Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies at 87

Helmut Kohl, the physically imposing German chancellor whose reunification of a nation divided by the Cold War put Germany at the heart of a united Europe, died Friday at his home in Ludwigshafen. He was 87.

“A life has ended and the person who lived it will go down in history” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking from Rome. “It will take some time, however, until we can truly judge what we have lost in him. Helmut Kohl was a great German and a great European.”

Over his 16 years at the country’s helm from 1982 to 1998 — first for West Germany and then for all of a united Germany — Kohl combined a dogged pursuit of European unity with a keen instinct for history. Less than a year after the November 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, he spearheaded the end of Germany’s decades-long division into East and West, ushering in a new era in European politics. (AP)

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Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies at 87

Helmut Kohl stands behind former West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (R), January 1967. (Reuters)

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies at 87

Helmut Kohl stands in front of an election poster during an election campaign for the West German 1976 general election on June. 26, 1975. (Reuters)

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies at 87

Helmut Kohl stands with former West German President Richard von Weizsaecker (R) in this April 21 1985 file photo during a memorial ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the liberation of the former Bergen Belsen concentration camp, April 21, 1985. (Ulli Michel/Reuters)

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies at 87

Helmut Kohl (R) stands hand in hand with former French President Francois Mitterrand (L) in this 1984 file photo during their visit to the former Verdun battlefields, Sept. 22, 1984. (Reuters)

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies at 87

Helmut Kohl waves from a Leopard tanks during a visit to German and British troops in Northern Germany, Setp. 17, 1986. (Michael Urban)

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies at 87

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl (C) stands with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, British Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe and French President Francois Mitterrand (L-R) during a summit of the European Community in Hanover, June 27, 1988. Picture taken June 27, 1988. (REUTERS/Michael Urban/)

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies at 87

West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl moves through a crowd of supporters February 20,1990 during his first appearance as part of the East German election campaign in Erfurt, East Germany. (REUTERS/Reinhard Krause)

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies at 87

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and his wife Hannelore pose with dog “Felix” for photographers, during their summer holidays near the town of St. Gilgen some 30 kilometers east of Salzburg, August 16, 1996. The Kohl’s spend their holidays in St. Gilgen every summer for the last 26 years. (Reuters)

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies at 87

Germany’s Chancellor Helmut Kohl (L) admires the western style bolo tie worn by U.S. President Bill Clinton as First Lady Hillary Clinton watches at The Fort Restaurant at the Dever Summit of the Eight, June 21, 1997. Clinton had asked the leaders to wear cowboy boots and casual wear to the dinner, however, Kohl refused and kept to the standard coat and tie. (Gary Hershorn/Reuters)

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies at 87

Russian President Boris Yeltsin (L) and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl (R) walk through the gardens of the chancellery in Bonn June 8. Yeltsin is on a two-days official visit to Germany in 1998. (Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters)

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies at 87

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher waves to well wishers as German Chancellor Helmut Kohl (L) looks on during Thatcher’s visit to Germany, Sept. 23, 1998. (Reuters)

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies at 87

Former German Chancellor Helmut Khol speaks to leaders of the European Union after receiving the Honorary European Citizenship at the Vienna Summit December 11, 1998. Weeks before the birth of the Euro single currency the leaders began a summit pressing for economic growth and job creation. (Reuters)

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies at 87

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl (R) sits next to Christian Democrat party (CDU) leader Angela Merkel (L) during celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of German unification in Berlin September 27, 2000. (Michael Urban/Reuters)

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies at 87

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl (R) and his daughter-in-law Elif follow the coffin of Hannelore Kohl after a memorial service at the Speyer cathedral July 11, 2001. Hannelore Kohl, who was 68, took her own life last week after a long illness. She had suffered from a rare allergy to light that forced her to stay in darkened rooms for the last 15 months of her life. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies at 87

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl waves during an electoral rally in Erfurt in East Germany in February 1990. (REUTERS/Michael Urban)

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies at 87

Former German Chancellor Kohl reacts as an eagle sits on his hand during the ‘Point Alpha Award’ ceremony near the village of Geisa. Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl reacts as an eagle sits on his hand during the ‘Point Alpha Award’ ceremony at the cold war-era U.S. Army observation post point Alpha at the demarcation line between East and West Germany near the village of Geisa, east Germany June 17, 2005. Bush received the inaugural ‘Point Alpha Award’, that honours outstanding contributions to German and European unity along with Kohl and Gorbachev on Friday, the anniversary of a 1953 workers uprising against Communist authorities in East Germany. (REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies at 87

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies at 87

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl (L) toasts with glasses of white wine with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after a ceremony of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party to mark the upcoming 20-year anniversary of the German unification in Berlin October 1, 2010. (REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies at 87

Former German chancellor Helmut Kohl reacts during the unveiling of a plaque honoring Kohl as chancellor of the reunification of Germany, in the village of Moedlareuth near Hof May 21, 2013. (REUTERS/Michael Dalder)

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