Helmut Kohl in 2001. As chancellor, he reunited Germany 45 years after it was divided by World War II. (Tobias Schwarz/Reuters)

Helmut Kohl, who reunified Germany after 45 years of Cold War division and promoted grand visions of European integration, but ended his political career in disgrace over an opaque party fund-raising scandal, died on Friday at his home in Ludwigshafen, Germany, the Rhine port city where he was born. He was 87.

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

A physically imposing man — he stood 6 feet 4 inches and weighed well over 300 pounds in his leadership years — Mr. Kohl pursued his and his country’s political interests as Germany’s chancellor with persistent, even stubborn, determination. He could be “an elephant in a china shop,” as he described himself in a memoir, and overcame European opposition to unification the same way he handled political opposition at home: by the force of a jovial yet dominating personality.

After his reluctant retreat from high office, Mr. Kohl was seen as a diminished figure, infirm and wheelchair-bound from a fall and head injury in 2008. Far from focusing on his achievements as one of Europe’s most towering statesmen, critics raked over the hidden inner workings of his private life. His first wife, Hannelore Kohl, committed suicide in 2001, ostensibly because of a rare allergy to light, which had forced her into a nocturnal existence.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Craig R. Whitney