau .
In 1987, Kohl hosted East German leader
Erich Honecker – the first
ever visit by an East German head of state to West Germany. This is
generally seen as a sign that Kohl pursued _
Ostpolitik _, a policy of
détente between East and West that had been begun by the SPD-led
governments (and strongly opposed by Kohl's own CDU) during the 1970s.
ROAD TO REUNIFICATION
German reunification Chancellor Kohl behind and
to the right of U.S. President
Ronald Reagan (center) at the
Brandenburg Gate in 1987. Reagan is challenging Gorbachev to "tear
down this wall !"
Following the breach of the
Berlin Wall and the collapse of the East
German Communist regime in 1989, Kohl's handling of the East German
issue would become the turning point of his chancellorship. Kohl, like
most West Germans, was initially caught unawares when the Socialist
Unity Party was toppled in late 1989. Well aware of his constitutional
mandate to seek German unity, he immediately moved to make it a
reality. Taking advantage of the historic political changes occurring
in East Germany, Kohl presented a ten-point plan for "Overcoming of
the division of
Germany and Europe" without consulting his coalition
partner, the FDP, or the Western Allies. In February 1990, he visited
Soviet Union seeking a guarantee from
Mikhail Gorbachev that the
USSR would allow
German reunification to proceed. One month later, the
Party of Democratic Socialism – the renamed SED – was roundly
defeated by a grand coalition headed by the East German counterpart of
Kohl's CDU, which ran on a platform of speedy reunification.
On 18 May 1990, Kohl signed an economic and social union treaty with
East Germany. This treaty stipulated that when reunification took
place, it would be under the quicker provisions of Article 23 of the
Basic Law. That article stated that any new states could adhere to the
Basic Law by a simple majority vote. The alternative would have been
the more protracted route of drafting a completely new constitution
for the newly reunified country, as provided by Article 146 of the
Basic Law. An Article 146 reunification would have opened up
contentious issues in West Germany, and would have been impractical in
any case since by then East
Germany was in a state of utter collapse.
In contrast, an Article 23 reunification could be completed in as
little as six months.
Helmut Kohl in Krzyżowa (Kreisau) during
his visit to Poland in 1989 that coincided with the fall of the Berlin
Over the objections of Bundesbank president
Karl Otto Pöhl , he
allowed a 1:1 exchange rate for wages, interest and rent between the
West and East Marks . In the end, this policy would seriously hurt
companies in the new federal states . Together with Foreign Minister
Hans-Dietrich Genscher , Kohl was able to resolve talks with the
former Allies of
World War II
World War II to allow
German reunification . He
received assurances from Gorbachev that a reunified
Germany would be
able to choose which international alliance it wanted to join,
although Kohl made no secret that he wanted the reunified
inherit West Germany's seats at
NATO and the EC. Kohl speaks at
the official opening of the
Brandenburger Gate in 22 December 1989
A reunification treaty was signed on 31 August 1990, and was
overwhelmingly approved by both parliaments on 20 September 1990. On 3
October 1990, East
Germany officially ceased to exist, and its
territory joined the Federal Republic as the five states of
Brandenburg , Mecklenburg-Vorpommern,
Saxony , Saxony-Anhalt and
Thuringia . These states had been the original five states of East
Germany before being abolished in 1952, and had been reconstituted in
August. East and West
Berlin were reunited as the capital of the
enlarged Federal Republic. After the fall of the
Berlin Wall, Kohl
confirmed that historically German territories east of the Oder-Neisse
line were definitively part of Poland, thereby relinquishing any claim
Germany had to them. In 1993, Kohl confirmed, via treaty with the
Czech Republic, that
Germany would no longer bring forward territorial
claims as to the pre-1945 ethnic German
Sudetenland . This treaty was
a disappointment for the German
CHANCELLOR OF REUNIFIED GERMANY
Helmut Kohl in 1990. Kohl hosts G7 summit in
1992 Chancellor Kohl and U.S. President
Bill Clinton in the
Bach House , 14 May 1998
Reunification placed Kohl in a momentarily unassailable position. In
the 1990 elections – the first free, fair and democratic all-German
elections since the
Weimar Republic era – Kohl won by a landslide
over opposition candidate and Minister-President of
Saarland , Oskar
Lafontaine . He then formed his fourth cabinet .
