Helmut Kohl


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Helmut Kohl (election poster 1989) Helmut Kohl Signature.svg

Helmut Josef Michael Kohl (* 3. April 1930 in Ludwigshafen on the Rhine , † 16th June 2017 ) was a German politician of the CDU . From 1969 to 1976 he was the third Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate . From 1982 to 1998 he was the sixth Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany to lead a CDU / CSU / FDP coalition and is thus the incumbent with the longest period of service. From 1973 to 1998 he was federal chairman , then until 2000 honorary chairman of his party.

After the two lost federal elections in 1969 and 1972 , Kohl took over the federal chairmanship of the CDU and transformed it into a member party . In 1976 , with Kohl as the top candidate, the CDU / CSU achieved the second-best result in federal elections to date, but could not replace Schmidt's social-liberal government . Kohl gave up his office as Prime Minister and took over the role of leader of the opposition in the German Bundestag as chairman of the CDU / CSU parliamentary group . After the break 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 was instrumental in driving the process of German reunification in 1989/1990 forward. He is considered to be an engine 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 profession

Grave of the Kohl family in Ludwigshafen-Friesenheim

Helmut Kohl was born in 1930 as the third child of the tax officer Hans Kohl (1887–1975) and his wife Cäcilie (1891–1979, née Schnur) in the Ludwigshafen district of Friesenheim , where he was born with his sister Hildegard (1922–2003) and his brother Walter (1926–1944) grew up in a conservative Catholic family. His birthplace 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 dramatic events in Kohl's youth was the early death of his brother Walter in World War II . At the end of November 1944 he was killed as a soldier in a low-flying attack in Haltern (Recklinghausen district).

From April 1, 1936, Kohl attended the Rupprecht School on Nietzschestrasse in Friesenheim and, from 1940, the Oberrealschule . In 1944 he was called up for service in a Ludwigshafen fire fighting team. He was sent to Erbach in the Odenwald and later to Berchtesgaden with the Kinderland transfer . There he received pre-military training as a member of the Hitler Youth , but was no longer deployed as a flak helper . From the end of April 1945 he went from Berchtesgaden on foot with three schoolmates to Ludwigshafen, where he arrived in June. Since the secondary school was initially closed, Kohl began an agricultural apprenticeship in August 1945. In November 1945 he returned to his school, today's State Max Planck Gymnasium, and passed his Abitur there in March 1950.

In the 1950 summer semester he began to study 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-Universität 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 assistant at the Alfred Weber Institute at the university. In 1958 he was charged with a dissertation on " The political development in the Palatinate and the resurgence of the parties after 1945" at Walther Peter Fuchs Dr. phil. PhD . He then became an assistant director at an iron foundry in his hometown and was a consultant at the Association of the Chemical Industry from 1959 to 1969 .

Political career

Functions in the party

As a schoolboy, Kohl joined the CDU in 1946; 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 state level, he became a member of the executive board of the CDU in the Palatinate in 1953, deputy state chairman of the Young Union of Rhineland-Palatinate in 1954, member of the state committee of the CDU Rhineland-Palatinate in 1955 and its state chairman from March 1966 to September 1974. In this function, he was also a member of the federal executive committee of the CDU, in which he was the only one to vote against the decision to form the grand coalition and the planned introduction of the majority voting system against the FDP at federal level in November 1966 .

Kohl became deputy federal chairman in 1969 and was party chairman of the CDU from 1973 to 1998 , longer than any other chairman before. During this time, the CDU People's Party developed from an “electoral party” to a “ member party ” with a maximum number of members shortly after the “turning point in 1982” and an even higher maximum after unification with the Eastern CDU in 1990; after that the numbers went down again.

