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+++ Helmut Kohl funeral - live updates +++

Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl has been honored by world leaders at a special ceremony at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Hundreds had gathered to pay their final respects at a requiem mass in Speyer.

Watch video 01:01

Clinton: Sleep well my friend

Welcome to DW's live coverage of former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's funeral.  

- World leaders past and present gathered at the European Parliament in Strasbourg to honor Germany's longest-serving chancellor. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and former US President Bill Clinton were among the leaders to honor Kohl's achievements and say their farewells.

- Kohl's coffin was flown to Ludwigshafen, his town of birth, where hundreds of locals paid their final respects in a public procession. His coffin was then transported along the Rhine river to the nearby town of Speyer where some 1,500 guests and dignitaries gathered in the town's historic cathedral for a requiem mass.

-Following the mass, Kohl was given full military honors by the German armed forces. His coffin was taken to a cemetery close to the Speyer cathedral for a private burial ceremony with Kohl's family and close friends.

- Kohl, who served as chancellor for 16 years from 1982 to 1998, died on June 16 at his Oggersheim home near Ludwigshafen, aged 87. He oversaw the reunification of Germany and played a major hand in establishing the European Union in its current form and creating the European single currency.

 

All updates in Central European Summer Time (CEST)

20:10 With the final peals of the funeral bell from the Speyer Cathedral in the background, the hearse carrying Helmut Kohl's coffin and his widow has driven off, heading towards a private burial ceremony for family and friends.

DW's Nina Niebergall saw politicians and local residents alike gathering for one final goodbye to the German Chancellor.

19:55 Outside the cathedral in Speyer, Kohl is receiving full military honors. The crowd has joined in singing the German national anthem played by the band of the German armed forces under a steady drizzle of rain. Soldiers from every faction of the German military are carrying floral wreaths ahead of the former chancellor's coffin.

19:40 The requiem mass has concluded and Kohl's coffin is being brought out of Speyer cathedral where it will be driven to a nearby cemetery - Kohl's final resting place. Prior to the private burial ceremony, Kohl will be given military honors.

19:20 As we wait for communion to be dispensed to those who have gathered to pay their respects to Helmut Kohl, take another peek at DW's guide to the songs being played during the mass, some of which were of personal significance to Kohl:

Read more: Helmut Kohl's funeral: a musical guide

18:50 "We are bidding farewell to a truly great statesman...who lived and acted from a wider, universal horizon," says Speyer Bishop Karl-Heinz Wiesemann.

Kohl's widow, Maike Kohl-Richter, is seated next to former US President Bill Clinton for the requiem.

18:25 Members of the political youth organization, Young Union, hold signs outside of the cathedral in Speyer which read: "Thank you for Europe!" and "Thank you for German unity!"

The organization is comprised of young supporters of Kohl's Christian Democrats (CDU) and its Bavarian sister-party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).

Speyer Trauerfeierlichkeiten für Altkanzler Kohl (picture-alliance/dpa/F. Kästle)

Members of the Young Union hold signs saying: "Thank you for Europe!" and "Thank you for German unity!"

18:00 The bells at the cathedral in Speyer have signaled the start of the requiem mass for the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. 

"We are celebrating commemorating today with everyone - no matter what their creed or religion - those who feel the death of Helmut Kohl and those who wish to express their gratitude for his life," said Karl-Heinz Wiesemann, the Bishop of Speyer at the opening of the mass.

DW's Nina Niebergall observed German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier entering for the service.

17:30 DW's Nina Niebergall is inside the cathedral in Speyer, where guests are beginning to take their seats. The mass is scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. local time (1600 UTC).

17:00 DW's Brussels correspondent Bernt Riegert has spoken to Martin Schulz, Germany's Social Democratic candidate for the chancellery and the former President of the European Parliament. Schulz said that Helmut Kohl's ability to understand the close links between German and European unification made him an "extraordinary personality."