After the federal elections of 1994 Kohl was reelected with a
somewhat reduced majority, defeating Minister-President of
Rudolf Scharping . The SPD was able to win a
majority in the Bundesrat , which significantly limited Kohl's power.
In foreign politics, Kohl was more successful, for instance getting
Frankfurt am Main as the seat for the
European Central Bank
European Central Bank . In 1997,
Kohl received the
Vision for Europe Award for his efforts in the
unification of Europe.
By the late 1990s, Kohl's popularity had dropped amid rising
unemployment. He was defeated by a large margin in the 1998 federal
elections by the Minister-President of
Lower Saxony , Gerhard
The later Chancellor
Angela Merkel started her political career as
Kohl's protegée and was known in the 1990s as "Kohl's girl;" in
January 1991 he lifted the then little-known Merkel to national
prominence by appointing her to the federal cabinet.
A red -green coalition government led by Schröder replaced Kohl's
government on 27 October 1998. He immediately resigned as CDU leader
and largely retired from politics. He remained a member of the
Bundestag until he decided not to run for reelection in the 2002
CDU FINANCE AFFAIR
Kohl's life after political office in the beginning was dominated by
CDU donations scandal . The party financing scandal became public
in 1999, when it was discovered that the CDU had received and kept
illegal donations during Kohl's leadership. _
Der Spiegel _ reported,
"It was never suggested that Kohl benefited personally from political
donations – but he did lead the party financial system outside of
the legal boundaries, doing such things as opening secret bank
accounts and establishing civic associations that could act as middle
men, or procurement agencies, for campaign donations." While his
Germany suffered in the immediate years after the
finance affair, it did not affect his reputation internationally;
Germany he was perceived as a great European statesman and
remembered for his role in solving the five great problems of his era,
the German reunification, European integration, the relations with
Russia after the fall of the
Soviet Union and the
Bosnian War .
LIFE AFTER POLITICS
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Vladimir Putin in 2002
In 2002, Kohl left the
Bundestag and officially retired from
politics. Later, he was largely rehabilitated by his party. After
Angela Merkel invited her former patron to the
Chancellor's Office and Ronald Pofalla, the Secretary-General of the
CDU, announced that the CDU would cooperate more closely with Kohl,
"to take advantage of the experience of this great statesman". On 4
March 2004, he published the first of his memoirs, called _Memories
1930–1982_, covering the period from 1930 to 1982, when he became
chancellor. The second part, published on 3 November 2005, included
the first half of his chancellorship (1982–90). On 28 December 2004,
he was air-lifted by the Sri Lankan Air Force, after having been
stranded in a hotel by the
2004 Indian Ocean earthquake
2004 Indian Ocean earthquake . Kohl was a
member of the
Club of Madrid .
As reported in the German press, he also gave his name to the _Helmut
Kohl Centre for European Studies_ (currently _Centre for European
Studies_), which is the new political foundation of the European
People\'s Party . In late February 2008, Kohl suffered a stroke in
combination with a fall which caused serious head injuries and
required his hospitalization, after which he was reported as bound to
a wheelchair due to partial paralysis and with difficulty speaking.
