Helmut Kohl, father of German reunification, dies


Helmut Kohl, the former German chancellor who seized the chance to reunite his country after years of Cold War separation, was a colossus of contemporary European history who became celebrated as an architect of the continent’s integration.
Germany’s longest-serving postwar leader, Kohl, who died today at 87, was a passionate European who was also central to creating the euro, despite appearing earlier in life as an unlikely candidate to emerge as a pivotal figure.
When a 52-year-old Kohl — whose surname means "cabbage" in German — first became chancellor of West Germany in 1982, the 1.93-metre tall (six-foot-four-inches) provincial conservative with the penchant for rustic pork dishes was the butt of countless food jokes.
But when the detested Berlin Wall came down in November 1989, Kohl moved to "grab the mantle of history," as he later said, forging a political stature commensurate with his towering height.
Kohl, who served as chancellor for 16 years, considered Konrad Adenauer — West Germany’s visionary first chancellor, who allowed the nation to make a fresh start after World War II — as an ideological forefather.
"After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Kohl acted as though the spirit of Konrad Adenauer had suddenly seized him," wrote Stanley Hoffmann, a professor of European history at Harvard University.
In 1989, after four decades of division, the capitalist and democratic West Germany was starkly different from the communist, dilapidated East Germany.
Uniting the two would prove a Herculean task, with "Wessis" (Westerners) loath to sacrifice their standard of living, and "Ossis" (Easterners) keen for unity but worried of being treated as second-class citizens.

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