Wednesday, March 2, 2016

German ex-Chancellor Kohl sues biographer for reputation damage caused by quoting Kohl's own words

Former German Chancellor Kohl, of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) takes his former biographer to court, claiming the man damaged his reputation by using Mr. Kohl's own words from long, taped interviews. According to the article, the amount asked of is 5 million Euros, plus interest, and reflects the "historic nature" of the damage to the Ex's reputation.

What reputation?
Probably that of "Chancellor of German Unity", as he is often referred to. We'll get to that later, but let's look at some earlier highlights and accomplishments in the long process of reputation building. A generic overview of Mr. Kohl's life and career is on Wikipedia.

There is Dr. Kohl's 1958 PhD dissertation on "Political developments in the Palatinate and the reconstitution of political parties after 1945". The topic and the fact that the Palatinate is his home region would be a strong indication for a type of work the K-Landnews has described in the 2014 post "EasyPhD - the German way". An article from 2011 in Sueddeutsche Zeitung on less than strong PhD dissertations by politicians includes Mr. Kohl.
So, a "less than stellar" reputation as a political scientist?

As a chancellor, Mr. Kohl's cabinet featured minsters known for deeply held Christian values expressed in statements like these:
We cannot allow unlimited and uncontrolled immigration.
They use German asylum law to gain access to our social benefits system.

Mr. Kohl was not a friend of rapprochement with the Soviet Union, famously comparing Mr. Gorbachev to Nazi propaganda chief Goebbels, only to voice "regret" and claim he had been misquoted.

When the Berlin Wall came down, he insisted on exchanging the East German Mark 1:1 into West German Deutschmark, despite experts calling for a different ration. His claim that 100 billion Deutschmark would be more than sufficient to cover the costs of reunification turned out to be low by an estimated 1.9 trillion Euros (or double that amount in Deutschmark, 2 DM became 1 Euro). The process of transferring East German assets was plagued by one scandal after the other involving billions of wasted funds.

Just after he lost his final re-election bid of 1998, a decade long illicit donation scandal broke in 1999. In investigative committee hearings, Mr. Kohl famously claimed "memory loss" (or blackouts). Neither he nor Mr. Schaeuble, who would later become the most powerful finance minister in the EU, were ever charged.

Unlike the other living former chancellors, Mr. Kohl pretty much disappeared from public view.

The claim that his biographer inflicted historic damage to Mr. Kohl's reputation is based not on events like those described but on the fact that the biographer used quotes from over 600 hours of recording that show Mr. Kohl in a very unflattering light. For example, he complained about Ms. Merkel: "She doesn't even know how to eat using knife and fork".  Or, about then prime minister of Lower Saxony and later German president Wulff: "He his one heck of a traitor. And a nincompoop at the same time".

We wish the elder statesman good luck.

And we hope the biographer keeps copies of the tapes.

Historical record and such.

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