Merkel: Helmut Kohl was "a Stroke of Luck for us Germans"

Jun 19, 2017

Chancellor Angela Merkel writes in the book of condolence at the Federal Chancellery. Enlarge image Chancellor Angela Merkel writes in the book of condolence at the Federal Chancellery. (© Bundesregierung/Bergmann) "The loss of Helmut Kohl is the loss of a great German and a great European," wrote Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday in a condolence book at the Federal Chancellery. She continued, "He rendered exceptional service in reuniting our country and in unifying Europe." Helmut Kohl, who held the office of Federal Chancellor from 1982 to 1998, died at home in Ludwigshafen on the morning of June 16 at the age of 87.

"We Germans owe him a great deal. I salute his memory." That is what Chancellor Angela Merkel wrote on Sunday in the condolence book for Helmut Kohl at the Federal Chancellery. She paid her respects to the achievements of the former Chancellor who was instrumental in reuniting Germany.

He took advantage of the situation with great statesmanship

Kohl on October 3, 1990 Enlarge image Kohl celebrates the first Day of German Unity, October 3, 1990, on the steps of the Reichstag in Berlin. With him are Foreign Minister Genscher, the late Hannelore Kohl und Federal President von Weizsäcker. (© picture-alliance/dpa) Helmut Kohl and his contemporaries took advantage of the situation resolutely and skilfully, and managed to reunite Germany. "That was a demonstration of great statesmanship in the service of the people and of peace," said the Chancellor on Friday in Rome, when she first received the news.

In a statement, Angela Merkel highlighted her own deep personal connections to the former Chancellor. "Helmut Kohl radically changed my own life too," said the Chancellor on Friday evening in Rome. 

On Saturday Pope Francis received her at the Vatican for a private audience. The head of the Roman Catholic Church described Helmut Kohl as a great statesman "who worked for the good of the people in Germany and neighbouring European countries with vision and dedication."

The Unification Chancellor and honorary citizen of Europe

Kohl in Erfurt in 1990 Enlarge image Chancellor Kohl waves to citizens of Erfurt in East Germany at a campaign event in February 1990. (© picture-alliance/ dpa) Helmut Kohl’s actions, said Angela Merkel, were shaped by the two most crucial challenges that have faced German politics over the last decades - "the reunification of our country and the unifying of Europe. Helmut Kohl understood that the two were inextricably linked and he rendered outstanding service to both these goals."

His two honorary titles illustrate this, the Chancellor continued. "The heads of state and government of the European Union conferred on him the title ‘honorary citizen of Europe’. Millions of Germans know him as the ‘Kanzler der Einheit’ the Unification Chancellor, and that is what he will remain in the history books and in our memories."

Deep sorrow at the loss of a great statesman and a great German

"In deep sorrow at the loss of a great German and a great European" wrote federal government spokesperson Steffen Seibert on Friday on Twitter. "He was a great statesman, a great German politician and above all a great European. He did much not only to reunite Germany, but to bring Europe together," said Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel. On Twitter, Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière praised Helmut Kohl who, he said, as Chancellor, "rendered our country a great service on the basis of his deep conviction and belief in a reunified Germany and Europe."

Helmut Kohl
Born on 3 April 1930 in Ludwigshafen
1959 to 1976 Member of the state parliament of Rhineland-Palatinate
1969 to 1976 State Premier of Rhineland-Palatinate
1973 to 1998 Federal Chairman of the CDU
1976 to 2002 Member of the German Bundestag
1976 to 1982 Chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the German Bundestag
1982 to 1998 Chancellor
Died on 16 June 2017 in Ludwigshafen

The achievements of this exceptional politician will endure, says Federal President

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier praised Helmut Kohl’s work to bring about reconciliation in Europe and to help the continent grow together. "We mourn the passing of a great statesman – but his achievements will endure," he said, speaking in Berlin. Frank-Walter Steinmeier added, "It was particularly lucky for Germany that Helmut Kohl ruled the country at that crucial moment in history, with courage, vision and leadership."

The state premier of Rhineland-Palatinate and Bundesrat President Malu Dreyer declared, "Helmut Kohl embodied the European idea like few others." Bundestag President Norbert Lammert described Helmut Kohl as "a personality of historical stature." The parliament, he added, mourns "a German patriot and an honorary citizen of Europe."

Messages of sympathy from around the world

Numerous leading international politicians too have praised the political legacy of Helmut Kohl. UN Secretary General António Guterres is "very sad" because Helmut Kohl was a "personal friend" said Guterres' spokesperson in New York: "It is obvious what a historical role Mr Kohl played in the reunification of Germany only one year after the Berlin Wall fell."

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also stressed that the passing of Helmut Kohl is that passing of a "great European and a very good friend". "Without Helmut Kohl the euro would not exist," said Jean-Claude Juncker. European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted, "I will always remember Helmut Kohl. A friend and a statesman who helped reunite Europe".

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg described the former Chancellor as "the embodiment of a united Germany in a united Europe. When the Berlin Wall fell, he rose to the occasion. A true European," tweeted Jens Stoltenberg.

"A master of the Franco-German friendship"

Bush and Kohl Enlarge image Then President-elect Bush meets with Chancellor Kohl in Washington in 1988. (© picture-alliance/dpa) American President Donald Trump underlined Helmut Kohl’s achievements with respect to the Transatlantic partnership. "Chancellor Kohl was a friend and ally to the United States, while he led the Federal Republic of Germany through 16 crucially important years," he said in a statement issued by the White House. 

In a letter of condolence, Russian President Vladimir Putin described Helmut Kohl as a "fundamental advocate of cordial relations" between Berlin and Moscow.

"Master of the united Germany and of the Franco-German friendship. With the passing of Helmut Kohl we have lost a very great European," wrote French President Emmanuel Macron on Twitter. The Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, for his part, tweeted that Helmut Kohl was the "key figure in the European process and the reunification" of Germany.

© Press and Information Office of the Federal Government

Merkel Remembers Kohl

Capital city Berlin