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The Cable

Helmut Kohl, Architect of German Reunification, Dead at 87

The chancellor who brought Germany back together lived to see it tested anew by European divisions.


Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl passed away on Friday at the age of 87, German media outlet Bild reported.

Kohl was a West German politician who served as chancellor of West Germany and later a unified Germany from 1982 to 1998; he was known as the “reunification chancellor,” and was one of the drivers of the Maastricht Treaty for European unity.

“Helmut Kohl was a political giant, a European visionary and true statesman. United Germany and shaped the EU of today,” former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted shortly after learning of Kohl’s passing.

Kohl’s 16-year rule was the longest of any German ruler since Otto von Bismarck — and will endure as such unless Angela Merkel, also of Kohl’s Christian Democratic Union, ties him by winning a fourth term as chancellor this September. Merkel was a Kohl protege — he referred to her as his girl, or Mädchen. However, the two fell out when Kohl had to resign from the CDU after it became public that he’d taken payments from “unknown donors.”

Still, Kohl couldn’t stay out of politics entirely. In June of last year, following the success of the Brexit referendum, Kohl warned European leaders against “unnecessary severity and haste” in pressuring the British government; negotiations have still not officially begun.

In other words, the man who oversaw the unification of Germany and Europe spent his final year urging his successors not to tear it all asunder.

Photo credit: DANIEL ROLAND/AFP/Getty Images

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