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Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who for more than a decade and a half helmed a country in historic upheaval, died Friday at the age of 87. The German leader’s political party, the Christian Democratic Union, confirmed Kohl’s death on Twitter.
“We are in sorrow,” the party tweeted.
In a statement, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush mourned the death of his colleague and close ally, who first led West Germany and then oversaw its reunification with communist East Germany.
“Working closely with my very good friend to help achieve a peaceful end to the Cold War and the unification of Germany within NATO will remain one of the great joys of my life,” Bush said in a statement Friday. “Throughout our endeavors, Helmut was a rock — both steady and strong.”
Understated and often underestimated, Kohl took power in West Germany in 1982 at the age of 42. He quickly went to work cultivating the confidence of allies both personal and on the world stage, projecting an unassuming personality all the while.
“For 70 percent of the time that he was in office he looked like he was semi-asleep,” John Kornblum, U.S. ambassador to Germany during Kohl’s final years in power, tells NPR’s Eric Westervelt. “He wasn’t one of these people out ordering people around. He spent much more time talking with people on the phone and getting a feel for what was going on. He schmoozed all the time.”
Kornblum adds: “But when it came time to do something, he did something.”
This post will be updated.