Helmut Kohl, architect of unified Germany, dead at 87

Kohl was Federal Chancellor from 1982 to 1998, which makes him the longest serving post-war chancellor so far, the highlight of his term being the German reunification, which earned him worldwide prestige. "History continues to prove that he delivered", he said.

The towering figure of European contemporary history also worked with France s Francois Mitterrand to shape the European project and pushed Germans to part with their cherished Deutschmarks in favour of the single European currency, the euro.

Kohl was born in Ludwigshafen on April 3, 1930. As one of a generation of European statesmen shaped by World War II and the Cold War that followed, his career was defined by efforts to strengthen and deepen cooperation to build lasting peace, first between the two halves of his country, and then between Germany and its partners in the European Union. His elder brother, Walter, also volunteered and was killed in action in 1944.

"He played an instrumental role in the peaceful reunification of his country, within a year of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and helped set a course for the historic process of Europe's political and economic integration", said Guterres in a statement.

He easily won the 1990 federal elections amid the euphoria but had a reduced majority in 1994.

Aware that Germany could be reunified only with the support of both the United States and the Soviet Union, Mr. Kohl developed close relationships with President George H.W. Bush and President Mikhail Gorbachev.

"When the Berlin Wall fell, he rose to the occasion, a true European".

"He stood fast to the dream and aim of a united Germany even as others hesitated", she said in a televised statement from Rome. "That's how you see it!'" he wrote.

Another gesture of friendship and reconciliation the following year turned into a public relations fiasco.

Merkel emphasized Kohl's commitment to German unity.

Often harsh and thin-skinned, Kohl also could display a quick wit and jovial earthiness. The Soviet Union protested. Yet high unemployment and Germans' yearning for change gradually sapped his authority, provoking a humiliating loss to Gerhard Schroeder's centre-left Social Democrats in 1998.

The following year, Kohl plunged his party into crisis when he admitted accepting undeclared - and therefore illegal - donations during his time as chancellor.

Until his death, Mr Kohl refused to identify the donors, saying he had given them his word. Kohl resigned as his party's honorary chairman in 2000.

Kohl helped a Germany that was split during the Cold War between a capitalist west and a communist east make the traumatic transition to a unified democracy.

  • Leroy Wright