{ Helmut Kohl } - RIP

Helmut Kohl died June 26th 2017 and was given an extraordinary service July 1st 2017 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg - the first such service for any head of state in Europe.  That seems fitting because no leader did more to ensure the European Union existed.

The tributes poured in for the man from dignitaries and former statesmen:
"I view him as the greatest European leader of the second half of the 20th century," stated George H.W. Bush in 2008, an estimation shared by President Clinton who called Kohl "the most important European statesman since the Second World War."

Kohl was born in the Rhineland-Palatinate region of Germany, an area that had a long history of division and possession by foreign powers.  Most notably, the French.  Facts not lost on Kohl, who received a doctorate in History.  For Kohl, establishing strong friendship with France was a cornerstone to his vision and yielded one of the most iconic photos in history with Kohl holding hands with French President Mitterand at a cenotaph during the Anniversary of the battle at Verdun, 1984.

Events in 1989 allowed Kohl to 'spring forward and grasp the hem of God's mantle as he walked by' when the Berlin Wall came down without one single bullet being shot in anger.  Kohl would stand steward to the reunification of Germany.    There were skeptics and antagonists.  Most notably UK Prime Minister Thatcher, who gracelessly responded: "we beat the Germans twice and now they are back!".  The Iron Lady, who had built a career lecturing the Soviet Union on freedom and the symbolic tyranny of the Wall was frantically begging Gorbachev to maintain the divisions between East and West Germany.  It was hardly her's or Britain's 'finest hour'.  Germans themselves were reluctant about reunification: the cost of reunification for the West in order to rebuild the stagnant economy in Eastern Germany had many skeptics.   That Kohl was able to navigate this transition and integration in relatively smooth and orderly fashion in a much quicker time frame than experts had initially guestimated is largely why many former dignitaries held Kohl in such high estimation.

But Kohl had bigger plans and really seized this incredible moment in history to dream the big dream: a confederation of Europe or the European Union.  The skeptics were there too.  Kohl on both those negotiations:

"Unification of the German currency was a necessity on the road to unification of Germany. There were many reservations about the exchange rate, Kohl recollects. "Had we put all the professors and professionals in one room, the overwhelming majority would have voted against the decision that was taken then. Without a doubt, they would have had weighty economic explanations. But, those experts did not see the overall picture. They did not take into account the political angle and in particular the psychological side."
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/books/helmut-kohl-1930-2017-king-of-two-unifications-1.78252

For Kohl, the Deutschmark, which was adopted by both French, British, and American controlled sectors of Germany after World War II,  was proof that a single currency could lead to the eventual political infrastructure being formed.  A similar fate could, would, follow for the European Union.  Kohl's European dream has had the much more difficult launch with skeptics there at every turn to pronounce the venture 'dead'.  However, Kohl always watched the long game and took satisfaction that all his critics for both German reunification and the common currency eventually changed their positions completely on both as time passed.

I'm a bit embarrassed at the lack of drawings I did of Kohl. He was, like most German leaders, not the most telegenic or prone to dramatic turns of phrase like say Thatcher,  Churchill, Reagan etc. and until recently, his personal life was far too normal for the media.  Similarly, Germany is not a region that got much 'ink' {unless of course some right wing leader or party gained a couple of votes or seats in some regional election and then hand-wringing would begin with 'those Germans' and 'the past'}.  These two drawings  were done during the donation scandal that led to his resignation as Chancellor.  Shame on me, {and shame on our media?} I guess for letting this political genius go largely ignored.
RIP Helmut Kohl.  His legacy and influence are with us still and for the better.


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