Kohl a rock and an inspiration

Leaders past and present praise architect of Germany's reunification, who died on Friday

BERLIN • Tributes poured in from around the world after former chancellor Helmut Kohl, the architect of Germany's 1990 reunification, died last Friday at age 87.

Mr George H. W. Bush, president of the US from 1989 to 1993, called Mr Kohl "a rock" and praised him as "one of the greatest leaders in post- war Europe". He said in a statement: "Helmut Kohl came of age as an uncertain Germany rose from the ashes of war. Like so many who bore witness to the unspeakable depravity and hardships of that time, Helmut hated war - but he detested totalitarianism even more.

"And so he would devote his public life to strengthening the institutions of democracy in his homeland, and beyond.

"Working closely with my very good friend to help achieve a peaceful end to the Cold War and the unification of Germany within Nato will remain one of the great joys of my life." Mr Bush added that Mr Kohl's remarkable life "will inspire future generations of leaders to dare and achieve greatly".

Mr Kohl also won high praise from former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, who described him as an outstanding leader who succeeded in "taking into account the interests of others and overcoming general mistrust to achieve mutual trust".

In July 1990, the last leader of the Soviet Union worked with Mr Kohl to reach an agreement on the reunification of communist East Germany with capitalist West Germany.

A HUGE LOSS

All that has happened in the past 27 years... would have been unimaginable without Helmut Kohl. It will be a while before we will truly be able to measure what we have lost with his passing.

GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL, for whom Mr Kohl was a mentor.


MADE THEIR DREAMS COME TRUE

I will never forget walking with him through the Brandenburg Gate in 1994 for a large rally on the eastern side, and seeing genuine hope in the eyes of tens of thousands of young people. I knew at that moment that Helmut Kohl was the man who could help them realise their dreams.

FORMER US PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON

Mr Gorbachev said in a statement that Mr Kohl had shown a deep interest in Russia and warned countries in the West against disregarding Russia's interests.

Former US president Bill Clinton said: "He was called upon to answer some of the most monumental questions of his time, and in answering them correctly he made possible the reunification of a strong, prosperous Germany and the creation of the European Union.

"I will never forget walking with him through the Brandenburg Gate in 1994 for a large rally on the eastern side, and seeing genuine hope in the eyes of tens of thousands of young people."

Mr Clinton added: "I knew at that moment that Helmut Kohl was the man who could help them realise their dreams. History continues to prove that he delivered."

And President Donald Trump hailed Mr Kohl as a "friend and ally" of the United States. "He was not only the father of German reunification, but also an advocate for Europe and the transatlantic relationship," Mr Trump said in a statement.

But one of the most poignant tributes came from fellow German Angela Merkel, for whom Mr Kohl was a mentor.

Speaking from Rome, Germany's Chancellor said Mr Kohl was trusted "from Washington to Moscow, from Paris to Warsaw". Dr Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, said his actions in reunifying the country had personally affected her, allowing her to "enter into a life of freedom".

"I bow before his memory," she said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 18, 2017, with the headline 'Kohl a rock and an inspiration'. Print Edition | Subscribe