He remained in intensive care since, marrying his 43-year-old
partner, Maike Richter, on 8 May 2008, while still in hospital. In
2010, he had a gall bladder operation in Heidelberg, and heart
surgery in 2012. He was reportedly in "critical condition" in June
2015, following intestinal surgery following a hip-replacement
In 2011, Kohl, in spite of his frail health, began giving a number of
interviews and issued statements in which he sharply condemned his
successor Angela Merkel, whom he had formerly mentored, on her
policies in favor of strict austerity in the
European debt crisis and
later also towards Russia in the
Ukrainian crisis , which he saw as
opposed to his politics of peaceful bi-lateral European integration
during his time as chancellor. He published the book _Aus Sorge um
Europa_ ("Out of Concern for Europe") outlining these criticisms of
Merkel (while also attacking his immediate successor Gerhard Schröder
Euro policy) and was widely quoted in the press as saying,
_"Die macht mir mein Europa kaputt"_ ("That woman is destroying my
Europe"). Kohl thus joined former German chancellors Gerhard
Helmut Schmidt in their similar criticisms of Merkel's
policies in these two fields. On 19 April 2016, Kohl was visited in
his Oggersheim residence by Hungarian Prime Minister
Viktor Orbán .
The two had a one-hour conversation and released a joint press
statement regarding the
European migrant crisis
European migrant crisis , saying that both
doubted that Europe was capable of continuing to absorb refugees
indefinitely. Before the meeting, it had widely been interpreted as
criticism of Angela Merkel's handling of the crisis, but eventually,
Kohl and Orbán refrained from attacking the chancellor directly,
writing: "It is about a good future for Europe and peace in the world.
The efforts of point in the same direction."
In 2016, Kohl sued
Random House , his former ghost writer Heribert
Schwan and co-author Tilman Jens for publishing without his consent
116 comments allegedly made by Kohl during interviews in 2001 and 2002
and published in an unauthorised biography in 2014 called _Legacy: The
Kohl Protocols_. By April 2017, a German court ordered publisher
Random House and the two journalists to pay Kohl damages of 1 million
euros ($1.1 million) for violating his privacy, making it the highest
judgment ever rendered for violations of privacy rights under German
Kohl was committed to
European integration , maintaining close
relations with the French President
François Mitterrand . Parallel to
this he was committed to
German reunification . Although he continued
Ostpolitik of his social-democratic predecessors, Kohl supported
Reagan's more aggressive policies in order to weaken the
USSR . He
had a strained relationship with British Prime Minister and fellow
Margaret Thatcher , although Kohl did allow her secret
access to his plans on reunification in March 1990, to allay the
concerns she shared with Mitterrand.
PERSONALITY AND MEDIA PORTRAYALS
Kohl in 1975. In his years as minister-president, Kohl was
treated by the media as a progressive reformer in his own party. This
image changed during the 70s with Kohl's assumption of leadership in
the federal party. He experienced a fundamental animosity of
journalists towards him.
Kohl faced stiff opposition from the West German political left and
was mocked for his physical stature, alleged provinciality, simplistic
language, and local dialect. Similar to historical French cartoons of
Louis-Philippe of France , Hans Traxler depicted Kohl as a pear in the
left-leaning satirical journal _Titanic _. The German word "Birne"
("pear") became a widespread nickname for and symbol of the
Comedians like Thomas Freitag and Stefan Wald imitated the
chancellor, and books were sold with jokes rewritten with Kohl as the
stupid protagonist. When Kohl died, left wing newspaper TAZ presented
a title page showing a flower set typical for funerals, with a pear
and the caption _flourishing landscapes_, Kohl's euphemism for East
Germany after reunification. Following protests the editor-in-chief
The minister-president of
Rhineland-Palatinate (1969-1976) was a
young reformer in a somewhat backward state, and a newcomer who
heavily criticized the older party leaders. The national media, for as
much as they took notice of him, regarded him with curiosity. But this
changed when Kohl became chair of the federal party in 1973, and even
more dramatically when in late 1975 his party made him candidate for
the chancellery. His opponents within the federal party, but also
journalists and other observers, had their doubts whether the
parochial but successful modernizer of a manageable smaller state was
the right person to lead the Federal Republic, a huge and complicated
Biographer Hans Peter Schwarz names five problems of the 46 year old
candidate: being unfamiliar with the complicated relations in the
Bundestag faction, having no international experience, having no
profound knowledge of economics, but also: a lack of charisma and no
cultural acceptance in Northern Germany.
