Helmut Kohl

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Helmut Kohl (election poster, 1989)
Signature of Helmut Kohl

Helmut Josef Michael Kohl (born April 3, 1930 in Ludwigshafen am Rhein – died June 16, 2017 there) was a German politician of the CDU . From 1969 to 1976 he was the third Prime Minister of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate and from 1982 to 1998 he led a CDU/CSU/FDP coalition as the sixth Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany . At 5,869 days, his tenure is the longest to date. From 1973 to 1998 he was federal chairman , then until 2000 honorary chairman of his party.

Under his chairmanship, the CDU developed into a membership party . In 1976 , the CDU/CSU, with Kohl as the leading candidate, achieved the second-best result in federal elections up to that point, but was unable to replace the social-liberal Schmidt government . Kohl gave up his position as Prime Minister and, as chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group , took on the role of leader of the opposition in the German Bundestag . After the break-up of the social-liberal coalition, he was elected Chancellor on October 1, 1982 by a constructive vote of no confidence against Helmut Schmidt by the CDU/CSU and FDP. Kohl played a decisive role in driving the process of German reunification in 1989/1990 and is also considered a pioneer of European integration , which led to the formation of the European Union and the introduction of the euro in the 1990s .

He remained controversial because of his role in the CDU donation affair and his work as a management consultant after the end of his political career.

Origin, studies and occupation

Grave of the Kohl family in Ludwigshafen-Friesenheim

Helmut Kohl was born in 1930 as the third child of Cäcilie Kohl (1891-1979, née Schnur) and the tax official Hans Kohl (1887-1975) in the Friesenheim district of Ludwigshafen . Here he grew up with his sister Hildegard (1922-2003) and his brother Walter (1926-1944) in a conservative Catholic family. The house where he was born is on Hohenzollernstrasse; The family grave is located in the Friesenheim cemetery, in which Kohl's parents and his first wife Hannelore Kohl were buried in 2001 .

One of the most decisive events in Kohl's youth was the early death of his brother Walter in World War II . He died at the end of November 1944 as a soldier in a low-flying attack in Haltern (Recklinghausen district).

From April 1, 1936, Kohl attended the Rupprechtschule on Nietzschestraße in Friesenheim and from 1940 the Oberrealschule . With the Kinderlandverschickung he got to Erbach in the Odenwald and later to Berchtesgaden . There he received pre-military training as a member of the Hitler Youth , but was no longer used as an anti -aircraft helper. From the end of April 1945 he walked from Berchtesgaden with three schoolmates to Ludwigshafen, where he arrived in June. Since the Oberrealschule was initially closed, Kohl began an agricultural apprenticeship in August 1945. In November 1945 he returned to his school, today's Max Planck Gymnasium , and passed his Abitur there in March 1950.

In the summer semester of 1950, he began studying law and history at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main . In the winter semester of 1951/52 he moved to the Ruprecht-Karls University in Heidelberg , where he studied history and political science. During his studies he was a member of the student organization AIESEC . From 1956 to 1958 Kohl was a research associate with Dolf Sternberger at the university 's Alfred Weber Institute . In 1958 he received his PhD from Walther Peter Fuchs with a dissertation on the subject of political developments in the Palatinate and the resurgence of the parties after 1945. phil. PhD . In 1958 he became assistant director at the Pfalzgußwerk Walter Mock iron foundry in his hometown and from 1959 to 1969 he was a consultant at the Association of the Chemical Industry .

Political career

functions in the party

Kohl joined the CDU in 1946 as a schoolboy; In 1947 he was a co-founder of the Junge Union in Ludwigshafen . He pursued his political activities alongside his studies. In 1959 he became chairman of the CDU district association in Ludwigshafen.

At the state level, he became a member of the executive board of the CDU in the Palatinate in 1953, deputy state chairman of the Junge Union Rheinland-Pfalz in 1954, a member of the state executive board of the CDU Rheinland-Pfalz in 1955 and its state chairman from March 1966 to September 1974. In this capacity, he was also a member of the national executive committee of the CDU, in which he was the only one to vote against the decision to create a grand coalition and the planned introduction of the majority voting system directed against the FDP at federal level in November 1966.

Kohl became deputy federal chairman in 1969 and from 1973 to 1998 was the longest-serving party chairman of the CDU . During this time, the CDU people 's party developed from a "voter party" to a " members ' party " with a maximum of members shortly after the "Wende 1982" and an even higher maximum after the unification with the Eastern CDU in 1990; after that the numbers went back down again.

From 1998 to 2000 he was honorary chairman of the CDU; he resigned from this office because of the party donation scandal, but in 2002 there was a rapprochement with the party.

Member of Parliament and Prime Minister

Helmut Kohl in Ludwigshafen (1969)

Kohl was first elected to the Rhineland-Palatinate state parliament in 1959, when he was the youngest at the time. In addition to his seat in the state parliament, he was also a member of the Ludwigshafen City Council from 1960 to 1970, including from 1960 to 1969 as chairman of the opposition CDU parliamentary group.

With his election as state chairman of the CDU Rhineland-Palatinate in 1966, Kohl was regarded as the designated successor to Peter Altmeier in the office of prime minister, whom he replaced in the middle of the legislative period on May 19, 1969. In the state elections of 1971 and 1975 , he twice achieved an absolute majority, both times his opponent was Wilhelm Dröscher (SPD).

During his tenure, he set the course for the modernization of the federal state, which was perceived as backward in the Federal Republic; important decisions were the regional reform and the founding of the University of Trier-Kaiserslautern (today: University of Trier , Technical University of Kaiserslautern ). At the same time, structural change accelerated in the federal state, which is still largely rural. In the school system, the denominational schools , which the CDU had clung to for years at the instigation of the Catholic Church, were replaced by interdenominational community schools .

In October 1971, Kohl ran to succeed Kurt Georg Kiesinger as CDU federal chairman. In this election, he was defeated by Rainer Barzel , the leader of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group and leader of the opposition in the German Bundestag, by 174 to 344 votes.

