Study Guide

Helmut Josef Michael Kohl in Tear Down This Wall

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Helmut Josef Michael Kohl

Helmut Kohl had a tough job.

He was the Chancellor of West Germany, the democratically-elected leader of a Western country that was surrounded by communists, protected by capitalists, and had been forcefully split off from its eastern half.

We don't even think Mike Rowe would've taken this one on.

But Kohl was more than willing, because he had a vision. He had devoted his career to the integration of Europe and reunification of his country. His economic and political views echoed those of Ronald Reagan, so no one was shocked when they started hanging out.

And no one was surprised when, after Germany reunified in 1990, Kohl was elected Chancellor of Germany in a landslide victory.

But despite his success as a politico, Helmut was also known for his…oh, what's the word for someone who consistently finds himself in the middle of embarrassing situations…missteps. Yeah, let's go with missteps.

Those missteps are one reason he'd earned himself the nickname "Birne" from the press and his critics: in Germany (as in the rest of the world), pears aren't really known for thinking things through all that well.

One of his more pear-like moments occurred in 1985, when President Reagan came to town for a visit.

As a demonstration of unity between the U.S. and West Germany, Kohl suggested he and Reagan meet at a German cemetery to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the end of WWII. Unfortunately, Kohl chose a cemetery where a bunch of Nazi SS soldiers were buried (apparently he hadn't known that part), so the visit was shrouded in controversy. Even the Ramones got in on it.

Everyone's a critic, and no one is immune. Not even pears.

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