In small circles Kohl was fascinating and a perfect host; the larger
the crowd, the vaguer, weaker and paler he appeared. His gaze into TV
cameras made him look helpless. When attacked, e.g. in election
campaigns, he became a good fighter. But in general he was no great
orator, his speeches were lengthy and verbose. Additionally, the
catholic with his Palatinate dialect, a folksy man who had culture but
was simply no intellectual - to North German journalists (like from
the important newspapers made in Hamburg) he just felt foreign, more
than any previous CDU chairman.
Kohl was a true people's person and loved to be in company of groups.
His tremendous memory about people and their lives helped him to build
up his networks in the Christian Democratic Union, in government and
abroad. In a study of German chancellorship as political leadership,
Henrik Gast gives examples how much time Kohl invested into personal
relationships even with the backbenchers in the
Bundestag and also
party officials up to the local level. This worked, because it fitted
Kohl's character and was authentic.
Kohl knew that all these people were the basis of his political power
and that he needed their loyalty and personal affection. He could also
be rude to subordinates and assistants, and confront political
adversaries. "He was capable of both - being empathetic and being
extremely confrontational! If you did not do what he wanted, empathy
was over!", as Gast quotes a federal minister of Kohl's own party.
There was also a difference between the younger Kohl and the
chancellor in his later years, a parliamentary state secretary
recalled: "A sense of tact and politeness? The early and the later
Kohl - that was a tremendous difference. In the early years he had all
of that, in the later years no more."
FAMILY OF HELMUT KOHL
Hannelore Kohl , to whom he was married from 1960
until her death in 2001 The Kohl family tomb in Ludwigshafen
Hannelore Kohl and both of Helmut Kohl's parents are interred
On 27 June 1960, Kohl married Hannelore Renner , after he had already
asked for her hand in marriage in 1953, delaying the ceremony until he
was financially stable. Both had known each other since 1948, when
they met in a dancing class. They had two sons,
Walter Kohl (born
Peter Kohl (born 1965).
Hannelore Kohl had studied languages
and spoke fluent French and English; during her husband's political
career, she was an important adviser to him, especially on world
affairs. She was a steadfast advocate of
German reunification even
before it seemed feasible, and of
NATO and Germany's alliance with the
Both sons were educated in the United States, at Harvard University
and MIT, respectively.
Walter Kohl worked as a financial analyst with
Morgan Stanley in New York City and later founded a consulting firm
with his father in 1999.
Peter Kohl worked as an investment banker in
London for many years.
Walter Kohl was formerly married to the
business administration academic
Christine Volkmann and they have a
son, Johannes Kohl; he is now married to the Korean-born Kyung-Sook
Kohl née Hwang.
Peter Kohl is married to the Turkish-born investment
Elif Sözen-Kohl , the daughter of a wealthy Turkish
industrialist, and they have a daughter, Leyla Kohl (born 2002).
On 5 July 2001, his wife, Hannelore , committed suicide; she had
suffered from photodermatitis for many years.
CONTROVERSIAL SECOND MARRIAGE (2008–2017)
While in hospital in 2008 after suffering serious head trauma, Kohl,
then aged 78, married Maike Richter , a former Chancellery employee
who was 44 years; they had no children. For the entire duration of
this marriage, Kohl had a brain injury, was barely able to speak, and
was wheelchair-bound. According to Helmut Kohl's son
Peter Kohl ,
Helmut Kohl did not intend to marry Richter and had stated this
clearly; "then came the accident and a loss of control," Peter Kohl
said, suggesting that Richter had pressured his then seriously ill
father into marrying her. Richter has been severely criticized in
Germany, by Kohl's children, former friends and by German media.