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

Member of the State Parliament and Prime Minister

Helmut Kohl in Ludwigshafen (1969)

Kohl was in 1959 for the first time as - a deputy in the - was the youngest State Parliament of Rhineland-Palatinate chosen , in which he was from 1963 CDU parliamentary group. In addition to his state parliament mandate, he was also a member of the Ludwigshafen City Council from 1960 to 1970, from 1960 to 1969 as chairman of the opposition CDU parliamentary group.

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

During his term of office 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 establishment of the University of Trier-Kaiserslautern (today: University of Trier , Technical University of Kaiserslautern ). At the same time, structural change accelerated in the largely still very rural federal state. In the area of ​​schooling, the denominational schools at the level of the primary schools , at which the CDU had held for years at the instigation of the Catholic Church, were replaced by cross-denominational community schools .

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

After Barzel had twice failed in 1972 attempts to replace Chancellor Willy Brandt ( SPD ) (in April as part of a vote of no confidence and as a candidate for Chancellor 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 “Poland Treaties” into legislation. A global compensation for former concentration camp prisoners living in Poland as well as loan commitments to Poland were agreed ; In return, there were Polish promises of exit permits for citizens of German origin. The CDU / CSU rejected the relevant laws in the Bundestag. Since they also needed the approval of the then Union-dominated Federal Council , in March 1976, against considerable resistance, Kohl organized the approval of all Union-led federal states so that the laws could come into force.

Opposition leader in the German Bundestag

Kohl and Strauss at the CSU election party conference in 1976 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 remaining elections he entered the Bundestag via the CDU state list for Rhineland-Palatinate.

In the 1976 federal election on October 3, Kohl stood for the first time as candidate for chancellor of the CDU / CSU and achieved the second-best result to date with 48.6 percent of the votes, but narrowly missed the absolute majority . Kohl resigned as Prime Minister and became leader of the opposition on December 13 as parliamentary group 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, on November 19, at the instigation of its chairman Franz Josef Strauss , the CSU attempted with the resolutions of Wildbad Kreuth to terminate the parliamentary group with the CDU in the Bundestag, but Kohl was able to continue with the counter threat to expand the CDU to Bavaria push through. In the years that followed, Kohl and Strauss, who left the Bundestag in 1978 and became Prime Minister of Bavaria , fought fierce over the leadership role in the Union. Strauss often publicly denied Kohl leadership qualities and qualifications for the office of Federal Chancellor ( Wienerwald speech ). For the Bundestag election in 1980 , Kohl decided not to run again as Federal Chancellor. The Lower Saxon Prime Minister Ernst Albrecht, whom he favored, was defeated in the election of the candidate for Chancellor in the CDU / CSU parliamentary group against Strauss, whom Kohl then loyally supported.

In retrospect, the decision not to run for office of his own turned out to be a clever move by Kohl, as he was convinced that Strauss could not be elected as Federal Chancellor by the majority of Germans. Kohl's calculation worked: Strauss achieved the Union’s worst election result in 1980 in a federal election after 1949. He further held back from criticizing Kohl, who remained opposition leader in Bonn.

Strauss continued to make a name for himself on the right wing of the Union; Kohl, on the other hand, tried to address the center by taking a moderate course and to break the FDP out of its coalition with the SPD . The “ spiritual-moral turn ” was a catchphrase introduced into the political discourse by Kohl at that time for the motivation of a political change. For political observers, it proved difficult to link this vague term to specific decisions of his later reign. In connection with the later affairs, Kohl's opponents used it as a battle term against him.

Chancellor

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

The first years of the chancellorship until 1989

After ten days of coalition talks, Kohl was elected the sixth Chancellor against the incumbent 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 change of coalition was very controversial within the FDP.

Kohl in the federal election campaign in 1983

Since the FDP entered the election campaign in the 1980 Bundestag election 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 governing coalition abstained, whereby - as desired - the Federal Chancellor did not receive a majority and the dissolution of Parliament could be proposed to the Federal President according to Article 68 of the Basic Law. After a long period of hesitation, Federal President Karl Carstens decided in January 1983 to dissolve the Bundestag and to call early elections for March 6, 1983. Some MPs sued the Federal Constitutional Court against this procedure without success .