After Barzel had failed twice in 1972 in attempts to replace Chancellor Willy Brandt ( SPD ) (in April as part of a vote of no confidence and as Chancellor candidate in November ), he resigned as CDU chairman in 1973. Kohl ran again in 1973 and was elected, this time unopposed.

In 1976, the federal government introduced the so-called “Polish Treaties” into legislation. Global compensation was agreed for former concentration camp prisoners living in Poland, as well as credit commitments to Poland; in return, there were Polish promises of exit permits for German citizens. The CDU/CSU rejected the corresponding laws in the Bundestag. Since they also needed the approval of the then Union-dominated Bundesrat , Kohl organized the approval of all Union-led federal states in March 1976, against considerable resistance, so that the laws could come into force.

Leader of the opposition in the German Bundestag

Kohl and Strauss at the 1976 CSU election party conference in Munich

Kohl was a member of the German Bundestag from 1976 to 2002 . He ran in the Bundestag constituency of Ludwigshafen/Frankenthal , which he won in 1990 and 1994 as a direct candidate; in the other elections he entered the Bundestag via the CDU state list of Rhineland-Palatinate.

In the 1976 Bundestag elections on October 3, Kohl ran for the first time as the CDU/CSU candidate for chancellor and achieved the second-best election result to date with 48.6 percent of the votes, but just missed an absolute majority . Kohl resigned as prime minister and became opposition leader on 13 December as leader of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the German Bundestag . His successor as prime minister was Bernhard Vogel on December 2, 1976 .

A few weeks after the election, the CSU tried on November 19, at the instigation of its chairman Franz Josef Strauss , with the resolutions of Wildbad Kreuth , to terminate the faction community with the CDU in the Bundestag, but Kohl was able to continue with the counter-threat of expanding the CDU to Bavaria push through. In the years that followed, there were heated arguments between Kohl and Strauss, who left the Bundestag in 1978 and became Prime Minister of Bavaria, over the leadership role in the Union. Strauss often publicly denied Kohl's leadership qualities and qualifications for the office of Federal Chancellor ( Wienerwald speech ). For the federal elections in 1980 , Kohl decided not to run again as chancellor. The prime minister of Lower Saxony, Ernst Albrecht , who he favored, was defeated by Strauss in the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the election of the candidate for chancellor, and Kohl then loyally supported him.

With hindsight, not putting up his own candidacy proved to be a smart move on Kohl's part, since he was convinced that the majority of Germans could not elect Strauss as chancellor. Kohl's calculus worked: in 1980, Strauss achieved the Union's worst election result in a federal election since 1949. He also refrained from criticizing Kohl, who remained leader of the opposition in Bonn.

Strauss continued to make his mark on the right wing of the Union; Kohl, on the other hand, tried to appeal to the center with a moderate course and to separate the FDP from the coalition with the SPD . The “ spiritual and moral turning point ” was a catchphrase introduced by Kohl into the political discourse at the time to motivate a change in policy. It proved difficult for political observers to link this vague term to specific decisions made during his subsequent reign. In connection with the later affairs, Kohl's opponents used it as a battlefield term.


On September 17, 1982, the social-liberal coalition led by Chancellor Helmut Schmidt broke up in a dispute over future economic and social policy. Reason for the break was u. a. a concept paper by the FDP to overcome economic difficulties , which had been drawn up by Otto Graf Lambsdorff and contained neoliberal positions on labor market reform .

The first years of the chancellorship until 1989

After ten days of coalition talks, Kohl was elected the sixth Chancellor on October 1, 1982 by the only successful constructive vote of no confidence in the history of the Bundestag with the votes of his own parliamentary group and the FDP against the incumbent ( Kohl I Cabinet ). As in the social-liberal coalition, Hans-Dietrich Genscher became Federal Foreign Minister and Vice-Chancellor . The coalition change was very controversial within the FDP.

Kohl in the 1983 federal election campaign

Since the FDP campaigned in the federal elections in 1980 with a coalition statement in favor of the SPD and Kohl himself was not a candidate for chancellor, there were doubts about the democratic basis of the change of power, although such a change does not contradict the Basic Law. That is why Kohl put the vote of confidence in the Bundestag , which was decided on December 17, 1982. As agreed, the majority of the members of the government coalition abstained from voting, which meant that – as desired – the Federal Chancellor did not receive a majority and the Federal President could therefore be proposed the dissolution of Parliament in accordance with Article 68 of the Basic Law. After much hesitation, Federal President Karl Carstens decided in January 1983 to dissolve the Bundestag and call early elections for March 6, 1983. Some members of parliament unsuccessfully appealed against this procedure before the Federal Constitutional Court .

In the 1983 Bundestag elections on March 6, the governing coalition won the majority with gains for the CDU/CSU (48.8%, +4.3 percentage points) and significant losses for the FDP (7.0%, −3.6 percentage points). of seats in the Bundestag. Kohl, who ran six times as a chancellor candidate between 1976 and 1998, achieved his best election result and also the second best of the Union parties in the history of the Federal Republic against the Social Democratic chancellor candidate Hans-Jochen Vogel .

In the federal elections of 1987 on January 25, the CDU/CSU lost votes (−4.5%); nevertheless, the governing coalition retained the majority and Kohl was confirmed in office ( Kohl III Cabinet ). The SPD's opponent was the Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Johannes Rau .

Domestic and German politics

Despite years of Christian Democratic resistance to the Ostpolitik of the social-liberal government, the Kohl government essentially continued the foreign policy and Germany policy of the previous Schmidt government. To prevent insolvency, the GDR received a billion-euro loan through the mediation of CSU chairman Strauss. In return, the GDR government gradually removed the automatic firing systems on the inner-German border from 1984 and issued more generous exit permits for emigrants from the GDR to the Federal Republic. In contrast to his later opponents , Oskar Lafontaine and Gerhard Schröder , Kohl saw possible German reunification as an important political goal throughout the period leading up to 1989 ; Accordingly, unlike Lafontaine, he consistently rejected the recognition of an independent citizenship of the GDR alongside German citizenship . Another large immigrant group were the German- born resettlers from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and Kohl campaigned for their exit permits. Their number rose to over 370,000 in 1989.

