Born: 3 April 1930
Birth Place: Ludwigshafen
Born into a Catholic and conservative family, he was called up in the latter stages of the Second World War and served as a teenage soldier. He joined the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in 1947. In the immediate post war period he went on to gain a PhD in history.
His political career really took off when he became Minister President of the Rhineland-Palatinate in 1969; a post he would hold unitl 1976. He became a member of the Federal German Parliament. Kohl assumed the leadership of the CDU in opposition to the ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD) led government. He stood for election to German Chancellor in 1976 but was defeated by the SPD.
On 1 October 1982 he engineered a vote of no-confidence vote against Helmut Schmidt, the incumbent German Chancellor, and took over; he inherited a difficult political position. Germany was suffering from mass unemployment, and was deeply split over whether to go forward with nuclear power. Kohl used his political skills to steer his country past these and other problems. He then achieved economic growth and stability for West Germany.
Kohl holds the record of being the longest-serving Chancellor of Germany since Bismarck in the 19th Century. He was in power for sixteen years - setting a post-war political record by winning four consecutive general elections.
He is now recognized as one of the driving forces of European integration and one of the key players in ending the Cold War and bringing about the Reunification of Germany. Helmut Kohl's finest hour began on 9 November 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and ended on 3 October 1990 when the two halves of post-war Germany were re-unified.
In the 1998 federal elections his party was defeated by a landslide and the SPD took power. Kohl’s departure from power marked the end of an era.
Unfortunately his reputation suffered considerable damage in 1999; he became embroiled in a serious financial scandal when it became clear there had been massive illegal contributions to the CDU party funds during his Chancellorship. Kohl refused to disclose the source of funds paid to him and he was forced to resign, in 2000, as honorary chairman of the CDU. In 2001 he agreed to pay a 300,000-mark fine in exchange for an end to the criminal investigation into his role in the campaign contributions scandal.
Financial problems reappeared in 2004 when it was disclosed he had been paid 300,000 € for an advisory contract with a television company.
On 28 December he was airlifted, by the Sri Lankan Air Force, from his Indian Ocean holiday hotel after it had been devastated by the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami.
I have been underestimated for decades. I have done very well that way.
The future will belong to the Germans... when we build the House of Europe. In the next two years, we will make the process of European integration irreversible. This is a really big battle but it is worth the fight."
A European Army and a European police force lie at the end of the road to European Union... The Maastricht Treaty introduces a new and decisive stage in the process of European Union, which within a few years will lead to the creation of the United States of Europe... We want the political unification of Europe. If there is no monetary union, then there cannot be political union, and vice-versa.