Helmut Kohl, former German Chancellor, who lead the country for more than 15 years as it struggled to reunify into one nation has died. The Christian Democratic Union, the former German leaders political party, confirmed the death of the 87 year old through Twitter.
Kohl took power in 1982, leading West Germany into a new era which would result in the reunification of East and West Germany. Working closely with allies like President Ronald Regan, Kohl went from leading West Germany, to having the Berlin Wall torn down, and becoming Chancellor of a once again, reunited Germany.
Former U.S. President George H. W. Bush was also a close ally with Helmut Kohl and released a statement say that one of the great joys of his life was working with the German leader to bring an end to the Cold War and seeing the dream of one, unified Germany, take place, according to NPR. In the statement released Friday, Bush stated that through their work together, “Helmut was a rock — both steady and strong.”
In the early 80s, Kohl was considered understated and was underestimated often. The New York Times said he was a decent man, much like Gerald Ford, and he was never expected to become chancellor.
But he did land the top job in West Germany and Germany, and at the beginning he quickly began to cltivate the confidence of allies, both of his personally, and of Germany, and quickly earned the respect of the world.
Former U.S. ambassador to Germany, John Kornblum said that most of the time Kohl looked like he was half asleep. However, he was always paying attention, and did a lot of business one on one over the phone. He was not a man to be out there shouting orders. But, when something needed to be done, he got it done.
This was seen most notably in 1989, during a period of months that the country found tumultuous and resulted in the fall of the Berlin Wall. The barrier that had separated the East and West since the end of World War II was gone, and as East German people swarmed into the West, looking to escape the former Soviet controlled region. Following the fall of the wall, Helmut Kohl surprised the world, including members of his own cabinet with a ten point plan to reunify the two Germany’s into one nation.
French and British leaders were worried, with thoughts of Nazi Germany still lingering. But, Kohl gained the support of both the Soviet Union and the U.S. and by October 1990, West and East were once more a single country for the first time since the end of WWII, and Helmut Kohl was the leader of the Unified Germany.
For most of the 1990s, Kohl led the newly reunited nation, including becoming the heart of the European Union. He led the nation until 1998, which made hime the longest-serving chancellor since World War II.
Current chancellor, Angele Merkel, who was once Kohl’s protege and later his adversary, said on Friday that the former German leader was great, and that he had done more for Germany than many people understand and it will take time for everyone to assess what they have lost with his death.
By Cletus Dillwood