In the 1983 Bundestag election on March 6, the government 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 for chancellor six times 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 1987 Bundestag election on January 25, the CDU / CSU lost votes (- 4.5%); nevertheless the government 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 social-liberal government's Ostpolitik , the Kohl government continued the main lines of the foreign and German policy of the previous Schmidt government. To prevent insolvency, the GDR received a billion-dollar loan through the mediation of CSU chairman Strauss. In return, the GDR government gradually removed the self-firing systems on the inner-German border from 1984 onwards and granted exit permits for people emigrating from the GDR to the Federal Republic in a more generous manner . In contrast to his later opponents Oskar Lafontaine and Gerhard Schröder , Kohl saw a possible German reunification as an important political goal throughout the period before 1989 ; accordingly, unlike Lafontaine, he consistently rejected the recognition of an independent GDR citizenship alongside German citizenship . Another large group of immigrants were the German-born repatriates from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, for whose exit permits Kohl campaigned; 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 annually, and “asylum abuse” became an important topic of political discussion. The West German view of the special legal character of intra-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 ; It was only after numerous initiatives by both the government and the SPD opposition that the GDR made a contribution to curbing the influx.

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 could not officially visit East Berlin, which according to West German views was not part of the GDR, for legal reasons, Kohl undertook a private trip to the GDR with his wife and son Peter from May 27 to 29, 1988 - as agreed without Announcement and journalist support, 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 increased, especially as a result of family reunification. The government tried to counteract this by implementing measures to encourage return that had already been decided by the previous social-liberal government.

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

In economic and social policy, there was no change in the way the FDP had called for in its 1982 concept paper. In addition to minor cuts in social policy, Kohl's long-standing minister of labor and social affairs, Norbert Blüm , included child-rearing times for the first time when calculating the statutory pension entitlement, and introduced job creation measures and early retirement options to counter the high unemployment. Until 1989, the government quota and inflation rate could be reduced permanently.

The reform of income tax law under the auspices of the Federal Finance Ministers Gerhard Stoltenberg and Theo Waigel became an important domestic political issue of Kohl's third cabinet . In a multi-stage tax reform, the income tax rates, which 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 cut and the costs of social policy measures led to an increase in national debt, which after a temporary decline in 1989 reached the level at the time of the Schmidt government.

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

Important environmental policy decisions were the introduction of the mandatory catalytic converter for cars and flue gas desulphurisation for all coal-fired power plants . A few weeks after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster , Kohl appointed a federal environment minister to his cabinet for the first time in June 1986 . 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 covert party donations from the Flick Group , it became known that Kohl had received 565,000 DM for the CDU between 1974 and 1980. In the investigative committee of the Bundestag and the Mainz state parliament, he said the untruth with regard to his knowledge of the purpose of a civic association as a fundraising system and, after a complaint from Otto Schily, only narrowly escaped criminal proceedings for unofficial false testimony . CDU general secretary Heiner Geißler defended him in a television program with the famous comment that Kohl had probably had a "blackout"; since then, the relationship between the two politicians has been viewed as clouded.

After the disputes with Heiner Geißler about the future course of the party had come to a head in the autumn of 1988, Kohl warned his long-time Secretary General in writing that he would not propose him again for this office if their relations "did not fundamentally change" over the next few months. changed. After the Christian Democrats lost a lot of votes in the election 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 to replace Kohl at the CDU party congress in Bremen in September because of the 1990 Bundestag election could not win. The "putsch" of 1989 was the most dangerous phase of Kohl's time as chancellor, judged Klaus Dreher and other contemporary journalists.