Following his new marriage, Kohl became estranged from his two sons
and his grandchildren, and his sons said their father was kept "like a
prisoner" by his new wife. His children and grandchildren were also
prevented from seeing him by his new wife for the last six years of
his life. In his biography of his mother,
Peter Kohl wrote about
the only time he had visited Richter's apartment, which he described
as "a kind of private
Helmut Kohl museum" full of Helmut Kohl
photographs and artefacts everywhere; "the whole thing looked like the
result of a staggering, meticulous collecting for the purpose of hero
worship, as we know it from reports on stalkers ," Kohl wrote. Jochen
Arntz criticized Maike Richter in the _
Süddeutsche Zeitung _ in 2012
for building a "wall" around
Helmut Kohl and controlling him; as a
result he had also become estranged from many former friends disliked
by his new wife. Kohl biographer Heribert Schwan describes Richter as
"more than conservative, rather German nationalist," and said she
insists on the right to "interpretational sovereignty" in relation to
Kohl's life and that she has insisted on many proven falsehoods. It
caused a scandal when Richter denied Kohl's sons and grandchildren
entry to Helmut Kohl's house, the son's childhood home, after Kohl's
death. Richter was also criticized for attempting to take full
control of Kohl's funeral, and for trying to prevent Chancellor Merkel
from speaking at the ceremony in Strasbourg. Richter wanted the
controversial Hungarian Prime Minister
Viktor Orbán , who has
fiercely criticized Merkel's refugee policies, to speak instead; she
only relented when told it would cause a scandal.
HONORS AND AWARDS
List of honors and awards received by Helmut Kohl
Helmut Kohl received numerous awards and accolades, as well as
honorary titles such as doctorates and citizenships. Among others, he
was joint recipient of the
Charlemagne Prize with French President
François Mitterrand for their contribution to Franco-German
friendship and European Union. In 1996, Kohl received the Prince of
Asturias Award in International Cooperation from Felipe of Spain . In
1998, Kohl was named
Honorary Citizen of Europe by the European heads
of state or government for his extraordinary work for European
integration and cooperation, an honor previously only bestowed on Jean
Monnet . After leaving office in 1998, Kohl became the second person
Konrad Adenauer to receive the Grand Cross in
Special Design of
the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of
Germany . He received
Presidential Medal of Freedom from President
Bill Clinton in 1999.
DEATH, EUROPEAN ACT OF STATE AND FUNERAL
Death and funeral of Helmut Kohl
Helmut Kohl in
Kohl died at 9:15 a.m. on Friday, 16 June 2017 in the Oggersheim
Ludwigshafen , his hometown, aged 87.
Kohl was honored with an unprecedented European act of state on 1
France . A Catholic requiem mass was
subsequently celebrated in
Speyer Cathedral . Kohl was interred in the
Cathedral Chapter Cemetery (_"Domkapitelfriedhof"_) in
directly adjacent to the
Konrad Adenauer Park and a few hundred metres
to the northwest of the Cathedral. It was reported that Kohl had
himself chosen the burial location in the late summer of 2015 when his
health began to deteriorate.
No member of the Kohl family—Kohl's children and
grandchildren—participated in any of the ceremonies, owing to a feud
with Kohl's controversial second wife
Maike Kohl-Richter , who had
among other things barred them from paying their respects to him at
his house, ignored their wish for a ceremony in
Berlin and their wish
that Kohl should be interred alongside his parents and his wife of
Hannelore Kohl in the family tomb.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking from the German Embassy in Rome,
said that "this man who was great in every sense of the word—his
achievement, his role as a statesman in
Germany at its historical
moment—it's going to take a while until we can truly assess what we
have lost in his passing." She lauded Kohl's "supreme art of
statesmanship in the service of people and peace" and noted that Kohl
had also changed her own life decisively.
Pope Francis lauded Kohl as "a great statesman and committed European
worked with farsightedness and devotion for the good of the people in
Germany and in neighbouring European countries."
14th Dalai Lama praised Kohl as "a visionary leader and
statesman" and said he had "great admiration for Chancellor Kohl's
steady leadership when the
Cold War came to a peaceful end and the
Germany became possible."