14:35 Helmut Kohl's coffin has arrived in Speyer and is being driven to the town's cathedral. The cathedral had a special place in Kohl's heart. As a young boy during the Second World War, he would hide  there when allied bombs were dropped over his hometown.

Years later, as chancellor, he would take visiting foreign leaders to the cathedral to talk to them about the continuity of history.

DW's Nina Niebergall is in Speyer and reporting from outside the cathedral.

16:30 Catholic bishop Karl-Heinz Wiesemann will hold the funeral in Speyer's cathedral where around 1,500 people are expected to attend. There will then be a short military ceremony led by the Bundeswehr before Kohl's body is finally put to rest in a service reserved just for close friends and family. 

Speyer cathedral (picture-alliance/dpa/U. Anspach)

The late Helmut Kohl grew up just 20 kilometers away from Speyer's famous cathedral, the resting place of several emperors from the Holy Roman Empire.

It appears that Helmut Kohl's two sons will not be present at the burial. Walter Kohl, the former chancellor's oldest son, said he wanted his father to be honored at a state funeral in Berlin and buried in Ludwigshafen in the family grave alongside his mother and Helmut Kohl's first wife, Hannelore. However, Helmut Kohl's widow, Maike Kohl-Richter, insisted that her late-husband be honored at a European funeral. Germany's tabloid media has long reported of an alleged feud between Walter Kohl and his step-mother.

Read more: Helmut Kohl to be buried near symbolic Speyer Cathedral

16:00 German Chancellor Angela Merkel has arrived in Speyer, where a requiem mass in the town's famous cathedral is scheduled to begin at 6pm local time (1600 UTC).

Angela Merkel, Speyer, Kohl funeral (picture-alliance/dpa/R. Holschneider)

Crowds gathered to say farewell to a former chancellor, also got the chance to greet today's German leader.

15:40 DW's chief political correspondent, Melinda Crane, and the executive of the Aspen Institute in Germany, Rüdiger Lentz are in the DW studio to discuss Saturday's European Ceremony of Honor in Strasbourg and look back at Kohl's political legacy and his relationship with Angela Merkel.

Crane offers some great insight into the decision to hold a European ceremony for Kohl, rather than a German state funeral. "Juncker (who advocated for Saturday's ceremony in Strasbourg) said, 'This is not an un-German ceremony, it is a European and a German ceremony,'" Crane told DW. "And that gets to the heart of Helmut Kohl's achievement... and what was eulogized in every single speech we heard today. Kohl said he wanted a burial that was befitting of a German European and a European German and that was absolutely what he got."

15:20 Helmut Kohl's coffin, now draped in a German flag, has been carried in procession through his hometown of Ludwigshafen and is now being loaded on to the MS Mainz in Reffenthal on the Rhine River. From there it will be carried to the nearby town of Speyer. There, he will be buried at a private ceremony among friends and family in the town's historic cathedral.

Helmut Kohl funeral, boat, Reffenthal (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Arnold)

Helmut Kohl's coffin, now draped in a German flag, is loaded onto the MS Mainz on the Rhine River. Kohl's body will be taken to the town Speyer for the burial.

Officials in Kohl's hometown said that around 1,000 people had gathered in the town center of Ludwigshafen to pay their farewells.

Ludwigshafen Trauerzug für Altkanzler Kohl (picture-alliance/dpa/F. Rumpenhorst)

Hundreds of residents in in Kohl's hometown of Ludwigshafen gathered to pay their final respects to the late-chancellor.

14:00 While we wait for Helmut Kohl's coffin to arrive in Ludwigshafen, be sure to watch DW's latest documentary on the life of Helmut Kohl, from growing up during the Second World War to working his way up the ladder of the CDU and German politics, to overseeing the reunification of East and West Germany. 

12:55 Guests are now beginning to leave the chamber, as well. We'll be back with more live updates when commemorations for Helmut Kohl begin in his hometown of Ludwigshafen later today. 