The general secretary's idiosyncrasy and increasing dissatisfaction in the presidium prompted Kohl to reshuffle his cabinet in April. He appointed Theo Waigel Minister of Finance and thus secured the support of the CSU. Gerhard Stoltenberg, who had also sought this department, became Minister of Defense . Kohl's offer to bring Geissler into the cabinet as 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 only postponed until the European elections. Kohl was well aware of this danger when he later admitted that his fall would have been inevitable if the CDU had lost its position as the strongest force in the European elections in June 1989. In fact, the CDU's losses in the June election were lower than expected, and it ended up just ahead of the SPD.

After returning from summer vacation, Kohl informed Geißler on August 22nd that he would propose Volker Rühe as General Secretary to the party congress instead of him . A week later, Späth, Geissler, Blüm and Albrecht agreed not to stand against the party congress. Kohl and Genscher 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 the GDR citizens in Hungary on their summer vacation to travel to the West . In return, the federal government granted Hungary a loan of DM one billion. Kohl was able to persuade Németh to move the border forward, which enabled him to present this news to the party congress as his success. With no opposing candidates, Kohl was re-elected federal chairman, albeit with the worst election result of any previous party conference.

Foreign and Defense Policy
Commemorative plaque in front of the Douaumont ossuary in memory of the meeting between François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl in 1984

The NATO double resolution , which was still passed under the Schmidt government , which provided for the installation of new nuclear weapons in Western Europe as a means of pressure to induce the Soviet Union to negotiate to limit nuclear armaments, met with sharp resistance from the population, especially from the peace movement . Although not constitutionally necessary, Kohl obtained a Bundestag decision on November 22, 1983, against the majority of the opposition from the SPD and Greens.

In the 1983 Kießling affair , in which investigative errors and structural problems of the Bundeswehr's military counter-intelligence service became apparent, Kohl supported the criticized Federal Defense Minister Manfred Wörner .

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 of the " grace of late birth ".

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

On May 5, 1985, Kohl and US President Ronald Reagan laid a wreath in Bitburg at the military cemetery there. 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 there was approval of the visit from the population and the media. The FAZ saw in its editorial of 2 May 1985 a connection between the re-election of Reagan, who had rejected the critics of the visit, and the negative comments on the wreath-laying ceremony.

Chancellor of Unity 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 had fallen on November 9, 1989, Kohl presented the surprising ten-point program to the Bundestag in the Bundestag on November 28, 1989, without prior consultation with the coalition partner Division of Germany and Europe before. He rejected Lafontaine's two-state concept, according to which the Federal Republic should contribute to the stabilization of the GDR economy. At the EC summit in Strasbourg on December 9, 1989, Kohl faced strong reservations about the impending reunification.

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. On the question of the exchange rate of the discontinued mark of the GDR for the German mark , Kohl enforced 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 the companies in the new federal states. In this context, Kohl coined the metaphor of “ blooming landscapes ” for the expected economic upswing in East Germany.

With Foreign Minister Genscher and GDR Prime Minister Lothar de Maizière , Kohl achieved the approval of the Four Powers for the reunification of Germany and the integration of reunified Germany into NATO in the so-called two-plus-four talks . On September 12, 1990, the two-plus-four treaty was signed in Moscow ; the leading politicians of the four great powers at that time were Mikhail Gorbachev , Margaret Thatcher , George HW Bush and François Mitterrand .

Although the question of Germany's eastern border was finally settled in the Two-Plus-Four Treaty, Kohl saw the importance of German-Polish reconciliation. In November he signed the German-Polish border treaty for united Germany with Poland , which stipulated the validity of the Oder-Neisse border bilaterally. The German-Polish neighborhood agreement followed in 1991 .

In the decision on the so-called capital city resolution on June 20, 1991, Kohl voted in favor of the move of the federal government from Bonn to Berlin. He arranged for the new Federal Chancellery to be built , which only his successor Gerhard Schröder could move into.

In his first government declaration in 1982, Kohl already suggested building a collection on the history of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonn. In 1990, the House of History Foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany was established for this purpose , which opened the House of History in Bonn in 1994 and is the bearer of other memorials.

