Helmut Kohl: leader who united Europe as well as Germany

When East Germany collapsed, the West German chancellor rose to the occasion and helped heal the cold war’s bitter divisions Helmut Kohl, who died on Friday aged 87, was one of a trio of dominant western conservative politicians – along with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher – whose determined ideological and practical opposition to the Soviet Union helped lead in the closing months of 1989 to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent end of the cold war that had gripped Europe since 1945.But despite his reputation as a hardliner and his achievement as Germany’s longest-serving chancellor since Bismarck, Kohl in person was a shambling bear of a man (he was 193cm or 6’4” tall) who often did not take himself too seriously. Rather than claim a perspicacity he did not possess, Kohl freely admitted later that he did not foresee the sudden Soviet implosion and was as surprised as anyone when it happened. Continue reading...

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