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Germany

Helmut Kohl to be buried near symbolic Speyer Cathedral

Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl will be buried in the southwestern town of Speyer, a site of symbolic importance to a statesman who was forever keen to be seen as putting Franco-German ties first.

Helmut Kohl, the former chancellor who presided over German reunification and died aged 87 on Friday, will not be buried at his family burial site in the Oggersheim suburb of Ludwigshafen. The state funeral is planned for July 1.

Instead, Kohl will be laid to rest near Speyer's Catholic cathedral, not far from the French border, and a UNESCO cultural heritage site. Kohl famously took almost any high-ranking state visitor to see the building, part of picturesque Speyer's town center, which is marked by its multicolored building facades. 

Bundeswehr celebrates Kohl's tenure

The Bundeswehr held its 1998 farewell ceremony for the Kohl outside the cathedral

Although a resident of Oggersheim for most of his adult life, Kohl grew up near Speyer. 

"The Speyer Cathedral has been my home church since childhood," Kohl wrote in his 1998-2000 diaries. "My parents often walked there with us. As a boy I often rode the 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) stretch on my bike." He described the building architecturally as a "unique work of art." 

Burial of Hannelore Kohl

Hannelore Kohl's 2001 service took place in Speyer, but she was buried in Oggersheim

The funeral for Kohl's first wife, Hannelore, took place at the Speyer Cathedral in 2001, but she was buried back in Oggersheim. According to the mass-circulation Bild newspaper, which is close to Kohl's second wife Maike Kohl-Richter, Kohl made his desire to be interred in Speyer clear in a conversation with her in 2015. 

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Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl dies, aged 87

The cathedral's burial site offers further symbolism on two fronts: It is located next to the Konrad Adenauer Park - named after Germany's other deceased, long-serving Christian Democrat chancellor of the postwar period. Furthermore, it's near the Church of St. Bernard - known in German as a "Friedenskirche" (church of peace) because of the Franco-German cooperative effort to rebuild it in the 1950s after it took severe damage in World War II.

Kohl, a Roman Catholic, was also renowned for the value he placed on the Franco-German postwar relationship and its importance to peace in Europe as a whole. His first substantive decision upon becoming chancellor in 1982 was to embark on an immediate, impromptu state visit to French President Francois Mitterand. Kohl's elder brother, Walter, died, aged 18, fighting in World War II - and throughout his career the politician made frequent reference to the importance of rebuilding bridges in Western Europe.

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