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German reunification architect Helmut Kohl dies at 87 - BBC News


German reunification architect Helmut Kohl dies at 87 - BBC News

Helmut Kohl, Germany's ex-chancellor and architect of reunification in 1990, has died at 87.

Mr Kohl led Germany for 16 years (from 1982 to 1998). He is credited with bringing East and West Germany together after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Together with his French ally President Francois Mitterrand, he was responsible for the introduction of the euro.

Mr Kohl, who led the centre-right Christian Democrats, was the longest-serving chancellor of the 20th Century.

A passionate believer in European integration, he persuaded Germans to give up their cherished deutschemark in favour of the European single currency.

In the UK, he is remembered for his differences over the EU with the late UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Mr Kohl suffered a bad fall in 2008 and had been using a wheelchair.

He died at his house in Ludwigshafen, in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate, Bild newspaper reports.

Helmut Josef Michael Kohl was born on 3 April 1930 into a conservative, Catholic family.

His political outlook was shaped by his experiences in his hometown of Ludwigshafen in the Rhineland during World War Two.

Because of its huge chemical works, the town was heavily bombed and, at the age of 12, the young Helmut found himself helping to recover the charred bodies of his neighbours from the rubble. What he once described as "the blessing of a late birth" freed him from any taints of Nazism.

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Former US President George HW Bush paid tribute to the man he knew while in office from 1989 to 1993.

"Barbara and I mourn the loss of a true friend of freedom, and the man I consider one of the greatest leaders in post-war Europe..." he wrote in a statement.

"Throughout our endeavors, Helmut was a rock - both steady and strong."

Mr Kohl fell from grace when a funding scandal under his leadership of the Christian Democrats came to light after he left office in 1998.

Current Chancellor Angela Merkel was once a protegee of Mr Kohl, first entering government under his rule in 1991.

But she publicly denounced Mr Kohl and called for his resignation when it was revealed the party had received millions of dollars worth of illegal donations using secret bank accounts.

In 2011, in a series of interviews and statements, he spoke out against Mrs Merkel's policy of strict austerity to deal with the European debt crisis.

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