Flags were flown at half-staff at the European Commission
headquarters in Brussels. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker
lauded Kohl as "a great European." He called Kohl "my mentor, my
friend, the very essence of Europe." The President of the European
Donald Tusk , called Kohl "a friend and a statesman, who
helped to reunify Europe."
Former U.S. President
George H. W. Bush lauded Kohl as "a true friend
of freedom" and "one of the greatest leaders in post-War Europe."
Former U.S. President
Bill Clinton said he was "deeply saddened" by
the death of "my dear friend" whose "visionary leadership prepared
Germany and all of Europe for the 21st century." U.S. President Donald
Trump said Kohl was "a friend and ally to the United States" and that
"he was not only the father of German reunification, but also an
advocate for Europe and the transatlantic relationship. The world has
benefited from his vision and efforts. His legacy will live on."
Former U.S. Secretary of State
James Baker said Kohl's death means
Germany has lost one of its greatest leaders, the
United States has
lost one of its best friends and the world has lost a ringing voice
for freedom," and that Kohl "more than anyone at the end of the Cold
War was the architect of the reunification of Germany" which had
"brought freedom to millions and has helped make Europe safer and more
Emmanuel Macron called Kohl a "great European" and
"an architect of united
Germany and Franco-German friendship."
Belgian Prime Minister
Charles Michel called Kohl "a true European"
who "will be greatly missed." Dutch Prime Minister
Mark Rutte said
Kohl was "a great statesman" who had shaped European history. Spanish
Mariano Rajoy lauded Kohl's role in European history
and in the German reunification. Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło
called Kohl "an outstanding figure and statesman, a great politician
in exceptional times". Italian President
Sergio Mattarella called
Kohl one of Europe's founding fathers, and said that "he who was,
rightly, described as 'the Chancellor of Reunification', worked with
far-sightedness and determination, in years marked by deep and epochal
changes in world equilibria, to give back unity to his country in the
framework of the great project of European integration. As an
authentic statesman, he knew how to combine pragmatism and a capacity
of vision, furnishing a courageous contribution not only tot he fall
Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, but also to
overcoming the dramatic divisions which, for decades, had torn
Europe." Former Italian Prime Minister and President of the European
Romano Prodi called Kohl "a giant of a united Europe."
Hungarian Prime Minister
Viktor Orbán called Kohl the "great old man"
of European politics and "Hungary’s friend".
Former British Prime Minister
John Major said Kohl was "a towering
figure in German and European history" who "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." British Prime Minister
Theresa May called Kohl "a giant
of European history" and said that "I pay tribute to the role he
played in helping to end the
Cold War and reunify Germany. We have
lost the father of modern Germany."
Former Soviet head of state
Mikhail Gorbachev said that "it was real
luck that at that difficult time leading nations were headed by
statesmen with a sense of responsibility, adamant about defending the
interests of their countries but also able to consider the interests
of others, able to overcome the barrier of prevailing suspicion about
partnership and mutual trust. The name of this outstanding German
politician will stay in the memory of his compatriots and all
Europeans." Russian President
Vladimir Putin said "I was lucky to
Helmut Kohl in person. I profoundly admired his wisdom and the
ability to make well-considered, far-reaching decisions even in the
most difficult situations." He called Kohl a "highly reputed
statesman, one of the patriarchs of European and world politics."
Jens Stoltenberg said Kohl was "a true
European" and the "embodiment of a united
Germany in a united Europe."
António Guterres said Kohl had "played an
instrumental role in the peaceful reunification of his country" and
that "today's Europe is a product of his vision and his tenacity, in
the face of enormous obstacles."
* conservatism portal
Cabinet Kohl I
Cabinet Kohl II
Cabinet Kohl III
Cabinet Kohl IV
Cabinet Kohl V
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den Reihen der Vertriebenen, die vielfach zu einer
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* Bickerich, Wolfram; Noac