Chancellor of the reunified Germany until 1998

Appointment of Kohl as the first all-German Federal Chancellor by Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker (1991)

In the first all-German federal election in 1990 on December 2, the government 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 the Saarland Prime Minister Oskar Lafontaine . On January 17, 1991, the German Bundestag elected Kohl for the fourth time as Federal Chancellor ( Kohl IV cabinet ). In the just acquired on October 16, 1994 German election that brought for the CDU / CSU losses (- 2.4%), carbon sat down opposite the Rhineland-Palatinate Prime Minister and SPD party chairman Rudolf Scharping and looked after his fifth federal cabinet form .

In the 1998 Bundestag elections on September 27, the SPD ran with Lower Saxony's Prime Minister Gerhard Schröder as 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, with which Kohl's office ended 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 big tattoo in front of the Speyer Cathedral on the occasion of his end of service . In the 2002 Bundestag election , Kohl no longer applied for a Bundestag mandate.

Domestic politics

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 sole deputy at the unification party congress in early October 1990, Kohl resigned the following year after allegations of alleged activity for the GDR state security service; At the 1991 party conference in Dresden, the politically unaffected 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 businesses 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 public opinion held Kohl directly responsible for the economic decline ( egg-throwing from Halle ). Although Kohl took the view in 1990 that no tax increase would be necessary to finance German unity, a supplementary tax called the solidarity surcharge was introduced in 1991 on income, capital gains and corporation tax, which is primarily related to infrastructure development in the new federal states (" Aufbau Ost "). ) serves.

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

The cost problems of legal health insurance to cope put the Kohl government in 1993 under the auspices of the Federal Health Minister Horst Seehofer , the Health Care Structure Act by significant cuts in the power spectrum. After a momentous scandal over the use of HIV-contaminated blood preparations , the government dissolved what was then the Federal Health Office in 1994 . Longstanding manipulations in the job placement and severe structural deficiencies at the former Federal Labor Office , which were only uncovered by the Federal Audit Office in 2002 , led to the dissolution and reorganization of the authority and gave the impetus to the later Hartz concept .

Milestones in infrastructure policy concerned the state-owned companies Post and Rail , which had been run like authorities up to that point . In 1993, Deutsche Bahn was privatized under corporate law and the 1994 postal reform made the three areas that had previously belonged together 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 Federal Council and the federal government's limited ability to act. The catchphrase “ reform backlog ” ( word of the year 1997 ) and the so-called “ jerk speech ” by Federal President Roman Herzog from the same year marked the situation in which the previous government was no longer credited with the will and the ability to carry out necessary reforms.

Foreign policy
Signing of the Dayton Agreement (1995)

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

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

In Kohl's sense, the first phase of NATO's eastward expansion with accession negotiations for Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary started in December 1997. On the other hand, in the same year, Kohl succeeded in preventing Turkey's accession negotiations with the European Union for the time being.

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 were shown by the fact that Kohl primarily wanted to strengthen the European institutions, in particular the European Parliament , while Mitterrand was working towards a currency union; Thatcher, however, was opposed to both projects. From 1988 Kohl gradually approached Mitterrand's position; In return for his consent to economic and monetary union, Kohl obtained von Mitterrand's approval for further political integration in Europe in 1990. Schwarz describes a deal often claimed by both politicians between monetary union and the establishment of German unity as a "myth".

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

Although Finance Minister Waigel urgently called for it, at the EU summit in Dublin in December 1996, Kohl did not succeed in enforcing a stability pact for the euro against Chirac, which would allow automatic sanctions in the event of individual states violating 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, in Brussels , the heads of state and government of the European Community decided to introduce the euro for an initial eleven countries, although an expert 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 the introduction of 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 state of Saxony refused to give its approval. 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, see the euro." It was clear to him that the implementation of the euro would cost voters.