Kohl and Honecker in Bonn (1987)

From the mid-1980s, the number of asylum seekers rose to over 100,000 a year, and "asylum abuse" became an important topic of political discussion. The West German view of the special legal character of inner-German relations proved to be problematic when, in the mid-1980s, an increasing number of asylum seekers from Africa and South Asia entered West Berlin via East Berlin uncontrolled ; only after numerous initiatives by both the government and the SPD opposition did the GDR help stem the flow.

In 1987, after years of negotiations, Erich Honecker , Chairman of the State Council and General Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED , was the first GDR head of state to officially visit the Federal Republic from September 7th to 11th, 1987. In Bonn he invited Kohl to an official visit to the GDR . Since the chancellor was unable to officially visit East Berlin for status-related reasons, which according to West Germans was not part of the GDR, Kohl undertook a private trip to the GDR with his wife and son Peter from May 27 to 29, 1988 – without, as agreed Announcement and accompanying journalists, for this he was free to choose the travel route. He later described this trip as one of the most moving of his life.

The number of foreign citizens rose particularly as a result of family reunification. The government tried to counteract this by implementing measures to encourage return , which had already been decided by the previous social-liberal government.

The constant immigration led to a reversal of the demographic trend: the population of West Germany , which had stagnated since the 1970s and later declined , rose again significantly from 1985 onwards. In the controversial discussion about immigration and foreigner policy , Kohl took the position that Germany was not an immigration country .

In economic and social policy, there was no change of the kind that the FDP had called for in its concept paper in 1982. In addition to minor cuts in social policy, Kohl's long-standing Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, Norbert Blüm , for the first time counted child -raising periods when calculating the statutory pension entitlement and introduced job creation measures and early retirement options to counteract the high unemployment. By 1989, the government quota and the inflation rate had been permanently reduced.

The reform of income tax law, led by Federal Finance Ministers Gerhard Stoltenberg and Theo Waigel , became an important domestic political topic of the third Kohl cabinet . In a multi-stage tax reform, the income tax rates that had climbed to an all-time high under the Schmidt government were lowered and a linear-progressive tariff was introduced in 1990, which eliminated the so-called "middle class belly" in tax law. The tax cuts and the costs of the social policy measures led to an increase in national debt, which, after an interim decline in 1989, again reached the level at the time of the Schmidt government.

In media policy, the federal government pushed for broadband cabling . In 1984, the first German cable television started in Kohl's hometown of Ludwigshafen , and in the years that followed numerous private stations came onto the market.

Important environmental policy decisions were the introduction of mandatory vehicle catalytic converters for passenger cars and flue gas desulfurization for all coal -fired power plants . In June 1986, a few weeks after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster , Kohl appointed a Federal Environment Minister to his cabinet for the first time. During Kohl's tenure, no new nuclear power plants were planned in Germany for the first time, but those in the planning stage were completed and put into operation.

In the course of the Flick affair about hidden party donations by the Flick Group , it became known that Kohl had received DM 565,000 for the CDU between 1974 and 1980. In the investigative committee of the Bundestag and the Mainzer Landtag, he told the untruth in relation to his knowledge of the purpose of a civic association as a fundraising facility and, after a complaint by Otto Schily , narrowly escaped criminal proceedings for false testimony under oath . CDU General Secretary Heiner Geißler defended him in a television program with the now famous comment that Kohl must have had a "blackout"; since that time, the relationship between the two politicians has been considered troubled.

After the arguments with Heiner Geißler about the future course of the party had come to a head in the fall of 1988, Kohl wrote to his long-serving general secretary and warned him that he would not nominate him for this post again if their relations "didn't change from the ground up" over the next few months. changed. After the Christian Democrats lost a lot of votes in the elections to the Berlin House of Representatives and in the local elections in Hesse in the first quarter of 1989, Heiner Geißler, Lothar Späth and Rita Süssmuth agreed that Kohl would be replaced at the CDU party conference in Bremen in September because he had lost the 1990 federal election couldn't win. According to Klaus Dreher and other contemporary journalists , the 1989 “coup” was the most dangerous phase of Kohl's time as chancellor .

The idiosyncrasy of the general secretary and increasing discontent in the executive committee prompted Kohl to reshuffle his cabinet in April. He appointed Theo Waigel as Minister of Finance and thus secured the support of the CSU. Gerhard Stoltenberg, who had previously occupied this department, moved to the Ministry of Defence . Kohl's offer to bring Geißler into the cabinet as Federal Minister of the Interior was rejected by the latter. Instead, Schäuble took over this office, making him one of the most important Kohl confidants from Baden-Württemberg. The conflict with Geißler and Späth was not yet resolved by the cabinet reshuffle, but was only postponed until the European elections. Kohl was well aware of this danger when he later admitted that his downfall would have been inevitable if the CDU had lost its position as the strongest party in the June 1989 European elections. In fact, the CDU lost less than expected in the June election, finishing just ahead of the SPD.

After returning from summer vacation, Kohl informed Geißler on August 22 that he would propose Volker Rühe as General Secretary to the party congress in his place. A week later, Späth, Geissler, Blüm and Albrecht agreed not to contest the party congress. Kohl and Genscher had also agreed on August 25 at a secret meeting with the Hungarian Prime Minister Miklós Németh and his Foreign Minister Gyula Horn to dismantle the border fortifications with Austria in order to enable GDR citizens who were on summer vacation in Hungary to emigrate to the West . In return, the federal government granted Hungary a loan of DM 1 billion. Kohl was able to persuade Németh to bring forward the opening of the border, which enabled him to present this news to the party congress as his success. Kohl was re-elected federal chairman unopposed, albeit with the worst election result of all previous party congresses.

Foreign and Defense Policy
Plaque in front of the Douaumont ossuary commemorating the meeting between François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl in 1984

The NATO double-track decision , which was still taken under the Schmidt government and provided for the deployment of new nuclear weapons in Western Europe as a means of pressure to persuade the Soviet Union to negotiate on limiting nuclear armaments, met with sharp resistance from the population, especially from the peace movement . Although not necessary under constitutional law, Kohl obtained a Bundestag decision that pushed through the decision on November 22, 1983 against most of the opposition from the SPD and the Greens.

