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Tributes as Germany's Helmut Kohl dies, aged 87

By Sam Lister

Former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, who has died aged 87, was a "towering figure" who had strength and courage in abundance, Sir John Major has said.

Leading British tributes to the man who brought about the reunification of Germany, the former prime minister said Mr Kohl was intensely human, with a mischievous sense of fun.

The former Christian Democratic Union leader was the longest-serving chancellor of the last century.

Sir John said: "Helmut Kohl was a towering figure in German and European history.

"He entrenched Germany in a wider Europe, in the hope of achieving a unity and peace that the continent had never known before. This required great political strength and courage - both of which qualities Helmut had in abundance.

"But behind his public image, Helmut was an intensely human man: sometimes reflective; sometimes emotional; but always with a mischievous sense of fun.

"Helmut had a huge personal presence, with a heart to match: he was a strong and true friend. I was immensely fond of him, and will miss him."

Irish President Michael D Higgins also paid tribute to the former German Chancellor last night.

"It is with sadness that I have learned of the death of former Chancellor of Germany, Helmut Kohl," he said in a statement.

"He will be remembered for his 16-year tenure as chancellor, as well as for his role in the reunification of East and West Germany in 1990.

"His deep commitment to the European project was unshakable, referring as he often did to the common European House, in the construction of which everyone would have a role.

"On behalf of the people of Ireland I wish to convey my deepest sympathies to his family and to the people of Germany."

Born in Ludwigshafen am Rhein on April 3, 1930, Helmut Kohl was drafted to the German army in 1945 but not involved in combat, with the Second World War ending that year. He joined the CDU the following year and started his career in politics.

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