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, has died at 87, the AP reports. Kohl's Christian Democratic Union Party posted on Twitter: "We are in sorrow. #RIP #HelmutKohl." The German newspaper Bild reported that Kohl died Friday at his home in Ludwigshafen. 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.
It was the close friendships that Kohl built up with other world leaders that helped him persuade both anti-communist Western allies and the leaders of the collapsing Soviet Union that a strong, united Germany could finally live at peace with its neighbors. "Helmut Kohl was the most important European statesman since World War II," Bill Clinton said in 2011, adding that Kohl answered the big questions of his time "correctly for Germany, correctly for Europe, correctly for the United States, correctly for the future of the world." Kohl's legacy includes the common euro currency that bound Europe more closely together than ever before. Kohl lobbied heavily for the euro, introduced in 1999, as a pillar of peace—and when it hit trouble more than a decade later, he insisted there was no alternative to Germany helping out debt-strapped countries like Greece.