In the Kießling affair of 1983, in which investigation mishaps and structural problems in the Bundeswehr 's military counterintelligence service became clear, Kohl supported Defense Minister Manfred Wörner , who had come under criticism .

A trip to Israel in 1984 took place in a polluted atmosphere because of German arms exports to Saudi Arabia . In his speech to the Knesset , the parliament, Kohl used the controversial catchphrase “the grace of late birth ”.

On September 22, 1984, Kohl and French President François Mitterrand met at the site of the 1916 Battle of Verdun to commemorate the dead of both world wars . The minute-long handshake between the two politicians became a symbol of Franco-German reconciliation.

On May 5, 1985, Kohl and US President Ronald Reagan laid a wreath at the military cemetery in Bitburg . This was hotly debated in parts of the German and American public because members of the Waffen SS are also buried there. Günter Grass , for example, accused Kohl of "falsifying history". At the same time, the population and the media also agreed to the visit. In its May 2, 1985 editorial, the FAZ saw a connection between Reagan's re-election, which critics of the visit had rejected, and the negative votes on the wreath-laying ceremony.

Chancellor of the unit 1989/1990

Modrow , Krack , Momper , Kohl and Genscher at the opening of the Brandenburg Gate on December 22, 1989
Hannelore and Helmut Kohl in front of the Reichstag on October 3, 1990

When the collapse of the GDR became apparent and the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, Kohl, without prior consultation with his coalition partner, presented the cabinet and the western allies with the surprising ten-point program for overcoming the division of Germany and Europe. He rejected Lafontaine's two-state concept, according to which the Federal Republic should contribute to stabilizing the GDR economy. At the EC summit on December 9, 1989 in Strasbourg, Kohl still had strong reservations about the impending reunification . He was able to dispel these reservations by agreeing with French President François Mitterrand to develop the European Community into a political union , as became reality two years after reunification with the Maastricht Treaty .

On May 18, 1990, the State Treaty on Monetary, Economic and Social Union with the GDR was signed, which came into force on July 1. When it came to the exchange rate for the GDR mark that was no longer available for the German mark , Kohl pushed through the – financially unrealistic – rate of 1:1 for wages, salaries, rents and pensions for political reasons. This later proved to be a heavy burden for companies in the new federal states. In this context, Kohl coined the metaphor of the “ blooming landscape ” for the expected economic upswing in East Germany. No one will “have to do without anything because of reunification”. According to the historian Manfred Görtemaker , this prognosis turned out to be an "illusion" when the GDR economy collapsed after reunification and the resulting mass unemployment in the new federal states . In the 1990s, Kohl was often ridiculed for this statement, or accused of deliberately deceiving East Germans. More than twenty years later, Thomas Straubhaar attested to Kohl that "his optimistic prognosis was not that far off the mark."

In the so-called two-plus-four talks with Foreign Minister Genscher and East German Prime Minister Lothar de Maizière , Kohl achieved the approval of the Four Powers for the reunification of Germany and the integration of the reunited Germany into NATO . The latter was difficult for the Soviet side. Kohl helped here by organizing two billion-dollar loans for the Soviet Union. On September 12, 1990, the Two Plus Four Treaty was signed in Moscow.

Although it was clear that with reunification the question of the German eastern border would also have to be finally settled, Kohl, out of consideration for the expellees , most of whom voted for the Union parties, refused for a long time, binding under international law to the eastern areas beyond the Oder-Neisse line to renounce. It was not until November 1990 that Kohl concluded the German-Polish border treaty for the united Germany with Poland , which stipulated the validity of the common border bilaterally. The German-Polish Neighborhood Agreement followed in 1991 .

When the decision was taken on June 20, 1991 to make the so-called capital decision , Kohl voted for the federal government to move from Bonn to Berlin. He initiated the construction of the new Federal Chancellery , which only his successor Gerhard Schröder could move into. Kohl suggested the expansion of the Berlin subway line 5 from Alexanderplatz in the former East Berlin to the Federal Chancellery in the West Berlin district of Tiergarten . The first groundbreaking took place in 1995. The section of the line that operated as U55 in isolated operation from 2009 to the end of 2020 was nicknamed the "Kanzler-U-Bahn".

As early as 1982, in his first government statement, Kohl suggested building up a collection on the history of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonn. In 1990, the Foundation House of History of the Federal Republic of Germany was founded for this purpose, which opened the House of History in Bonn in 1994 and is the sponsor of other memorials.

Chancellor of reunified Germany until 1998

Kohl is appointed the first all-German Chancellor by Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker (1991)

In the first all-German federal election in 1990 on December 2, the governing coalition achieved a clear majority, with the CDU/CSU in West Germany achieving the same result as in 1987. The SPD's top candidate was Saarland Minister President Oskar Lafontaine . On January 17, 1991, the German Bundestag elected Kohl Chancellor for the fourth time ( Kabinett Kohl IV ). In the 1994 federal election , which was narrowly won on October 16 and resulted in losses for the CDU/CSU (−2.4%), Kohl prevailed against the Rhineland-Palatinate Prime Minister and SPD party leader Rudolf Scharping and was then able to form his fifth federal cabinet .

In the federal elections of 1998 on September 27, the SPD ran with Lower Saxony's prime minister, Gerhard Schröder , as the candidate for chancellor. The CDU/CSU lost the election with the worst result after 1949 (−6.3%). After the constituent session of the new Bundestag on October 26, 1998, which ended Kohl's office under Article 69 Paragraph 2 of the Basic Law , Gerhard Schröder was elected Chancellor of a red-green coalition the following day .

On October 17, 1998, Kohl was the first German head of government to be honored with a large tattoo in front of Speyer Cathedral on the occasion of the end of his service . In the federal elections of 2002 , Kohl no longer applied for a seat in the federal parliament.

domestic policy

Within the party, Helmut Kohl's position was strengthened by reunification, although the integration of the former Eastern CDU initially proved difficult. After the previous chairman of the GDR CDU, Lothar de Maizière, was elected Kohl's sole deputy at the unification party conference in early October 1990, he resigned the following year after allegations of alleged work for the GDR state security service; at the party congress in Dresden in 1991, the politically unencumbered Angela Merkel was elected as his successor.