12:50 The coffin, draped in the blue and yellow-starred flag of the European Union, is being carried out of the chamber as the orchestra plays Beethoven's 7th. It will be flown by helicopter to the late-Chancellor's home town of Ludwigshafen.

12:45 The Strasbourg University Orchestra ends the ceremony with a rendition of the German national anthem, Song of Germany by Joseph Haydn, and the European national anthem, Ode to Joy, by Beethoven. I didn't need the help of our classical music expert this time around.

Read more: Helmut Kohl's funeral: a musical guide

Angela Merkel, Kohl funeral (picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Euler)

The German chancellor says her final farewell to her political mentor.

12:30 German Chancellor Merkel is up next.

A child of communist East Germany, Merkel focused a large part of her speech praising Kohl for pushing forward German reunification at a time other lawmakers on both sides of the Berlin wall still expressed doubt. 

Merkel, who entered German politics in the early 1990s as Kohl's protege, admitted that her life would be "entirely different" if it weren't for the late chancellor. "Without Helmut Kohl, the lives of millions of people who lived behind the Wall until 1990 would have been completely different - of course my own as well," she said. 

Watch video 01:07

Merkel: Thanks for the chances, Chancellor Kohl

The chancellor also took the chance to pay a very personal tribute to Kohl. "Dear Chancellor Helmut, you played a decisive role in the fact that I am standing here now," she said. "Thank you for the chances you gave me... I honor you and your memory with gratitude and humility."

Merkel also expressed her condolences to Kohl's widow, Maike Kohl-Richter. The gesture was widely seen as a show of truce amid reports in the German media that Kohl-Richter had tried to prevent Merkel from speaking at the memorial service

12:20 French President Emmanuel Macron is speaking now. Before honoring Helmut Kohl, he takes the opportunity to commemorate Simone Veil, the famed French lawmaker, European Parliamentarian and holocaust survivor, who died on Friday.

On Kohl, Macron said that the late-German chancellor laid the foundations for today's Europe, along with his French counterpart, Francois Mitterrand.

Emmanuel Macron, Kohl funeral, Strasbourg (picture alliance/dpa/S. Hoppe)

France's Emmanuel Macron have an impassioned that looked back at Kohl's as much as it looked ahead at Europe's future.

Speaking in Strasbourg, a city that symbolizes post-war reconciliation, the French president stressed the importance of Franco-German relations in his speech. Kohl and Mitterrand "did not forget the tragic experiences of their generation" and worked towards ensuring "that people who once fought each other became bound by friendship," he said.

As one of the newest and youngest European heads of state, Macron also spoke about rekindling the European project. "History will judge us and it will judge what we did to maintain the bridges that Helmut Kohl built," the French president said, adding that all today's European leaders should look up to Kohl as a role model. 

Read more: It's cool to be pro-EU with popular French President Emmanuel Macron

"For my generation, Helmut Kohl is already part and parcel of Europe's history," Macron said. "Without that life experience we wouldn't be here, we could not be doing what we are doing ... those were bold, courageous, historic acts."

12:15 The Strasbourg University orchestra is performing again. Our resident music expert tells us that they are performing Franz Schubert's Andante from the A minor string quartet. 

Dmitry Medvedev, Kohl funeral, Strasbourg (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler)

Russia's Prime Minister and former President Dmitry Medvedev described Kohl as "the architect of the world order."

12:10 Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is speaking now, who is filling in for Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, who is reportedly too sick to travel.

He said that Germany and Russia know all too well the value of peace and the devastation that can be caused by war. Kohl, he said, worked tirelessly to guarantee that peace.

Medvedev acknowledged that work still remains to be done, but stressed that the value of unity was as evident as ever.

In Russia, we'll remember him as our friend -- a wise and sincere person," Medvedev said.

12:00 Former President Bill Clinton is addressing the chamber now, and appears to be speaking without a script.  