Foreign policy contacts

Married couples Kohl and Ceaușescu (1976)
World Economic Summit in Houston (1990)
Kohl and Boris Jelzin 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 establishing German unity.

During his entire chancellorship, Kohl cultivated a particularly close relationship of trust with François Mitterrand, and the expansion of European integration was a central issue in their politics for both of them. They initiated joint projects such as the Franco-German Brigade , the Eurocorps and the Arte television station . Advances in European unification such as the Maastricht Treaty (1992) and the introduction of the euro (1999) were essential results of the close Franco-German cooperation. After the constructive collaboration with the socialist Mitterrand, the 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 renounced the appointment of a German candidate, which was actually due, he prevented the EU presidency of the with his veto in 1995 Christian Democrat Ruud Lubbers , who wanted to delay the establishment of German unity in 1990.

The nationalist conservative Margaret Thatcher fought heavily against Kohl's efforts to unite Europe economically and politically and against German unity. Only under her Labor successor, Tony Blair , did the relationship 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 into the EC in 1986, while González supported Kohl's course in reunification. For the parliamentary elections in Italy in 2006 , Kohl supported his friend, the former EU Commission President Romano Prodi , as leader of the center-left alliance L'Unione against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia , which is a CDU partner 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 only made possible the results of the two-plus-four treaty . Accompanied by extremely generous financial commitments, Gorbachev declared himself in agreement with a reunified Germany as a NATO member. Kohl continued the good relationship with the Russian President Boris Yeltsin , who also received extensive economic support from Germany. Yeltsin accepted the NATO accession negotiations by Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

The time after the chancellorship

Party donation scandal

At the end of November 1999, Kohl announced that for years he had not indicated donations to the CDU totaling 2.1 million DM in the statement of accounts, as prescribed in the party law. He publicly refused to give the names of the donors, as he would have assured them anonymity with his word of honor . This line of argument, to ignore the binding provisions of a valid law that he had personally signed for himself, met with heavy public criticism, also within the CDU. Since the law imposes on the party a fine of three times the amount in dispute to the Bundestag for such a case, he made 700,000 DM available from his own funds and organized a fundraising campaign that resulted in 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 affair from December 1999 to June 2002, accompanied by fierce partisan disputes. On January 18, 2000 Kohl was asked by the CDU party executive to suspend the honorary chairmanship of the CDU because of his role in the financial affair, whereupon he renounced it. A preliminary investigation against Kohl was stopped in February 2001 on payment of a fine of 300,000 DM for minor debt .

Consulting contracts

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

Since Kohl had advocated Kirch's activities in the area of private television several times during his tenure , the discovery of these events led to considerable irritation and suspicions across all parties. Kohl as well as the former post and telecommunications ministers Christian Schwarz-Schilling and Wolfgang Bötsch , who were also accused , could not prove any violations of 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 files removal

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

It later emerged that copies of the files were available in several ministries. An expert opinion by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft from 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 Berlin Citizens' Office , an association for dealing with consequential damage caused by the SED dictatorship . Since 2003 he was also a founding member of the Friends of the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial . He was a member of the Atlantic Bridge .

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

On March 25, 2011, Kohl warned in a guest article in the newspaper Bild that nuclear power would be phased out too quickly after the Fukushima nuclear disaster . In 2014 he published the essay Out of Concern for Europe , in which he criticized the European policy of the federal governments that followed him.

Private life

Marriages

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 sons Walter (* 1963) and Peter (* 1965) emerged from the marriage. In the following decades, Kohl was anxious to stage an intact family life. Since the early 1970s, the Kohl family has always spent their four-week summer vacation in the same house in Sankt Gilgen am Wolfgangsee , Austria ; Summer interviews from vacation and press photos of an apparently intact family were part of the program. Kohl's son Walter later corrected this picture in a book. Hannelore Kohl committed suicide on July 5, 2001 at the age of 68 after she had previously lived 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 as a close circle of friends, three months after Kohl's severe fall. The witnesses were Leo Kirch and the Bild editor-in-chief Kai Diekmann . The families on 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 economic department.