As a result of the transformation of the East German planned economy into a market economy , which was associated with the closure of a large number of companies that could not be restructured, unemployment in the accession area rose sharply from 1.0 million ( unemployment rate 10.2%) in 1991 to 1. 5 million (19.2%) in 1998. Parts of the public held Kohl directly responsible for the economic decline ( Egg throwing in Halle ). Although Kohl was of the opinion in 1990 that no tax increase would be necessary to finance German unity, in 1991 a supplementary levy on income, capital gains and corporation tax, known as the solidarity surcharge , was introduced, which was primarily intended for infrastructure development in the new federal states (“ Aufbau Ost ”) . ) serves.

In 1995, statutory long- term care insurance was introduced in Germany. The financial consolidation of the statutory pension insurance began with the linking of the pension development to the net wage development instead of to the gross wage development as before .

In order to overcome the cost problems of the statutory health insurance , the Kohl government, under the leadership of the Federal Health Minister Horst Seehofer , pushed through the Health Structure Act in 1993 with considerable cuts in the range of services. After a far-reaching scandal about the use of HIV-contaminated blood preparations , the government dissolved what was then the Federal Health Office in 1994. Many years of manipulation in the job placement service and serious structural deficiencies at the then Federal Employment Agency , which were only uncovered by the Federal Audit Office in 2002, led to the dissolution and reorganization of the authority and gave the impetus for the later Hartz concept .

Milestones in infrastructure policy affected the state- owned post and railway companies, which had previously been run like authorities. Deutsche Bahn was privatized under corporate law in 1993 and the postal reform in 1994 made the three areas that had belonged together until then independent as Deutsche Post AG , Deutsche Telekom AG and Deutsche Postbank AG .

Domestically, the last few years of the Kohl government were often viewed as a period of stagnation, which was not only a consequence of the SPD-dominated Bundesrat and the resulting limited ability of the federal government to act. The catchphrase " reform backlog " ( word of the year 1997 ) and the so-called " jerk speech " by Federal President Roman Herzog in the same year characterized the situation in which the previous government was no longer believed to have the will and ability to carry out the necessary reforms.

foreign policy
Signing of the Dayton Agreement (1995)

The Federal Republic of Germany was one of the first five countries to agree to the 1985 Schengen Agreement on the dismantling of border controls in the EU. The Schengen Agreement came into full effect on March 26, 1995.

In December 1991, the Kohl government was the first state in the European Community to recognize the independence of Slovenia and Croatia . In 1995, Helmut Kohl was one of the co-signatories of the Dayton Agreement , which ended the Bosnian War of the Yugoslav successor states of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia .

The first phase of NATO's eastward expansion , with accession negotiations for Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary starting in December 1997, proceeds in Kohl's favor .

European politician

Mitterrand and Kohl (1987)

From the beginning of his chancellorship, Kohl pursued the goal of further European integration, for example by strengthening the powers of the European Parliament . The differing interests of the EC countries with regard to European unification are reflected in the fact that Kohl primarily wanted to strengthen the European institutions, in particular the European Parliament , while Mitterrand worked towards monetary union; Thatcher, on the other hand, opposed both projects. Beginning in 1988, Kohl gradually approached Mitterrand's position; In return for his agreement to economic and monetary union, Kohl obtained Mitterrand's approval for the further political integration of Europe in 1990. Schwarz describes an often claimed deal between the two politicians between monetary union and the establishment of German unity as a “myth”.

As proposed in the April 1989 Delors Report , the introduction of European Economic and Monetary Union took place in three stages:

Although finance minister Waigel urged him to do so, at the EU summit in Dublin in December 1996 Kohl was unable to get Chirac to implement a stability pact for the euro that would allow automatic sanctions if individual states violated budgetary discipline; however, the Conference of Finance Ministers should be able to impose sanctions in such cases by majority vote.

Kohl insisted on the timely introduction of the euro at all costs. On May 2, 1998, the heads of state and government of the European Community in Brussels decided to introduce the euro for eleven countries, although a report by the Bundesbank had shown that at least three countries failed to meet the specified criteria. Although neither the coalition nor the opposition agreed that the conditions for introducing the euro on January 1, 1999 had been met, the German Bundestag approved the introduction on April 2, 1998 with 575 to 35 votes; in the Bundesrat, only the federal state of Saxony refused to give its consent. Kohl was aware that he was acting against the will of a broad majority of the population. In an interview from March 2002, which only became known in 2013, Kohl said: "In one case I was like a dictator, look at the euro." It was clear to him that the implementation of the euro would cost votes.

foreign policy contacts

Married couple Kohl and Ceaușescu (1976)
World Economic Summit in Houston (1990)
Kohl and Boris Yeltsin at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2000

Even as an opposition politician, Kohl visited leading politicians in many European and non-European countries. His relationships with foreign politicians developed independently of their political camps. Kohl was able to establish a consistently trusting relationship with the American Presidents Ronald Reagan , George HW Bush and Bill Clinton . Bush's constructive support was crucial in bringing about German unity.

Throughout his chancellorship, Kohl maintained a particularly close relationship of trust with François Mitterrand. The expansion of European integration was a central issue in their policies for both of them. They launched joint projects such as the Franco-German Brigade , the Eurocorps and the Arte television channel . Advances in European unification such as the Maastricht Treaty (1992) and the introduction of the euro (1999) were significant results of close Franco-German cooperation. After working constructively with the socialist Mitterrand, his relationship with his conservative successor, Jacques Chirac , became more problematic.

While Kohl accepted the socialist Jacques Delors , proposed by Mitterrand, as a candidate for the office of President of the EC Commission in 1985 and even waived the appointment of a German candidate, which was actually due, he prevented the EU presidency of the European Commission with his veto in 1995 Christian Democrat Ruud Lubbers , who wanted to delay the establishment of German unity in 1990.

