- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2000

It was tragic enough for former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the man credited with unifying Germany, to be accused of bribery and accepting illegal political contributions during his time in office. Now an investigator is testifying that two-thirds of the chancellor's computer files that's equivalent to 1.2 million papers were destroyed in 1998, just before the German leader handed power over to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. But in his first day of testimony before the investigating committee yesterday, Mr. Kohl answered accusations with denial or silence. He said no documents were deleted in his presence and chose not to name the donors from whom he admitted to accepting $1 million, nor his reasons for keeping silent.

Instead of providing explanations, Mr. Kohl compared the way he is being treated with the attacks on the Jews during the Holocaust. Mr. Kohl made clear that he thought the investigating committee and the liberal media was trying to undo his legacy, and told them he had better things to do than keep track of his party's financial records. "None of these reports and insinuations are true. This process has only one goal to criminalize me," Mr. Kohl said. "The real reason is to wipe 16 successful years out of history." There may well be some truth in what Mr. Kohl is saying, yet he is undoubtedly himself aiding his enemies by his lack of cooperation.

Mr. Kohl or his office may have done much of the erasing. According to the investigator, there was no legal basis for wiping out the majority of the official records, which he said were deleted by the order of the chancellor's office by computer technicians. Among the files were those that could clear up reports of shady dealings in several business deals: In one, an arms dealer who lobbied the Kohl administration for the sale of tanks to Saudi Arabia gave 1 million marks ($500,000) to the party. Mr. Kohl denied yesterday receiving money to push through that arms deal, nor that anyone in his administration was bought off.

In another, Germany's state-owned ARD television reported former French President Francois Mitterrand, who was eager for German support of the euro, helped to arrange the payment of $15.7 million to help Mr. Kohl's election. According to the report, he leaned on the French company Elf Aquitaine, which gave the money to the Kohl campaign as part of the acquisition of the crumbling East German Leuna refinery. Mr. Kohl admitted to discussing the sale with Mr. Mitterrand, but said he did not accept any bribes related to the deal.

The missing documents could tell a story of their own. The records of Mr. Kohl's time in office a period which saw him change the face of socialism and communism in Europe and beyond should be part of the historical record. Even with all he has done for them, Mr. Kohl owes his countrymen an explanation.

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