- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 12, 2001

A German commemoration today of the construction of the Berlin Wall 40 years ago will be notable for the absence of the man most associated with the wall's demise — Helmut Kohl.
To remember the event, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party will hold a religious service at the former border-crossing point, Checkpoint Charlie.
But Mr. Kohl, 71, who led West Germany when the wall came down and subsequently became the first modern chancellor of a united Germany has canceled his appearance.
Mr. Kohl, 71, who led the CDU during the days of reunification, backed out several weeks ago after his wife, Hannelore, 68, committed suicide in their home in Ludwigshafen.
Since then, Mr. Kohl has virtually disappeared from the political stage. Occasionally he is seen at dusk silently mourning at the site of his wife's grave.
This week he filed a complaint against an unknown person who he claimed forged a letter that appeared to be his wife's suicide note. In the note, she blamed her death on Mr. Kohl.
Mrs. Kohl ended her own life on July 5, reportedly by taking an overdose of pills, after coping for years with a rare disease that prevented her from being exposed to light. At the time of his wife's suicide, Mr. Kohl was in Berlin.
Mrs. Kohl's death marked a new low in the political career of Germany's former chancellor, who had been in office for a record-breaking 16 years before he was defeated by the Social Democrats in 1998.
One year later, it was discovered that the CDU had received large sums of illegal money under Mr. Kohl's leadership.
The former chancellor admitted that he had personally accepted nearly a million dollars in illegal campaign contributions. However, until this day he has refused to name the source of the money. A parliamentary inquiry into the matter continues.
The money scandal threw the CDU into a crisis from which it has never recovered.
The party's chances to regain power during next year's elections remain low, despite the recent economic slowdown in Germany for which the present Socialist government is blamed.
The slush funds have also shattered Mr. Kohl's image as "chancellor of unification."
Still, Mr. Kohl continues to see himself as the last hero in the battle against communism.
When the CDU city government in Berlin collapsed a few weeks ago, Mr. Kohl announced that he would actively engage in the campaign against the successor party of the East German communists.
He called the party, known by the initials PDS, a group of "red-painted fascists."
In the Berlin elections, which are scheduled for October, the PDS intends to form a coalition with the Social Democrats.
If they win the election, it would mark first time after the fall of the wall that communists would again have a part in governing Berlin.
Mr. Kohl recently won another battle in the illegal donations scandal.
In July, a court blocked the release of East German Stasi secret police transcripts of his telephone calls.
Prosecutors had hoped that the publication of these files would have revealed the names of Mr. Kohl's secret donors.
Historians have begun to debate how much the scandal will affect Mr. Kohl's reputation as an elder statesman.
"The slush funds may not be the main focus of his biography, but it plays a central role in his story," says biographer Klaus Dreher, author of the book "Helmut Kohl, Life With Power."
"It is so serious that he cannot escape this legacy," he says.
One possible parallel would be Richard Nixon, who was forced to resign as president because of the Watergate scandal but is still admired for his foreign policy that included an opening to China.
"If you look back in 10 years, I believe, it will be only a small detail in the life's work of Helmut Kohl," said Hermann Schaefer, director of Germany's contemporary history museum in the former capital of Bonn.

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