The nation-state thinking conservative Margaret Thatcher massively resisted Kohl's efforts to bring about the economic and political unification of Europe and German unity. Only under her Labor successor , Tony Blair , did relations with Kohl improve, who already suspected him to be his “natural successor in the leadership of Europe”.

Kohl also had a close relationship with the Spanish socialist Felipe González , for whom he paved the way to the EC in 1986, while González supported Kohl's course in reunification. For the 2006 Italian general election , Kohl supported his friend, former European Commission President Romano Prodi , as leader of the centre-left alliance L'Unione against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia , which is a partner of the CDU in the European People's Party .

Gorbachev and Kohl initially met with great skepticism. Kohl's comparison of Gorbachev with Goebbels led to diplomatic resentment. In the course of the negotiations to restore German unity, however, a relationship of trust developed that made the results of the Two Plus Four Agreement possible. Accompanied by extremely generous financial pledges, Gorbachev agreed to a reunified Germany as a member of NATO. Kohl continued the good relationship with Russian President Boris Yeltsin , who also received extensive economic support from Germany. Yeltsin accepted the NATO accession negotiations of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

The time after the chancellorship

As former chancellor , Kohl had an office in the Bundestag building at Unter den Linden 71 .

party donation affair

At the end of November 1999, Kohl announced that for years he had not stated donations to the CDU totaling DM 2.1 million in the statement of accounts, as required by the party law. He publicly declined to name the donors because he would have given them his word of honor to keep them anonymous. This line of argument, ignoring the binding provisions of a valid law that he had personally signed, met with fierce public criticism, including within the CDU. Since the party law imposed a penalty payment of three times the disputed amount to the Bundestag for such a case, he made 700,000 DM available from his own funds and organized a fundraising campaign, the result of which totaled 6 million DM; the largest donors were Leo Kirch with one million DM and Erich Schumann with 800,000 DM.

A committee of inquiry set up by the Bundestag dealt with the donation scandal from December 1999 to June 2002, accompanied by fierce party-political disputes. On January 18, 2000, Kohl was asked by the CDU party executive to give up his position as honorary chairman of the CDU because of his role in the financial affair. Preliminary proceedings against Kohl were dropped in February 2001 on payment of a fine of DM 300,000 due to minor guilt .

consultant contracts

In 1999 Kohl founded the political and strategy consultancy P&S in Ludwigshafen, whose largest client was the media group of his friend Leo Kirch . After its bankruptcy in 2003, details of the consulting contract became known. Kohl had received DM 600,000 each for three years after his chancellorship in return for “advice on current and strategic political developments in Germany and Europe”; According to media reports, a minimum performance was not stipulated. Critics such as Hans Herbert von Arnim pointed out that Kirch's media and television empire benefited from a particularly pro-Kirch media policy during Kohl's chancellorship.

Since Kohl had supported Kirch's activities in the field of private television several times during his tenure , the disclosure of these events led to considerable irritation and expressions of suspicion across party lines. Kohl and the former post and telecommunications ministers Christian Schwarz-Schilling and Wolfgang Bötsch , who are also accused , could not be proven to have violated the law.

From 1999 to 2000, Kohl sat on the international advisory board of Credit Suisse , which also had a business relationship with the Kirch Group.

Alleged data and file disposal

The alleged disappearance of files and computer files from the Federal Chancellery on politically sensitive issues at the end of Kohl's last term in office became the subject of a parliamentary investigative committee headed by Burkhard Hirsch (FDP) and of investigations by the public prosecutor's office, which the head of the Chancellery, Frank-Walter Steinmeier , filed a criminal complaint against leading employees of the Chancellery from the Kohl era, which, however, did not result in sufficient suspicion . Kohl's critics coined the ironic term " federal extinguishing days " for these alleged events.

Later it turned out that copies of the files were available in several ministries. A report by the Fraunhofer Society in 2002 came to the conclusion that a systematic deletion of data in connection with the change of government in 1998 could not be proven.

Public Engagement

In 1996, along with Bärbel Bohley , Jürgen Fuchs and Ignatz Bubis , he was one of the founding members and sponsors of the Bürgerbüro Berlin , an association for dealing with the damage caused by the SED dictatorship . Since 2003 he was also a founding member of the Association for the Promotion of the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial . He was a member of the Atlantic Bridge .

On October 31, 2009, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Kohl met his negotiating partners at the time, Mikhail Gorbachev and George HW Bush , in Berlin 's Friedrichstadt-Palast . The three statesmen recalled the dramatic days of that time.

On March 25, 2011, in a guest article in the Bild newspaper , Kohl warned against phasing out nuclear power too quickly after the Fukushima nuclear disaster . In 2014 he published the essay Aus concern about Europe , in which he criticized the European policy of the federal governments that followed him.

private life


Helmut Kohl with family in Leipzig (1975)
Helmut Kohl with his second wife Maike Kohl-Richter (2009)

In 1960 Kohl married the foreign language secretary Hannelore Renner (1933–2001), daughter of Wilhelm Renner , whom he had known since 1948. The marriage produced the sons Walter (* 1963) and Peter (* 1965). In the decades that followed, Kohl was intent on staging an intact family life. Since the early 1970s, the Kohl family has always spent their four-week summer vacations in the same house in Sankt Gilgen am Wolfgangsee , Austria ; Summer interviews from the holidays and posed press photos of an apparently intact family were part of the program. Kohl's son Walter later corrected this picture in a book. In the 1990s, Kohl had an affair with a married woman, which was kept secret at the time and only became public in 2016. Hannelore Kohl took her own life on July 5, 2001 at the age of 68 after living in seclusion for years; she is said to have suffered from a so-called light allergy .

On May 8, 2008, Helmut Kohl and Maike Richter (* 1964) married in the chapel of a rehabilitation clinic in Heidelberg in a close circle of friends, three months after Kohl's serious fall. Leo Kirch and Bild editor -in-chief Kai Diekmann were the witnesses . The families of both sides were not invited. Maike Richter met Kohl in the Chancellery , where the doctor of economics worked from 1994 to 1998 as a civil servant in the economics department.


