A BITTER feud that has torn apart the family of the man who built the euro and reunited his country, has burst out into the open with the publication of a new book.
Helmut Kohl, the long-time ruler of Germany and the man who more than any other crafted the European Union in his image, is now estranged from his two sons who accuse his new wife of turning him against them.
Walter and Peter Kohl claim their much younger stepmother has caused a rift that has led to their father’s increasing isolation.
They brand Maike Kohl-Richter as a virtual “stalker” and claim their father started an affair with her while still married to their beloved mother, Hannalore. Hannalore killed herself in 2001 after suffering for years from a debilitating condition which made her allergic to light.
Her sons were devoted to her but distant to their father, who they claimed was “married to politics” as they grew up. Now their bitterness is directed at Maike, 49, with Peter Kohl claiming she has even had him and his brother removed from the visitor list kept by police allowing access to his home near Karlsruhe.
Helmut Kohl, 82, is barely able to walk or speak following a serious fall five years ago. His days of drinking several bottles of fine Rhine wine to wash down his favourite dish – stuffed pig’s stomach – are long gone.
He sees very few people from his old political days with his sons claiming his second wife is a gatekeeper who controls every second of his time.
It has long been known that Walter and Peter Kohl grew up unhappy in the home of Europe’s greatest statesman; Walter wrote a book two years ago stating as much. But the new work by Peter, a biography of his mother that hails her and the way she brought them up, is damning of their stepmother.
Peter recalls visiting her apartment in Berlin before she married him, stating: “Every conversation with her was a hymn of praise about my father. Her flat in Berlin was full of pictures and souvenirs of my father which made me think of a propaganda film about him.
“I was in some kind of private Helmut Kohl museum. There was Helmut Kohl photography standing or hanging wherever you looked.
“It was years of careful collection to serve a hero-worship . . . as one might know from reports about stalkers.”
The sons claim their stepmother has also cut off ties to their father’s ghostwriter. “For my father this is all unbelievably damaging and reprehensible,” Peter said. “I find her responsible for all of this damage. One cannot deal with the intellectual heritage of my father like this.”
Most hurtfully, said Peter, is the knowledge that his father began his affair with her when his mother was still alive.
“A close confidante of my father dated the relationship from the second half of the 1990s,” he said. “I don’t know, but I have no reason to doubt it.”
Peter nearly broke down on TV last week when he described the last time he had seen his father when he visited him with his own daughter two years ago.
He said he had been initially pleased to see them, but then indicated they should go “otherwise there will be a huge problem again”. Left unsaid was that the problem was his new bride.
Peter said he learned of his father’s wedding to his former secretary in 2008 via the internet.
“The picture I saw was of a sickly old man, his sad eyes looking as if he wanted helping. I think she (Maike) moved quickly to erase all connections and memories of Hannelore Kohl, her children and grandchildren.”
In a recent article, Der Spiegel magazine went so far as to describe Kohl-Richter as the “Lady Macbeth of Oggersheim”. “She is the gatekeeper, the person who controls his words … decides who gets in and what gets out,” the scathing article stated.