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Born April 3, 1930 in Ludwigshafen, Germany, he has been a member of the Christian-Democratic Union (CDU) since 1947. From 1969--1976 he was Ministerpräsident of the Rhineland-Palatinate state, after which he became a member of the Bundestag (Federal Parliament) to be the leader of the CDU opposition against the government led by the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of the time.
On October 1, 1982, he succeeded Helmut Schmidt as Bundeskanzler by means of a Constructive Vote of No Confidence, the only one in post-war German history that was successful to date. Kohl holds the record of being the longest-serving Bundeskanzler of Germany until being succeeded by Gerhard Schröder on October 27, 1998 after a landslide victory of the SPD in the 1998 federal elections. The longest serving Reichskanzler was Otto von Bismarck
He was married to Hannelore Kohl and has two sons.
Kohl is widely recognized even by his political adversaries for managing the process of German reunification that started with the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, and formally completed on October 3, 1990. Then on December 2 that year, a coalition led by Chancellor Kohl won the first free all-German elections since 1932. While not all has been well economically in Germany during and since his government, most people would agree that he managed to convince international leaders that a unified Germany would represent no threat to its neighbors by tying German reunification with the tighter integration of Germany into the European Union.
Kohl's political heritage has been damaged by a massive party financing scandal starting in 1999, when it was discovered that the CDU had received and maintained illegal funding under his leadership. Investigations by the German Parliament 'Bundestag' into the sources of illegal CDU funds, mainly stored in Geneva bank accounts, revealed two sources: 1. Sales of German tanks to Saudi Arabia (kickback question), 2. Privatisation fraud in collusion with the late French President Francois Mitterrand who wanted 2,550 unused allottments in the former East Germany for the then French owned Elf Aquitaine. In December 1994 the CDU majority in the Bundestag enacted a law that nullified all rights of the original owners. Over 300 million DM in illegal funds were discovered in accounts in the canton Geneva. The fraudulently acquired allotments were then privatised as part of Elf Aquitaine and ended up with TotalFinaElf after amalgamation.
Helmut Kohl himself claimed that Elf Aquitaine has offered (and meanwhile made) a massive investment in East Germany's chemical industry together with the takeover of 2,000 gas stations in Germany which were formerly owned by national oil company Minol. Elf Aquitaine is supposed to have financed CDU illegally as ordered by Francois Mitterand, as it was usual practice in African countries.