In 2000 Kohl published his diary entries from the years 1998 to 2000. He then worked on his memoirs , three volumes of which have been published so far; a final fourth volume was planned.


Between 2000 and 2004 there was an extensive administrative court dispute ( Kohl case ) about the intended publication of the Stasi documents concerning Kohl . As a result, according to a ruling by the Federal Administrative Court , he did not have to tolerate the publication of sensitive information. This legal dispute prompted an amendment to the Stasi Records Act .

Helmut Kohl had a legal dispute with the commissioned writer on his memoirs, Heribert Schwan . This dispute was about the rights to the tapes on which work talks from 2001 are recorded. As a result of a series of lawsuits, the Federal Court of Justice granted Kohl's claim for the release of the tapes.

Helmut Kohl (2012)

After Schwan had made the protocols the basis of his own, unauthorized book, Kohl sued Schwan, his co-author Tilman Jens and the publisher for injunctive relief and damages. He claimed that the publication of the quotes had damaged his life's political work and his friendship with long-term companions. The book contained statements from Kohl's work talks with Schwan with derogatory remarks about well-known personalities, including Angela Merkel , Christian Wulff and Richard von Weizsäcker . The Cologne Regional Court awarded Kohl compensation of EUR 1 million for the violation of his personal rights, the highest amount for a personal rights violation in German legal history. This did not stand up in the appeal process. The Higher Regional Court dismissed the claim in its entirety on the grounds that the death of the testator after the first instance judgment had been issued, which has not become final, constitutes a claim by the testator to monetary compensation under Article 1(1) of the Basic Law, Article 2(1) of the Basic Law, which arose during his lifetime i. V. m. § 823 Abs. 1 BGB expired, since it is in any case not in principle inheritable. The approved appeal was rejected by judgments of the Federal Court of Justice on November 29, 2021.

last years

Starting in 2007, Kohl had to undergo several surgeries . After a traumatic brain injury resulting from a fall in February 2008, he could hardly speak. He used a wheelchair for public appearances. During this time, Kohl lost contact with his sons and with people who had accompanied his life for decades and played a central role in it. Particularly worth mentioning here are Juliane Weber , Konrad R. Müller and Eckhard Seeber . Maike Kohl-Richter is said to have forbidden or prevented any contact.

In July 2009, Kohl resigned from the Hannelore Kohl Foundation , which his late wife had founded ; he justified this with a takeover of the foundation by people "who had no relation to his deceased wife".

In July 2013, Helmut Kohl and Guido Westerwelle witnessed Kohl's lawyer Stephan Holthoff-Pförtner partnering with a fellow lawyer.

death and burial

Kohl's grave in the Old Cemetery in Speyer (2021)

Kohl has lived in a house in the Oggersheim district of Ludwigshafen since 1971 and in an apartment in Berlin-Schmargendorf since 1999 . He died on June 16, 2017 at the age of 87 in his Oggersheim home.

On July 1, 2017, Kohl was the first personality in the history of the EU to be honored with an EU funeral act, which EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker described as a " state act ". In addition to Juncker, speakers at the ceremony in the European Parliament in Strasbourg were President Antonio Tajani , EU Council President Donald Tusk , German Chancellor Angela Merkel , French President Emmanuel Macron , former US President Bill Clinton and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev . Kohl's coffin was taken to Speyer Cathedral for the funeral mass via his hometown of Ludwigshafen . After a large military escort of honor in front of the cathedral, Kohl was buried in the cathedral chapter cemetery with his closest family and friends.

His widow refused to honor Kohl with a state ceremony in Germany, as all his deceased predecessors received. Instead, an appreciation of the German Bundestag took place on June 22, at which the President of the Bundestag , Norbert Lammert , spoke. The family rift received a lot of attention in the media immediately after Kohl's death. On the day of the funeral, Kohl's two sons were neither in Strasbourg nor in Speyer Cathedral.


The whereabouts of the political estate , in particular documents and papers from the public terms of office, have not yet been clarified. Both the Federal Archives and the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation have registered claims to corresponding documents, which are in the possession of the sole heiress Maike Kohl-Richter .


Media representation

The young Prime Minister Kohl had been received benevolently and curiously by the German press. He reformed Rhineland-Palatinate, which was considered backward, and attacked the party leaders. However, when he aspired to the federal level himself, he was measured by different standards. One wondered whether he could lead a large industrial state like the Federal Republic. Kohl not only lacked solid knowledge of foreign and economic policy, but also charisma. In addition, he was not culturally accepted in Northern Germany.

Kohl's portrayal in the media often had a strongly polarizing effect; Considerable political importance was attached to trivial matters. An example of this was the NDR 's glitch on New Year's Eve 1986, when instead of the Federal Chancellor 's New Year's speech for 1987, the one from the previous year was broadcast. It was less the cause of the glitch than the great similarity of the two texts that was sometimes discussed in public in a way that could offend Kohl. The NDR rejected the (unproven) assumption that the glitch could have been an "intentional oversight".

Some of the terms and graphic comparisons used by Kohl in his speeches, such as the “ spiritual-moral turning point ” or the “ blossoming landscapes ”, were often quoted and sometimes used against him in public discussions. After describing his personal background in a speech in front of the Israeli parliament as “ the grace of late birth ”, the media subsequently accused him of intentions to downplay history; It was not until 1990 that he finally made his intention to speak clear.

Satirical reception

Helmut Kohl was frequently the subject of satire and caricature . Important themes of the parody were his popularity, his regional origin, the Palatinate language coloring, which the parodist Stephan Wald imitated, his culinary preferences such as e.g. B. the Palatinate Saumagen , the lack of foreign language skills and his increasing corpulence . Kohl's height of over 1.90 meters is also frequently mentioned and commented on.