Extramarital affair

In 2016, Beatrice Herbold announced that she had an affair with Kohl in the 1990s. In an interview with Bunte magazine, she stated that she met Kohl in 1990 and published a book about it in 2019.

memoirs

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

complain

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

Helmut Kohl led a legal dispute with the writer of his memoir, Heribert Schwan . The dispute concerned the rights to the tapes that recorded work interviews from 2001. As a result of a series of trials, the Federal Court of Justice upheld Kohl's action 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 political life's work and his friendship with long-term companions. The book contained statements from the work conversations between Kohl and Schwan with disparaging remarks about well-known personalities, including Angela Merkel, Christian Wulff and Richard von Weizsäcker . The Cologne Regional Court awarded Kohl compensation of 1 million euros for violating his personal rights, the highest amount for a personal rights violation in German legal history. In the appeal hearing in May 2018, the Cologne Higher Regional Court declared the legal title to the amount of compensation to be no longer realizable, as the plaintiff had now died and the claim for compensation could not pass to the heiress. An appeal was filed against the judgment.

Last years

From 2007, Kohl had to undergo several operations . After suffering a traumatic brain injury as a result of a fall in February 2008, he was barely able to speak. He used a wheelchair during public appearances.

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

In July 2013 Helmut Kohl and Guido Westerwelle witnessed the partnering of Kohl's lawyer Stephan Holthoff-Pförtner .

Death and burial

Grave of Helmut Kohl in the old cemetery in Speyer

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

On July 1, 2017, Kohl was the first person in the history of the EU to be honored with an act of mourning by the EU, which EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker described as an " act of state ". In addition to Juncker, 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 Dmitri Medvedev also spoke at the ceremony in the European Parliament in Strasbourg . Kohl's coffin reached the Speyer Cathedral for the funeral mass via his hometown of Ludwigshafen . After a great military escort of honor in front of the cathedral, Kohl was buried in the cemetery of the cathedral chapter with close family and friends.

His widow refused to honor Kohl through a state act in Germany, as received by all his deceased predecessors in office. Instead, a tribute to the German Bundestag took place on June 22nd , at which Bundestag President Norbert Lammert spoke. The family rift received a lot of media attention immediately after Kohl's death. On the day of the funeral, Kohl's two sons were not present either in Strasbourg or in the Speyer Cathedral.

estate

The whereabouts of the political legacy , in particular documents and records from public office periods, has not yet been clarified. Both the Federal Archives and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung have registered claims for corresponding documents that are in the possession of the sole heir Maike Kohl-Richter .

reception

Media presentation

The young Prime Minister Kohl was welcomed by the German press with goodwill and curiosity. He reformed Rhineland-Palatinate, which was considered backward, and attacked the party leaders. However, when he himself aspired to the federal level, he was measured by other 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 lacked charisma. In addition, he was not culturally accepted in northern Germany.

The media portrayal of Kohl often had a strongly polarizing effect; Significant political importance was attached to minor issues. An example of this was the breakdown of the NDR on New Year's Eve 1986, when instead of the Chancellor 's New Year's address for 1987, that of the previous year was broadcast. It was not so much the cause of the breakdown as the great similarity of the two texts that was discussed in public in a way that hurt Kohl. The presumption, expressed especially by politicians close to him, that it could have been an "intentional oversight", was denied by the NDR and could neither be confirmed nor refuted.

Some of the terms and graphic comparisons used by Kohl in his speeches, such as “ spiritual-moral turn ” or “ blooming landscapes ” were often quoted and sometimes used against him in public discussion. After he had described his personal background as the “ grace of late birth ” in a speech to the Israeli parliament , the media subsequently assumed that he had intentions that belittled history; It was not until 1990 that he finally made his intention to speak clear.

