tv DW News PBS June 16, 2017 6:00pm-6:31pm PDT
>> this is a dw news live from berlin. former german chancellor helmut kohl has a dive, the architect - - had died, the architect of german reunification. tributes have been pouring in from around the world. germany's chancellor angela merkel said kohl held fast to the dream of a united germany even as others hesitated. tonight we look at the man and his legacy. ♪
>> welcome to the program. we're joined by dw's she correspondent. -- chief correspondent. helmut kohl's passing away has been something the country has been preparing for for a number of months. >> there had even been a couple of temporary scares where people thought this may be the moment. most of the mainstream media, the networks, print magazines have been updating their grasp -- graphs for him, knowing this is going to be coming. it is a very momentous moment indeed.
>> we will get into evaluating the moment. let's talk about what the current german chancellor had to say. >> at this moment i'm thinking with great respect and great gratitude about the life and achievements of the german chancellor helmut kohl. thinking of this man who was great in every sense of the world -- word, his achievement. it will take some time before we truly appreciate what we lost with his passing. helmut kohl was a great german and a great european. he defined the two most important challenges facing german politics, the reunification of our german fatherland and the unification
of europe. helmut kohl understood that the two were intrinsically linked. christopher: a very somber chancellor angela merkel talking about helmut kohl, her predecessor's death. what you make of her words -- do you make of her words. >> that is the most emotional state we've ever seen of angela merkel. she was very deeply moved and that is not surprising. he is the man who gave her her chance. thanks to helmut kohl she is where she is today. there were lots of contradictions. he at times call her "that girl." she in the end was one of those
who helped to undermine the last vestiges of his power and yet he absolutely was the person who was -- who made her the politician she is today. she absolutely stated the most crucial aspect of his legacy. the way he bound german unification together with the deepening and strengthening of european integration. in that respect, he saw what had long been called the german question -- he solved what had long been called the german question. would germany rise to be the state that through everything out of balance? he wanted to make sure a germany embedded in a unified europe
would not be that germany again. christopher: a monumental legacy indeed. we're going to talk more about helmut kohl's legacy in a minute. first we're going to look back on the life of a man who led germany for 16 years, led german reunification and deepened european integration. >> helmut kohl rarely appeared in public in his last years. one rare occasion was to present his book on europe in 2014. at his side, his wife. among those to congratulate him, his former protege, angela merkel. in 1982, he filled his first major ambition, ousting the
social democrats from the chancellorship. history came down on his side. when the berlin wall fell, kohl seized the opportunity for reunification. after a visit to the caucuses, he convinced mikael gorbachev. he also did his best to put aside his western ally -- allies'concerns. >> people can second-guess and say might have happened anyway, who is to say. if you might have asked me, in this century we are in now, probably. it took strong leadership. it took a man of principle who could work with different points of view. >> kohl's second great ambition
was european unity. he and the french president shared an important friendship and they clasped hands at the german should carry -- at the german cemetery. kohl campaigned for a european and economic currency union and for the introduction of the euro. by 1991, elation had given way to disillusionment. the forcing landscapes promised by kohl had dematerialized. even though kohl lost the 1998 election, he goes down in history as the longest-serving german chancellor. helmut kohl defined german politics for 16 years. things went bad for him when details were revealed of a
secret party funding scandal. kohl suffered a private tragedy. his wife, unable to bear an allergy to daylight, took her own life. in 2008, kohl had a bad accident at home. in 2010, the 20th anniversary of german reunification, came reconciliation with the cdu. the former chancellor was well aware of the sigficance of the life he lived. >> mine was a life of commitment, eventual and fulfilled -- eventful and fulfilled. a life of many ups and many downs. it was a life i can say had a
meeting -- had a meaning. christopher: our chief political correspondent still with me. seeing those pictures of a frail helmut kohl --i would like to talk about what he looked like and what he was like when he was a healthy man in the middle of his political career. he was larger than life. i remember going to an election rally with my wife and she was astonished by the size of the man. >> 6'4" inches and he weighed 300 pounds. he was the elephant in the room and for all of the political coming he could show at best -- political cunning and sensitivity and agility that he showed in the face of unification. he could also be an elephant in the sense that when ronald
reagan came to germany, i remember it well, kohl insisted that reagan accompany him to a cemetery. in this cemetery there were many young german soldiers who had been buried and many were members of the nazi paramilitary group. reagan did not want to go. the american team-based kohl -- team begged kohl to cancel this plan. reagan roundup -- wound up going with him. he was a man who knew how to get his way. he was said to have gone out with members of his staff in the middle of the night to eat large italian meals and he clearly enjoyed watching them struggle to finish.
he would go out for historic east --historic feasts. -- he would go out for historic feasts with bill clinton. he was known for eating specialties like sow's stomach. he was a man of great physicality, of enormous physical presence and i think what he was able to achieve and the way he kept his power network together around him was based on that. christopher: his sheer physical presence. despite that huge legacy, his political career did end in disgrace. the huge a that hit him and his party.
how seriously did that tarnish his career? >> at that time, very seriously. he was really in disgrace for a number of years and was essentially unseen. as we mentioned earlier, it was angela merkel who helped to render the final coup de grace. she, coming from him same -- his same party, saying it is time for him to step down, his era is at an end. a very painful moment for both of them. one of the things that is interesting, when you hear her say now he is dead and we are only beginning to a sense of the historical implications of what his life met, well, he lived long enough that that particular phase of these slush funds have
diminished in comparison to the rest. his legacy is ultimately a blessing. christopher: let's stay with this relationship between the current tonsillar and -- the current chancellor angela merkel and helmut kohl, her predecessor. he plucked her from of security. she was an east german christian democrats. he made her one of his ministers. -- he plucked her from obscurity. >> he was a pragmatic politician. she is an absolutely pragmatic proposition -- pragmatic politician. he was a man who knew how to build power -- wield power pragmatically.