Cabbage as a "pear"

One of the most enduringly satirical portrayals of Kohl as a pear goes back to a 1976 cover of Der Spiegel . Before the 1976 federal election campaign, the French illustrator Jean Mulatier drew four cover caricatures of Kohl, Helmut Schmidt, Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Franz Josef Strauss. During a visit to the Spiegel editorial office, the then Chancellor Schmidt remarked in a conversation with the publisher Rudolf Augstein that kohl looked like a bergamot pear in the picture . Herbert Kremp , editor-in-chief of Die Welt , criticized the caricatures as "fascization of the German politician's face" and had the images printed, which were also available as posters. From 1980 onwards, Bernd Eilert used the term “ pear-shaped ” for Kohl in the satirical magazine Titanic . In 1982 a cover picture appeared with the heading "Pear must remain chancellor". In 1983 the Titanic co-founders, the cartoonist Hans Traxler and the satirist Pit Knorr , published the book Pear – The Book on the Chancellor . The depiction alluded to caricatures of the French King Louis-Philippe I. "Pear" became a term of abuse and a cartoonish symbol for Helmut Kohl.

"I was good in Hölderlin"

In a 1976 Zeitmagazin interview with the writer Walter Kempowski about his literary schooling, Kohl said “I was good in Hölderlin ”. The sentence became a household word and was part of numerous satirical contributions.

Painting parodies by Wolfgang Herrndorf

A painting by illustrator and writer Wolfgang Herrndorf , portraying Kohl in Titanic in the style of Vermeer , gained notoriety in 1996 and was sold as a poster. In 1997, Haffmans Verlag released the classic Kohl 1998 wall calendar , featuring twelve satirical portraits of Kohl in the style of famous painters, including Cranach , Magritte , and Baselitz . The then Federal Chancellor was shown the calendar at the Frankfurt Book Fair .


During the CDU donation scandal, the word “Bimbes” , which comes from the Rotwelsch language and which Kohl had used as a colloquial expression for “ money ”, became popular. Kohl was later quoted as saying that he expressed Mikhail Gorbachev's position towards the GDR prior to reunification: "We're no longer a bitch. Do what you want!“. In 2000, the word "Bimbes" was included in the Duden . In 2003, Kohl received the negative prize “ Offended Viewers Prize ” for a sarcastic comment on the donation affair in an ARD interview.

The Boy of Honor by Peter Lenk (2001)

Sculpture The Boy of Honor by Peter Lenk

The artist Peter Lenk created the satirical sculpture The Honor Boy about the donation affair, which was set up in 2001 on a pharmacy roof in Stockach near Konstanz . Then Kohl is spanked in the bottom by the allegorical Justitia .

Fictional representations


Orders and awards

The Helmut Kohl rose, named after the former chancellor , is a hybrid tea

Honorary Citizens and Honorary Doctorates

Helmut Kohl was an honorary citizen of the cities of Deidesheim , Frankfurt am Main , Berlin, Ludwigshafen am Rhein and his Austrian holiday resort of Sankt Gilgen .

Kohl received honorary doctorates from various universities in Germany and abroad.


2012: Special postage stamp (issue date October 11, 2012) The special postage stamp with a nominal value of 55 cents shows a portrait of the former Federal Chancellor with the words “Helmut Kohl – Chancellor of Unity – Honorary Citizen of Europe”. He was one of the few people in the Federal Republic of Germany who were honored with a special postage stamp while they were still alive . This honor is usually given post mortem , in memory of a deserving personality.


monuments and memorials

Kohl bust in Berlin-Moabit

Since 2010, the Fathers of Unity ensemble, designed by the artist Serge Mangin and featuring busts of Kohl, George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev , has been located in front of the Axel Springer high-rise in Berlin . Since 2018, a bust of Kohl designed by the sculptor Christine Dewerny has been on the Street of Remembrance at Berlin 's Spreebogen .

Kohl's widow Maike Kohl-Richter failed in June 2020 with the plan to have the residential building in Oggersheim listed as a historic monument . The reason for the application was the planned demolition of the special police station set up on the neighboring property in 1984, two years after the election of the chancellor. The monument authority rejected the application on the grounds that the architecture of the two buildings (residential building and police station) was very simple and had already changed significantly as a result of several conversions. However, the demolition work on the special station has now been stopped, as the property is about to be sold and the new owner would like to keep the building (as of December 2020).

street names

Various streets and squares in Germany are named after Kohl:

In various cities, the naming of squares and streets after Kohl was rejected. In Leuna , a renaming failed in 2017. In Osnabrück , a renaming was rejected in 2018. In Leipzig in 2019, the renaming of the entrance area of ​​the new exhibition center was rejected. In Berlin, Burkhard Dregger proposed the Great Star in 2018 , but the idea was rejected because it failed to meet a five-year deadline. In 2020, the Junge Union proposed naming Frankfurt Airport or a square in front of the European Central Bank after Kohl. In Kaarst , the name Helmut-Kohl-Ring was decided in 2020 for a street in a new commercial area. In Hanau , a renaming in a new commercial area is being discussed. In Munich and Ludwigshafen, a Helmut-Kohl-Allee was decided in 2021.

Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl Foundation

With effect from June 9, 2021, a legally responsible foundation under public law was established in Berlin under the name " Bundeskanzler-Helmut-Kohl-Stiftung " , which is intended to commemorate the life and work of Helmut Kohl. The purpose of the foundation is "to commemorate the political work of Dr. Helmut Kohl for the freedom and unity of the German people, for peace in the world, for reconciliation with neighboring European countries and European integration” ( § 2 Para. 1 HKohlStG). For this purpose, among other things, a Helmut Kohl Center is to be set up as a publicly accessible memorial in Berlin ( § 2 Para. 2 No. 1 HKohlStG).




  • Günter Letter (Edit): Kohl: "We have every chance". The minutes of the CDU Federal Executive Committee 1973-1976 (= research and sources on contemporary history. Vol. 67). 2 vols., Droste, Düsseldorf 2015, ISBN 978-3-7700-1920-5 .


Film documentation:

  • The Kohl Roll - A Public Biography. Six-hour documentary by Anja Reschke from 25 years of Helmut Kohl.

web links

Commons : Helmut Kohl  - Collection of images
Wikiquote: Helmut Kohl  – Quotations


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