Parody and public perception

Helmut Kohl was often the subject of political and apolitical humor. One of the most enduring satirical depictions of cabbage as a pear goes back to a cover picture of the Spiegel in 1976. Before the federal election campaign in 1976, the French illustrator Jean Mulatier drew four cover picture caricatures of Kohl, Helmut Schmidt, Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Franz Josef Strauss. During a visit to the Spiegel editorial office in a conversation with publisher Rudolf Augstein , the then Federal Chancellor Schmidt noticed that cabbage looked like a bergamot pear in the picture . Herbert Kremp , editor-in-chief of Welt , criticized the caricatures as “fascizing the face of German politicians” and had the pictures printed, which were also available as posters. From 1980, Bernd Eilert used the term " pear-shaped " for cabbage in the satirical magazine Titanic . In 1982 a cover picture appeared with the headline “Pear must remain Chancellor”. In 1983 the Titanic co- founders, the cartoonist Hans Traxler and the satirist Pit Knorr , published the book Pear - Das Buch zum Kanzler . "Pear" became an insult and a caricature symbol for Helmut Kohl.

The themes of the parody were its folklore, its regional origin, the Palatinate language that the parodist Stephan Wald imitated, his culinary preferences such as: B. the Palatinate Saumagen , foreign language skills, his obesity . Kohl's considerable height of over 1.90 meters is also frequently mentioned and commented on. In a Zeitmagazin interview in 1976 with the writer Walter Kempowski about his literary schooling, Kohl said the sentence “I was good in Hölderlin ”. The sentence became a winged word and was part of numerous satirical contributions.

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

In 2003, Kohl received the negative prize “ Price of the Offended Viewers ” for a sarcastic comment on the CDU donation affair in an ARD interview.

motion pictures

  • Der Mann aus der Pfalz (TV feature film Germany 2009), biographical and documentary interpretation of Kohl's life and development between the immediate post-war period after 1945 and German reunification in 1989/90.

Awards and honors (extract)

The
Helmut-Kohl-Rose, a
tea hybrid named after the former chancellor

Monuments

Kohl bust in Berlin-Moabit

The ensemble Fathers of Unity, designed by artist Serge Mangin , with busts of Kohl, George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev, has been located in front of the Axel Springer high-rise in Berlin since 2010 . Since 2018, a bust of Kohl designed by the sculptor Christine Dewerny has been on the street of remembrance on Berlin's Spreebogen . Kohl's widow Maike Kohl-Richter failed in 2020 with the plan to have the residential building in Oggersheim listed . The reason for the application was the imminent demolition of the police station's special police station, which had been erected on the neighboring property after the 1982 election. The historic monuments 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 through several renovations.

Street names

Various streets and squares in Germany are named after Kohl:

The naming of squares and streets after Kohl was rejected in various cities. A renaming failed in Leuna in 2017. In Osnabrück , a renaming was rejected in 2018. In Leipzig , the renaming of the entrance area of ​​the New Fair was rejected in 2019 . In Ludwigshafen the renaming of the Rheinallee was rejected, in Frankenthal the renaming of the Rathausplatz. In Berlin, Burkhard Dregger proposed the Big Star in 2018 , but the idea was rejected. In 2020, the Junge Union proposed naming Frankfurt Airport or a square in front of the European Central Bank after Kohl.

Fonts

swell

  • Günter letter (edit.): Kohl: "We have all chances". The minutes of the CDU Federal Executive Committee 1973–1976 (= research and sources on contemporary history. Vol. 67). 2 volumes, Droste, Düsseldorf 2015, ISBN 978-3-7700-1920-5 .

literature

Film documentation:

  • The Kohl role - a public biography. Six-hour documentary by Anja Reschke from 25 years of Helmut Kohl.

Web links

Commons : Helmut Kohl  - Collection of Images

Remarks

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