Netanyahu praises former German leader Helmut Kohl following news of death

"We are in sorrow", his Christian Democratic Union Party said on Twitter in announcing his death.

Often harsh and thin-skinned, Kohl also could display a quick wit and jovial earthiness that served him well in building up German clout.

"When a new spirit began to stir in eastern Europe in the 1980s, when, starting in Poland freedom was seized, when fearless people in Leipzig, East Berlin and elsewhere in East Germany began a peaceful revolution, then Helmut Kohl was the right man at the right time", added Merkel, wearing black. Neo-Nazi groups quickly grew in size and found many supporters in the formerly communist east.

Born in 1930 in Ludwigshafen, Germany, the same city he died in, Kohl was not drafted into the World War II-era German armed forces until 1945, and the war ended before he saw any combat. Toward the end of World War II, he was called into the ranks of the Wehrmacht.

The longest-serving chancellor since Bismarck, Kohl, despite his hardliner reputation and huge physique, however, did not foresee the Russians backing off without much resistance, facilitating German reunification. He ruled the Christian Democratic Union as if it were a personal domain.

He ascended to the top of West German national politics in 1973 when he became CDU chairman, and he fought the 1976 elections as his party's candidate for chancellor of Germany.

But that was not the image that emerged in many eulogies. I think that speaks for itself and makes our loss today all the greater - both politically and humanly.

Since a fall and traumatic brain injury in 2008, Kohl had been seriously ill, confined to a wheelchair and barely able to speak.

In July 2001, Hannelore killed herself at 68 in despair over an incurable allergy to light. She was later accused of limiting access to him and his archives.

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President Donald Trump hailed Kohl as a "friend and ally" of the United States.

French President Emmanuel Macron praised Mr Kohl as the "architect" of German reunification.

Kohl, who was the longest-serving post-war leader of Germany, died in his home in Ludwigshafen, which is located in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

Mikhail Gorbachev, who was in charge of the Soviet Union when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, echoed the sentiments.

In an appearance at the German Historical Museum in Berlin in 2012 to mark 30 years since he became chancellor, Mr Kohl reminded his audience of why he had championed European unity and urged EU leaders to continue on the path of closer integration despite the crisis of the euro. But he lost the fifth, in 1998, when the Social Democrats returned to power under Gerhard Schröder.

The following year, Kohl plunged his party into crisis when he admitted accepting undeclared donations during his time as chancellor.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, once Kohl's protegee, said Germans could be grateful for the trust her predecessor established with other nations' leaders, "from Washington to Moscow, from Paris to Warsaw".

"I knew at that moment that Helmut Kohl was the man who could help them realize their dreams". His oldest brother, Walter, was killed in action a few months earlier. By then, Ludwigshafen was under nearly daily attack from Allied bombers, and young Helmut, who like most boys his age had become a member of the Hitler Youth, was pressed into service to dig charred corpses from the ashes.

"Europe can never sink into war again", he said. With a few friends, he set off on foot for his hometown, 250 miles away. It is not a surprise that at the press conference in the Soviet capital Kohl said there has been a "breakthrough" in Germany's reunification process.

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