Addressing the former state actors in particular, Clinton said that they were all in Strasbourg to honor Kohl because the former chancellor gave them all a chance to be part of something "bigger than ourselves, bigger than our terms in office and bigger than our fleeting careers."

"He wanted to create a world where nobody dominated over anybody else," Clinton said. "You did well to achieve that during your lifetime and those of us who experienced it love you for it."

His impassioned ad-lib speech earns a huge round of applause.

11:50 Felipe Gonzalez, the former prime minister of Spain, takes to the podium to honor Kohl, who "always spoke of a European Germany and never of a German Europe" and played a central role in integrating Spain into the European Union.

Read more: 'Cultural sovereign' Helmut Kohl built an unlikely legacy

11:45 Delegates are being shown a special film highlighting Kohl's greatest achievements. You can watch the film below in a tweet sent out by the European Commission. 

11:40 European Council President Donald Tusk is the next delegate to honor the former German chancellor.

Tusk pointed out that Kohl was on a state visit to the Polish capital of Warsaw when news first broke that the Berlin wall was coming down. The first plans of a united Germany and a united Europe were therefore born in Poland, he said. 

The former Polish Prime Minisiter also praised Kohl for putting the famous words of German author Thomas Mann into practice: "We want a European Germany, not a German Europe."

Read more: Economic issues 'never a priority' for ex-German Chancellor Helmut Kohl

11:30 European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is speaking next, "not as a politician, but as a friend," he says. 

Juncker described Kohl as a "German and European patriot" who "contributed more than anyone to bring out continent back together."

The Commission President recalled an EU meeting with Kohl in Luxembourg in 1997, back when Juncker was the prime minister of the small Duchy. It was at that meeting when the first plans to expand the European bloc to east and south were drafted. The accession of news states, particularly the former Soviet states, brought the chancellor to tears of joy, Juncker said. 

Juncker finished his speech with a joking message to Kohl: "Dear Helmut, you are in heaven now. Promise me that you won't set up a club for the German Christian Democrats there - you've done enough... May you rest in eternal peace." 

Watch video 00:50

Juncker: A post-war giant is leaving us


Juncker was the first to advocate a European ceremony in Kohl's honor, a proposal that quickly received the backing of leaders across Europe. 

11:20 Antonio Tajani, the President of the European Parliament, is the first delegate to speak at the ceremony. Tajani  described Kohl as a "political giant" and the "protagonist of unifying our continent."

Tajani also said that Kohl was the champion of a generation that witnessed the suffering of World War II and strived to heal the wounds of war in Europe. 

The Italian also paid tribute to Simone Veil, the revered French politician and holocaust survivor, who passed away on Friday, aged 89. Like Tajani, Veil also headed the European Parliament back in 1979 for three terms. 

Read more: Simone Veil, 'the best of France,' dies

11:00 The ceremony is about to start with a performance of Beethoven by the Orchestra of Strasbourg University.

10:30 Guests are being greeted by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (out of shot) European Parliament president Antonio Tajani (center), and European Council President Donald Tusk (right), as they arrive at the ceremony.

Helmut Kohl funeral, Strasbourg, Donald Tusk, Antonio Tajani (picture alliance/AP Photo/J.-F. Badias)

World leaders past and present were greeted in Strasbourg by the leaders of the EU's main institutions.

10:15 DW's Brussels correspondent Bernt Riegert is at the ceremony. You can follow him on Twitter at @RiegertBernd for more live updates. 

He's already spoken to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker ahead of the special ceremony.

10:00 World leaders from past and present have begun arriving at the European Parliament in Strasbourg to honor and say farewells to Helmut Kohl. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Council President Donald Tusk and former President Bill Clinton are all scheduled to speak at the so-called European Ceremony of Honor, the first such ceremony of its kind.

All European leaders are scheduled to attend the service, as well as Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu.

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