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Photograph of Helmut Kohl, 1982.

Kohl, Helmut 1930- 2017

As West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl is widely recognized for managing the process of German reunification that started with the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, and formally completed on October 3, 1990.

Chancellor, Germany, 1982-1998; Minister President, Rhineland-Palatinate, 1969-1976; Leader, CDU Party, 1973-1998

Biography

Photograph of Helmut Kohl, 1982.

Born on April 3, 1930 in Ludwigshafen, Germany, to a Catholic family, Kohl participated in the late stage of the WWII as a teenage soldier. He joined the Christian-Democratic Union (CDU) in 1947. He then went on to earn a Ph.D. degree in history. From 1969-1976 he was Minister President of the Rhineland-Palatinate state, after which he became a member of the Federal Parliament to be the leader of the CDU opposition against the government led by the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of the time.

On October 1, 1982, he succeeded Helmut Schmidt as Chancellor by means of a Constructive Vote of No Confidence, the only one in post-war German history that was successful to date. Especially in the earlier days of his tenure, Kohl faced stiff opposition from the German political left. Kohl holds the record of being the longest-serving Chancellor of Germany since Otto von Bismarck.

He was married to the late Hannelore Kohl and has two sons from that marriage.

Kohl is widely recognized even by his political adversaries for managing the process of German reunification that started with the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, and formally completed on October 3, 1990. Then on December 2 that year, a coalition led by Chancellor Kohl won the first free all-German elections since 1932.

Popular Documents

November 10, 1989

Memorandum of Telephone Conversation: Conversation with Helmut Kohl, Chancellor – Federal Republic of Germany, November 10, 1989, 3:29-3:47PM

Telephone conversation between President George H. W. Bush and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl on the situation in Germany.

November 9, 1989

Conversation between Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Solidarity Leader Lech Walesa

In this extraordinary conversation, Solidarity’s leader fears the collapse of the Wall would distract West Germany’s attention - and money - to the GDR, at the time when Poland, the trail-blazer to the post-communist era in Eastern Europe, desperately needed both. "Events are moving too fast," Walesa said, and only hours later, the Wall fell, and Kohl had to cut his Poland visit short to scramble back to Berlin, thus proving Walesa’s fear correct.

March 21, 1990

Minutes of a Conversation of Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki with US President George Bush

Over two days of meetings, Bush and Mazowiecki discuss German reunification, the future of relations with the Soviet Union/Russia, and NATO.

October 3, 1990

Memorandum of Telephone Conversation: Telephone Call to Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany, October 3, 1990, 9:56-9:59 a.m.

Telephone conversation between President George H. W. Bush and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl on the situation in Germany.

February 13, 1990

Memorandum of Telephone Conversation: Telephone Call from Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the Federal Republic of Germany, February 13, 1990, 1:49-2:00 p.m. EST

Telephone conversation between President George H. W. Bush and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl on the situation in Germany.