Dour and imperturbable German chancellor for 16 years who was the main architect of the country’s reunification

Helmut Kohl, who has died aged 87, will be remembered for his pivotal role in two extraordinary events: the fall of the Berlin wall and the rise of the euro. He devoted his entire adult life to Christian Democratic Union (CDU) politics and was Germany’s longest-serving chancellor of the 20th century.

Superficially, sheer physical bulk apart, Kohl bore unlikely comparisons with Otto von Bismarck. The aristocrat who unified a proliferation of states in 1871 and made Germany mainland Europe’s most important power was a Prussian Protestant of overwhelming intellect and resources who treated Europe like his personal box of building bricks. Kohl was a Roman Catholic Rhinelander, devoted as much to unifying Europe as to placing a united Germany at its head and heart.

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