Germany's Kohl derided Merkel, Wall rallies: biography

7th October 2014, Comments 0 comments

Germany's ex-chancellor Helmut Kohl has belittled the role of protesters in the fall of the Berlin Wall and ripped into his protegee Angela Merkel, according to an unauthorised biography released Tuesday.

The sharp comments are published in "Legacy: the Kohl Protocols" and based on over 600 hours of taped interviews which Kohl conducted with a journalist who was meant to ghost-write his memoirs before the project was scrapped.

In one of many personal swipes, Kohl in the 2001-02 interviews said that Merkel, his East Germany-raised protegee, "couldn't eat properly with knife and fork" when she first started mixing with West Germany's political elite.

Merkel, whom Kohl brought into the cabinet in 1991, later turned against the now 84-year-old when he was embroiled in a slush-funds scandal, with Merkel urging their conservative Christian Democrats to drop him as party chief.

The new book is being published, against Kohl's wishes, ahead of a series of anniversary celebrations to mark a quarter-century since the 1989 collapse of the communist East German regime.

According to the book, Kohl -- often dubbed the father of German reunification -- also played down the legacy of the pro-democracy movement centred at a church in the eastern city of Leipzig in ending the communist dictatorship.

"It is completely wrong to pretend that suddenly the Holy Spirit descended on the squares of Leipzig and changed the world," Kohl reportedly said, arguing instead that it was the weakness of Moscow that led to the regime collapse.

In the book Kohl also speaks somewhat dismissively of former Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev, whom he has often called his friend, saying that "Gorbachev looked over the books and realised all was lost and the regime couldn't survive".

The last Soviet leader "dissolved Communism, partly against his will, but he did dissolve it, without violence, without bloodshed," Kohl is quoted as saying. "There wasn't much more to his legacy than that."

The book -- written by veteran journalist Heribert Schwan, who conducted the Kohl interviews, and his co-author Tilman Jens -- has made waves in Germany since excerpts were released by news weekly Der Spiegel on Sunday.

Rival news magazine Focus reported that Kohl was planning legal steps to stop the publication, charging that Schwan had no right to use material from the interviews.

Kohl himself, who has suffered from ill health in recent years, plans to appear at the Frankfurt Book Fair Wednesday to present a new edition of his own memoirs.

Schwan told a book launch press conference Tuesday that he had never signed a confidentiality agreement ahead of the interviews, which led to an initial three volumes of Kohl memoirs before the project ended.

Schwan also said he did not blame Kohl for ending the book project. Instead, he pointed to his "nemesis", Kohl's second wife Maike Kohl-Richter, and what he called her desire to shape the public legacy of the elder statesman.


© 2014 AFP

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