she has been able to get rid of her rivals. if she is elected again in the fall, she will have been in office as long as he and he was in the longest-serving chancellor since bismarck. both have a deeply felt presence on the german political stage and many links --he was served by circumstance with two absolutely amazing historical junctures. the unification of europe and the unification of germany. she has seen much of the aftermath of that. she has had to deal with a lot of the fallout that was caused by decisions that he pushed. pushing for the introduction of the euro despite the fact that
the toppling of the communist regime was not initially aimed at creating a unified german states. kohl was convinced about the two germany's simply belonged together. >> in mid-1989, the first tear appeared in the berlin wall. the news spread like wildfire, east german citizens headed to budapest and product, hoping to --budapest and prague, hoping to make it to the west. at the time it was unthinkable that the berlin wall could fall. but the people of east germany kept up the pressure with mass peaceful demonstrations throughout the country. [clapping and cheering]
>> event snowballed in november 1989. >> we have decided today to draw up regulations allowing every citizen of east germany to cross-border points to the west. >> it was the ninth of november, within hours, the symbol of the divided germany no longer struck fear into people's hearts. [cheering and singing] >> at the time, helmut kohl was on official business in poland. in the bundestag, delegate spontaneously sang the national anthem --delegates spontaneously sang the national anthem.
♪ >> the following day, helmut kohl address of the people of germany in berlin. >> long lives a free german fatherland, long-lived -- long live a free and united europe. >> it was above all the east germans who celebrated this chancellor of the german unity. primarily because of his uncompromising stand for reunification. kohl spotted a small window of opportunity, a time when anything could be plausible. not just freedom of movement between the two germany's, but an end to east germany altogether. while the rest of the world was
coming to terms with the collapse of the eastern bloc, he was pursuing goals of unification. ♪ >> gradually, kohl persuaded western europe's skeptical leaders. first, he won over the french president. and the british prime minister margaret thatcher gave up her otherwise stubborn resistance after kohl promised her a peaceful germany in a united europe. the u.s. was already on his side, after kohl assured washington a reunited germany would remain loyal to the west. >> neutrality will be the wrong
road for germany to go down. >> at the time, the prospect of a confident, reunified germany was a nightmare for the soviet union. one of kohl's biggest political achievements was his ability to overcome the calgary shots -- gorbachev's reservations. germany celebrated reunification in 1990 with the approval of its european neighbors and the rest of the world. [singing] christopher: we are to get the perspective of german historian andres who joins us from dressed in -- dresden. helmut kohl, a giant figure in
history, what will he be remembered for? >> the longest-serving chancellor of germany yet. but more than that, the decisions that were taken. german unification in combination with european reunification -- german reunification and european unification. christopher: he is always called the father of german unification, is a that justified? -- is that justified? >> in a certain way it is. of course the german reunification started with a movement within east germany.
this was in no sense a driving process that led to reunification but it led to a transformation into high polities. the transformation of a civil movement into high politics. christopher: explain the link between german reunification and european unification. >> he was very concerned to seek a reunified germany within european unification in order to avoid a single standing german hegemony. he was aware this was one of the greatest problems german history could face. christopher: many thanks for
talking to us. and we apologize to our viewers for the poor quality of that audio. in the studio, we have him with us because he was a teenager in east germany when the berlin wall came down. you were in east berlin, how did people like you view helmut kohl ? with the something of a hero figure? -- was he something of a hero figure? >> we all look to him, he promised a flourishing landscape in the east and that is why his party won the election in east germany in 1990. christopher: those flourishing landscapes, that quick prosperity did not really materialized, at least -- did not really materialize, at
least not as quickly as east germans thought it would. did that moderate your thoughts about him? >> the transition was very hard. millions of people lost their jobs. we went from full employment to mass unemployment. the people who lost their jobs, they were not able to find other work until they retired. christopher: that is something he failed to predict. he underestimated the cost of reunification. >> he did the only right thing because other politicians suggested we would have two different economic systems within one country that would slowly grow together. there would have been a huge brain drain in the east of qualified people going to the west. there was nothing you could do. we had companies, the builders
of the east german car made out of cardboard and of course such a car could not compete with books like and. -- compete with folks like -- volkswagon. christopher: how do you see the development of the east german provinces in germany in so many after that momentous decision from helmut kohl? >> i think we do see flourishing landscapes. there are people who feel very sad about what happened in their personal life when they lost their jobs. they see that their children have a brighter future and we have freedom of press, freedom of speech, freedom of traveling and that is something we all enjoy thanks to helmut kohl. christopher: thanks for that perspective. you're watching dw news live
♪ announcer: euromaxx highlights, and here's your host meggin leigh. megan: hi everyone, and welcome to our highlights show with the best picks of the week. here's a look at what's coming up. boundless bliss, why norwegians are the happiest people in the world. be part of art, erwin wurm's contribution to this year's venice biennale. and marvelous molecule, we pay a visit to the atomium in brussels. norwegians have been making headlines lately. last wednesday marked norwegian constitution day, celebrating the nation as an independent kingdom. and the united nations recently designated norway as the happiest country in the world. now you would think that